It was hard to imagine how the 2020 NFL Draft, one that would be done virtually, would actually go upon commencement.
Judging by the few Zoom get-togethers I had engaged in during the first five weeks of the pandemic-induced shut-down, I envisioned many technical glitches, people talking over one another, spontaneous bathroom breaks and dogs—lots and lots of dogs.
I also pictured a production with little-to-no personality.
I was wrong on just about every front—well, except for the dog part thanks to Bill Belichick who demonstrated yet another area of his genius—finding a dog that can not only oversee a draft war room, but also keep track of data on multiple computers at once. Brilliant! (What other coach thinks about these things?)
Seriously, though, ESPN, the Worldwide Leader in virtual drafts (as of last weekend), did a great job. The event really had a professional feel to it, one that even included in-studio hosts. ESPN also had a virtual host who was joined by four analysts for a Zoom-like five-person panel, where they talked about each draft selection as it was announced. And despite the fact that all five guys were likely at their own homes, they managed to wear suits and ties—no word on whether or not anyone was wearing sweatpants, though.
Even NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, hunkered down in his secret volcano lair, did a great job announcing every pick of the first three rounds over a two-day period. And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the commissioner even managed to come off as somewhat endearing—even if it was in a “middle-aged dad trying to do the latest dance” kind of way.
The only aspect I didn’t like all that much was the thing they did where Goodell would try to interact with each team’s fans as they sat in their homes in front of their laptops dressed in their favorite squad’s attire. Could they see Goodell as he said “Let’s go” right before announcing their team’s pick? (I’d put an exclamation mark after “go,” but that would be misleading.)
I also wasn’t all that crazy about the huge family/friends gatherings that most draft prospects had as they waited for their names to be called. Did they all undergo testing before entering these homes?
Maybe that’s none of my business.
All-in-all, it was a great event. Sure, I saw the many memes and Tweets making fun of ESPN’s apparent need to discuss as many tragic life stories as possible, but that’s always going on—ESPN’s need to do that, and the need for people to make fun of it (it was nice to know some things were business as usual for all parties involved).
Speaking of business as usual, I’m assuming things will be back to normal a year from now—including how the NFL and its broadcast partners cover the draft.
If that’s the case, those fans that were sitting in front of their computers with their faces painted, wondering whether or not it was time to boo Goodell, can actually attend the 2021 NFL Draft in person and let him have it without the hindrance of a seven-second delay.
But that’s next year, when things are (hopefully) back to normal.
As for this year, when things clearly are not.......
Great job pulling off the 2020 virtual draft, NFL.
We needed something. You gave us all that you could.