Photo Credit: AP
Seemingly the moment I turned 18, I received a letter in the mail from the Selective Service. I was compelled, by law, to inscribe myself into serving the United States government, should such wartime or emergency warrant a presidential decree. This is a far cry from the annual NFL draft, where the best eligible football players are pooled to latch on with a professional franchise.
These figurative warriors aren’t exactly signing their name in blood, but continuing a playing career at the highest level of competition is as lucrative as it is fleeting. The average NFL playing career spans only two and a half years. Even if an athlete is drafted and makes at or around a million dollars per year, that is hardly life-changing money for someone in their early-20s, even if it seems that way to them at the time. This is also in lockstep tandem with the inherent risk of a myriad of potentially-debilitating injuries. Concussions leading to CTE, catastrophic ligament tears or bone fractures, and chronic arthritis can all manifest from an early-life devotion to a collision sport. The mega stars of the NFL are vaulted in front of the camera to flaunt the riches of the Shield, while the real gladiators toil in the trenches they dug themselves for pennies on the proverbial dollar.
When you tune into the three-day spectacle that is the NFL Draft this coming week, take note of how happiness and relief are equally painted across the faces of the players who are selected and their loved ones. They made it. It took years of sacrifice and bodily abuse to reach a payday. Some are going to lose their composure and cry, like DK Metcalf. He should be an indication of how difficult a climb it is to reach the pinnacle. DK is the son of an NFL player and still needed to overcome a mountain of hardship and scrutiny to work his way to the league. When he cried, I cried. His tears and shaky voice on the phone with Seahawks brass were as genuine as it gets. Nothing beats the feeling of an emotional weight lifted.
Photo Credit: ESPN
I’ll be glued to my sofa all three days. Yes, I love seeing the reactions from all seven rounds. I live for the back stories. It’s a soap opera for football fans. I get invested in dozens of players from tracking them through college and studying their tape to prepare for the next fantasy season. I love football, they love football, and the draft is both the beginning and the end of the story. It is downright fun to mute the TV to “cut off” Mel Kiper Jr or Todd McShay to offer my dissenting opinion and exclaim how much smarter than them I think I am. There will be times when I applaud a great pick and then choke on my popcorn laughing when a team inevitably soils themselves in their own stupidity (unless it was my Cowboys).
The NFL Draft is must-see entertainment for a person like me. Call us what you want, but there exists a horde of nerds who will be catching the same high in unison. It signals the end of talking season and the beginning of “landing spot season.” As we near the end of a global pandemic, I hope that we can laugh, cry, and argue like it’s 2019 again, with high fives, chest bumps, and bear hugs, while wearing faded, over-washed jerseys that only appear shrunk. Here’s to this being the last draft where we don’t have a buddy’s draught glass to clink in acknowledgement of a player or beer well-picked. Cheers!