It pains me to say this as an NFL fan, but league owners have kind of developed a legit reputation for being greedy.
I realize this is perhaps a character flaw that has permeated all owners of all major professional sports leagues, but when it comes to NFL owners, well, the odor appears to be the strongest.
For example, about a decade ago, a certain organization started throwing what could only be described as bleep-wipe money at the NFL in order to have its players do a certain thing on the sidelines before games that, years later, would create a certain platform for certain players to do another thing, instead, thus eliciting a certain reaction from a certain segment of NFL fans.
And then, of course, there was the percentage of revenue owners took back from players in 2011 as part of the current CBA. And speaking of CBAs, we can’t forget about the desire to have one regular season game, along with two more playoff teams, added to the next CBA.
How about things such as new stadiums or repairs to old ones, and your average NFL owner’s response of, “LOL, we’ll just move!” when any city dares to ask him or her to share in the expenses?
This all brings me to the current state of our country—world, really—and the Coronavirus pandemic that has quite literally placed every sport and competition worth cheering for on hold.
Everything’s been postponed for the foreseeable future—including the NHL, MLB, NBA and March Madness, which has all but been cancelled. It’s horrible, and it’s a real shame for tons of citizens, especially the players, the fans and the people who rely on such events to make all or a portion of their living.
I mean, logistically, you can’t have a winner and a loser if there are no games. You can’t sell hot dogs if there are no games. You can’t sell beer if there are no games. You can’t print hats and t-shirts for champions of divisions, conferences and entire leagues if there are no games. You can’t have televised broadcasts of players playing games if there are no players playing games.
But you know what you can still have? An NFL Draft. And, no, not one like you’ve been having where fans show up by the hundreds of thousands for an entire weekend and soak up every second and inch of it, as if they’re experiencing Disney World—last year’s draft, which took place in Nashville, Tennessee, reportedly drew over 600,000 fans over the three days the event was held.
With the way everything is going right now as far as concerns over large gatherings, I don’t have to tell you that 600,000 people is way too many to be crowded into any one spot anywhere in the USA or world—599,750 too many, to be exact (most places have banned or discouraged gatherings of 250 people or more).
But, to reiterate, why should that affect the 2020 NFL Draft? You can still have it. In fact, the league announced Monday it will conduct the 2020 version without teams, players and fans present.
That’s right, all the teams can station themselves in the war rooms of their home facilities and decide which prospects offer the most value relative to the round they’re picking in.
As for those prospects, instead of showing up to Las Vegas, Nevada, the site of this year’s draft, they can just sit at home with their smartphones in hand and wait for a call. No need to dress up in their best suits. No need to pretend they were a fan of (insert whatever team drafts them here) all along. No need for commissioner Roger Goodell to look cool by doing one bro hug after another after he announces each first-round selection.
As for the fans? They can still sit at home and watch it. They can still get up on the morning of the first day of the draft and say things like, “This is like my Christmas morning!”
The ratings will still be huge.
What about Mel Kiper and all of those other people that cover the draft? They can still show up to studios owned by whatever networks they work for and talk about each pick as it is announced. They can still have big boards. They can still have winners and losers.
The only difference--aside from not having the theater of a draft at some indoor venue--will be the lack of the in person fan experience. I say, so what? You don’t need to fly to Las Vegas dressed in something weird just so you can cheer and/or boo your favorite team’s draft choices live.
Las Vegas doesn’t need you there, either. It’s freakin’ Vegas, baby! It’s a city that practically prints money. It’s not going to be crippled financially by missing out on 600,000 tourists over a three-day weekend.
As for NFL owners, they don’t need the money.
Yeah, sure, five weeks from now, this Coronavirus crisis might seem like a distant memory. Again, I say, so what?
The NFL shockingly set a precedent for the whole world—well, at least the sports world—by making a wise decision about an event that won’t affect its operation one bit without the pomp and circumstance.
This was an easy call for the NFL.