Alright, so I'm doing what every young adult does on Friday night...watching the NHL Draft! Oh yeah! Hey, you know what, actually, I love any draft I can get. I watched the Major League Lacrosse draft the other day on ESPNU and was riveted...riveted I say! Anyway, while I'm watching this, I thought "I wonder which draft is the best in an overall sense?" Now, again, this is my opinion, and it's ok to disagree and send hate mail...no worries. Anyway, let's rank the drafts:
- NHL Draft: Ok, a little surprising for the NHL to be on top of any list, but let me explain this one. First of all, this is the only draft that is conducted at a different stadium each year. I think this is crucial, and something the NBA used to do, but now, it seems like they've landed on the Theater at Madison Square Garden as their home. There is no "green room" that the prospects hide in backstage, instead, they sit out amongst the fans in the seats with the fans. How great is that? You could be rubbing shoulders with the next Bobby Orr! (I mean, no one's going to be like #4, but for reference sake). The process itself takes about two minutes in between picks. The names are announced, they're on stage, they get interviewed, and we're onto the next pick. When a guy gets drafted, the perks already start. First, bodyguards escort you to the stage...nice. Second, a guy comes to take your jacket before you climb the stairs...very nice. Finally, you get a hat, sweater, and a photo op with the entire front office. Usually, the commish is the only guy on stage, and he also is the one calling out the picks, which is not true in the NHL, as a team representative (Cam Neely for the Bruins!...Cam Neely!!!) calls out the pick for the team. In all honesty, if Bettman were up there for more than five consecutive minutes, people would start throwing rocks and bottle rockets at him, so maybe this is a safety precaution after all. When the team rep gets on the mic, he simply doesn't say the name. He thanks the host city and their fans for their hospitality. They could be in Philadelphia, and teams would still be thanking the fans for their hospitality. See, this is lacking in the world...gratitude...oh well, just wanted to point that out Finally, every team has a "runner," which in this case is a seven-year old kid who is decked out in that team's gear...priceless. The NHL just does it right on basically all fronts. The only bad characteristic is that it is broadcasted on Vs., which only about half of Americans get. But, when you consider that no one really cares about hockey in this country, and that it's broadcasted on TSN in Canada, which every Canadian gets, what's the difference?
- NFL Draft: Easily the best formatted sports programming since putting balls and strikes in the upper corner. The on-screen format is so good that it has translated onto PTI, the NBA Draft, the MLB Draft, and currently, SportsCenter. ESPN had the idea to make sure people knew what was coming up, and at the same time, give them background info on each of the teams in the Draft. Also, the sheer volume of time given to the Draft, which is basically an entire weekend, easily makes it the most watched draft in this country. If this list was based on interest alone, the NFL would be #1, and I wouldn't even bother listing anything else, because it wouldn't be close. In terms of analysis, there's too much in my opinion, especially about quarterbacks. I actually started rooting for Brady Quinn to get picked just so they would stop talking about him, but even an hour after he was drafted...they were still talking about him! Enough already! Also, a huge minus is the absolute smugness of the teams and the league to take every single second of time in the first round to make a pick. JaMarcus Russell was clearly going #1, and yet it took the Raiders eleven minutes (as correctly predicted by me) to make the pick! What, were they fielding offers? Let me say this: They were on the clock for about five months (or since whenever they hired Art Shell), so I'm not about to believe that they needed eleven minutes on draft day to field offers.
- MLB Draft: The key word is simplicity. This was the first year the MLB Draft was on TV, and ESPN did a decent job in their coverage. However, there are definitely some things to improve on (more on that later), but it really is a fascinating process once you get it going. Think about it: The first day consists of five rounds and lasts about eight hours. The second day consists of 45 rounds and lasts about the same amount of time. You want to talk about rapid fire? I don't even know how they do it? It seems like a pick comes in the second day every ten seconds. Really an amazing process.
- NBA Draft: Ah yes, the gold standard of how to do everything wrong. The one thing I will say is that, like the MLB and the NHL, there is a manual draft board in the background, which I do like. Other than that, this thing is a train wreck.
- NHL: First, you need to get this on ESPN2, or Fox Sports Net, or some channel that a larger majority of Americans actually get a chance to watch. This killed the NHL, and continues to do so in the regular season and the postseason, especially the Stanley Cup Finals, where a couple of the beginning games were on Vs. Look, I know that the money may not be out there like it once was, but the NHL is going to have to bite the bullet at some point and put the finals on regular TV for a discount. The Cup Finals this year, although it didn't last very long, was still a great display of hockey, and a thing to note was that there were only three European players on Anaheim's team, meaning that there are a lot more Americans and, yes, Canadians, that the league can market for the sport. However, if events like the draft continue to be shown on Vs., then the NHL won't likely be producing the number of new fans that it could possibly be producing.
