Monday

4-27-09: Yanx/Sawx vs. NFL Draft

Hello again everybody...

Welcome to another work week. It's a short one for your humble author as I've got the day off on Friday. (Twins vs. Kansas City? Definitely a possibility.)

But it's my absolute intention to bang out a DFTU column on Friday as per usual. So don't fret.

That's all several days away, however. And first we've got to deal with this past weekend. There were two events over the weekend that got more coverage than most in the world of sports: the Yankees visiting the Red Sox (whom I hate) and the annual NFL Draft. I caught parts of both and will break down which I enjoyed more.

The pick is in, and the commissioner is headed to the podium. Let's do this!

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."
- Albert Einstein (1879-1955), German-born theoretical physicist


Just a touch cynical? I wonder why I agree with him so much?!

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So in case you weren't near a TV this weekend, you missed quite the sports weekend. The NHL playoffs are in full swing and teams are getting to critical games in their first round series. And apparently there was something called the "NBA Playoffs" that was occurring as well. I'm not terribly familiar with it, but apparently it's a type of basketball where freakishly large men try to clobber each other whilst preening for their individual posses. At least that's what I'm told...

But overshadowing both (I know Hammer, I know... the NHL playoffs are supposed to take priority. I'm sorry, but they just don't for me), were the Yankees losing three straight games to the Red Sox (whom I hate) and the NFL Draft.

Yanx/Sawx (whom I hate) games get better ratings than any other regular season match-up, and the NFL Draft is far and away the only amateur draft that's turned into a can't-miss event.

Me? I watched some of both (thank you picture-in-picture). But I couldn't help but compare the two and break down which one I'd choose if I couldn't see both.

NFL Draft - Pros:

- Who's my team going to pick? There's nearly always drama around this question. When it got to #22 on Saturday, ESPN had a shot of OT Michael Oher as though that's who the Vikings would likely select. But that crafty commentator Chris Berman said, "But I think there might be a slightly more interesting name coming here." It turned out to be Percy Harvin.

Now, don't kid yourself. ESPN knows who the pick's going to be before the commissioner reads the name. They have to in order to have the appropriate graphics and video ready, the producers have a representative stationed where the selection is "turned in" so it can be read. That person notifies the truck, who then gets the appropriate stuff ready to go. The producer also has the ability to talk to the talent on set, so they can get the appropriate notes in front of them and prepare their "debate".

So it wasn't like Berman had any special insight into what the Vikings might be preparing to do. A producer told him it was going to be Harvin and he decided to slip in that coy sentence before the pick was announced.

All that being said, even with Harvin's name being rumored as the Vikings' pick, it was still something of a surprise when it actually happened. And that's a big draw. Part of draw of sports is it's unpredictability. And that's in full effect for the Draft.

- How long's that poor schmuck gotta sit there until he gets drafted? It's hard to feel too sorry for these guys since even if they go 28th instead of 10th, they're still going to make a solid chunk of change.

But there's still a human drama involved in watching a guy who clearly thought he was going to have a home already, sitting in the green room waiting for his agent to call with good news. The longer this goes on, the more dramatic the moment when he actually gets drafted.

2007's Draft provided the most recent example of this phenomenon as Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn expected to go easily in the top 10 and ended up sliding all the way to 22 before the Cleveland Browns traded up to grab him. It got so tense, that after a time, Quinn was invited to go sit in a suite at Radio City Music Hall in order to get him out of the glare of the cameras.

It's something of a "reality TV/train wreck" phenomenon. But you have to admit it's a draw!

- How much Erin Andrews are we going to get this year? Granted, this one applies mostly to the fellas. But most women I know understand the phenomenon. Erin Andrews is a stunning woman with above-average interview skills. This means that most heterosexual males want her on their ESPN screens as much as humanly possible.

And this year we got to see her hang with Bill Cosby. There's no question that Bill won the battle of wits, but give Erin credit. She hung in there!

NFL Draft Cons:

- Any Chris Berman is too much Chris Berman. Look, I get it. Berman's been with ESPN from the beginning and is going to be around as long as he sees fit. That doesn't mean I have to like it.

He's become so much a caricature of himself at this point, that it's borderline nauseating. The inane nicknames, the silly "he... could... go..." style calls, and the outrageously bad ties. I've had enough of all of it.

And it's not like he's even that good anymore. Instead of just playing traffic cop and letting the insiders do the analyzing, he feels the need to throw in his own analysis and comes up with gems like, "this guy's got a lot of speed... that should really help out his new club." Really? You think? Thanks for that Chris!

