Years from now, I hope anthropologists carefully study the dramatic rise in popularity of the current NFL Draft. It's not bad that sports fans huddle around the TV as they watch college football players be snagged by increasingly less desperate NFL teams, one by one, every 10 minutes. But it's strange.
This year the NFL furthered the hysteria surrounding the event by converting a Saturday afternoon event into a Thursday night prime time broadcast phenomenon. The first round was televised live on ESPN and the NFL Network. The next two rounds are Friday night, and "everything else" will be this weekend. It's quite a daring move to compete with baseball and the NBA Playoffs, along with whatever the hell else they show on basic cable, with a live show about sports that has no sports actually being played.
If you've never watched it, the NFL commissioner (Roger Goodell) walks up to the podium and announces the latest selection. Fans in attendance cheer (or boo, if you're a Giants fan), and if it's one of the few athletes who were invited to attend in person, they walk out and pose for a photo op with the jersey of their new squad.
The announcement, at this point, is merely a formality. By the time it leaves Goodell's lips, it's already being reported by Adam Schefter, Jason La Canfora, and every other NFL beat writer. But more pressingly, the networks will spoil the announcement by showing the upcoming draft pick on the phone with their future team, minutes before the announcement. Whether they're in New York or at home throwing a "draft party" (with NFL Network cameras!) the surprise is ultimately ruined.
Imagine if the Oscars did this. And we're going live to the Bigelow camp … it looks like the AMPAS is going with The Hurt Locker as the Best Picture. And you can tell from their faces that they're excited.
Why soften the blow? Prime time is all about drama. Even if we don't really care about all these football players — and we don't — fans love guessing things. (See: House Hunters.) With diligent sports reporting and live cameras in the den of every football player's abode, that makes it really hard to orchestrate a compelling TV show.
The NFL needs to decide: Do they try to keep secrets until the announcement, or do they want to disseminate information as quickly as possible? I'll tell you the answer shortly, but … hold on, I'm getting a call.