- NFL: Look, I love the NFL Draft perhaps more than anyone else, sad but true (you know it's sad but true, dum da-da-da-da...first Metallica reference!), but there's so much even I can stand. So, please, I'm begging you, clean it up a little. The most obvious thing to do is slash the amount of time for each pick. I know that ESPN makes some serious bank off of the draft, but really, how many are left at the end of the third round on Day 1, and further, how many are there for any of Day 2? Here's what I'm thinking: 10 minutes in round one, five minutes for rounds two and three, and three minutes for rounds four through seven. If every team took every second for every pick, and throw in some supplementary picks, the whole thing would take 17 1/2 hours. Now, compare that to what it looks like now. First of all, the whole thing takes approximately 16 hours to begin with, and when you lay down the "take all the time you can" formula, it would take over 24 hours. So, by comparison, you're cutting down the draft time by about three-to-four hours. Also, can we get the actual GMs and head coaches in earlier than the second day? I know that they are definitely under the gun on Day One, but I think they have enough time for a two-minute interview. I would just like to hear from someone who actually knows why they choose who they did, and not some analyst who does his best to speculate what that team is thinking. This is why they made the NFL Network...that's all they do. So, a little truth mixed into the rumors would be much appreciated. In terms of moving the first round to primetime, I am completely against it. To me, that Saturday afternoon start is an institution. Also, what good what it do to put the draft on Friday night? Isn't that where shows go to die? I've never heard of anyone saying that a Friday night time-slot was cushy or anything (except of course the T.G.I.F. days with Boy Meets World and Step by Step...now that worked). Also, I am much happier spending seven hours on a Saturday afternoon watching than I would be on Friday night because, in all seriousness, this thing kind of takes me hostage, and I would much rather be "held" basically any other time but Friday night.
- MLB: See, now this one I like because it's like drawing on a blank canvas. ESPN was a step above local access on their coverage. I mean you couldn't possibly have been more stripped-down than that coverage was. So, there are a lot of things that ESPN can do for next year. First, when you have a draft, you need a crowd. Now, I think there were a couple people in attendance, but for the "national pastime," I shouldn't be able to count the number of people there on my fingers. Here's my solution: Conduct the draft in Cooperstown at the Hall of Fame. Sure, Lake Buena Vista is nice, but still, it's June...isn't it a little too toasty down there? Up in Cooperstown, the only thing people really care about is baseball. The entire tourism board and the community live off of baseball, so why not capitalize on that? Second, when they are televising the draft, they need to broadcast all the way through the "sandwich" round. This will generally get you through about the top 50 picks in the draft, which I think is good because sometimes, a team will not have a first-rounder, and instead, is picking in the compensation round, much like what the Sox did this year. Third, they need to actually invite some of the players to show up and make an appearance at the draft. David Price was virtually the only guy who got face time this year, and he was at his house! Invite the top five or ten guys to come to the draft, and have a little presentation with club reps on stage when they get picked. I think that would be a nice touch. Again, this was just the first year that the MLB Draft was on TV, so I'm pretty sure there will be improvements next year.
- NBA Draft: Ok, where to start? First, the "age" rule is stupid, and the lottery system is even worse, but I'll try and focus on the actual draft itself. In my opinion, TNT should get the draft by default just because of Charles Barkley. ESPN comes at you with Greg Anthony and Tim Legler, who try to make cute little off-hand jokes that don't go well at all, and that's followed by nervous laughter that makes everyone, even me, uncomfortable. Throw Stephen A. Smith in there, and you have a pretty volatile combination. Throughout the draft, the analysis comes in, and it really makes me question if a particular individual watches too much college at not enough NBA, or vice versa, because they seem to know way too much about a particular side, and not know anything about the other. See, a guy like Mel Kiper actually knows about NFL team needs and how well the NFL players are doing, so his knowledge is actually worth something. I love the expression "NBA size." What does that mean? You have to be a certain size to make it in the league? This couldn't be further from the truth. Look at T-Mac. He's came into the league an absolute string bean, but since he was drafted, he's up to 220 now, and one of the premier players in the game. So, the question isn't really about does he have NBA size, but rather, does he have NBA ability? If a guy is undersized, that is something that can be worked on. What can't be worked on is a guy's innate abilities and talents that he was born with. So, basically, the NBA needs to take a page from the NHL, because they only have two rounds to make a good impression, meaning that their moment in the spotlight is short, so the NBA may want to think about stepping it up and not continuing to be a doormat.