- Any Mel Kiper is too much Mel Kiper. I don't want to be one of these guys who spends all day ripping TV talent, but when you've got a guy as good as Todd McShay sitting there waiting for his opportunity to sit at the big desk, you've really got to ask yourself what Mel's bringing to the broadcast.

The hair jokes are old. The "not quite human" accent has gotten old. And there's only so many times you can recall the clip of then Indianapolis Colts VP Bill Tobin ripping Mel before that gets old too.

- How freaking long is this thing?! Admittedly, the NFL has taken important steps towards making their Draft a more watchable event in terms of it's length. Instead of the first 3 rounds being on Day 1, they've reduced it to the first two. And they've also reduced the amount of time between picks. But the whole event is still way too much to consume for all but the craziest of NFL fans.

I used to be able to sit through all of Day 1 and a sizable chunk of Day 2 before feeling burned out on it. Now? I pull up a web page so I can monitor it until it's time for Minnesota or Pittsburgh to make a pick, then I'll flip on ESPN to see what happens.

Yanx/Sawx (whom I hate) Pros:

- Say what you will, watching these games always feels like a big deal. There are plenty of reasons not to like this match-up (see below), but there's no question that it's a unique atmosphere in regular-season baseball.

Lots of teams don't like each other. The Dodgers and Giants don't swap recipes and the Twins and Indians don't send each other Christmas cards. The list goes on. But there's no enmity quite as strong and special as Yankees/Red Sox (whom I hate). The history is extensive. From the Babe Ruth trade to the 2004 ALCS, these two teams have been connected in one form or another.

I don't care how well Derek Jeter and Kevin Youklis got along during the World Baseball Classic, the first time a Red Sox (whom I hate) pitcher beans Jeter, those two will be at each other's throats once again.

- Radio City Music Hall is nice, but Fenway Park is just this side of a cathedral. New Yankee stadium has altered this equation somewhat, but since this weekend's games were at Fenway, it still holds.

You're all well aware by now of how much I loathe the Red Sox. Ironically enough, I love their ballpark. I've never been to Fenway, so I can't speak directly to the allegedly disgusting interior. Instead I can only go by what I've seen of the field and stands on TV.

(Aside: I'd love to credit the new HDTV + digital audio for it, but I suspect it was a new microphone set-up that allowed me to hear the sound that a ball makes banging off the Green Monster for the first time this weekend. I can't even tell you why it sounded so cool. Perhaps it was just the newness of it (to me anyway). But it rocked!)

I've long compared classic ballparks to legendary architectural structures, particularly those with a spiritual bent. I'm well aware that most people don't feel the bond with baseball that I do. But even folks who aren't baseball geeks can feel a sense of awe the first time they walk into a Wrigley Field, a Fenway Park, or a Dodger Stadium.

Yanx/Sawx (whom I hate) Cons:

- They're the Yankees for chrissakes! I get this too. I don't have a problem with the Yankees' payroll, but I understand why other people do. It is far and away more than any other team in the big leagues.

There's a reason they're referred to as the Evil Empire. And unless you're a born and bred Yanks fan, they're not an easy team to root for.

- They're the Red Sox (whom I hate) for chrissakes! Obviously I get this one too.

I've covered my hatred for the Red Sox ad nauseum. But even for those without my problems with the Red Sox (whom I hate), they're getting tougher to root for.

If we're going by payroll, they've been a top 5 payroll for years now. Plus they're the only team to ever win a World Series with a $100+ million payroll. And they did it twice.

- The Yanks and Sox (whom I hate) get WAY too much press coverage. This is the old chicken and the egg argument.

Do the Yankees and Red Sox (whom I hate) get a lot of coverage because that's what people want to see? Or do a lot of people watch because they're on so damned much? (My beliefs tend towards the former.)

ESPN residing nearly equidistant between the two doesn't help matters either.

Final Analysis:

So given all those pros and cons, if I had to choose, which way would I go?

I'm sure most of you have already guessed, but since I watched most of all three Yankees/Red Sox (whom I hate) games this weekend, and only a little bit of the draft, I'd have to go "Yanx/Sawx (whom I hate)".

And even if the outcome is decidedly not in my favor, as happened this weekend, I still enjoy watching those clashes as much as any baseball I get to see. Yes, Saturday's game was ridiculously long, and nobody should have to wait four hours and 16 minutes to see the end of a ballgame, the series taken as a whole was a lot of fun to watch.

Besides, if you don't like either team, you get to see somebody lose!

That's all for today. Make sure you tune in Wednesday. The Kentucky Derby is this weekend and I'll be attempting to select my fourth consecutive winner in the Run for the Roses. You don't want to miss it!

Until then, thanks for reading!

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