The League

Michael Kun
Author

Michael Kun

Co-author of The Football Uncyclopedia. He is also the author of six other books and is a practicing attorney.

ESPN ruins the moment

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Every guy with a wife (or a girlfriend) has had that moment when his wife (or girlfriend) has walked into the room unexpectedly, at precisely the wrong moment, when he thought he was alone.

You know what I'm talking about.

For me, it happened last Thursday night.

There I was, stretched out on the couch, believing my wife was out taking care of something. Somehow, suddenly, my wife was behind me.

"What are you watching?" she yelled, pointing at the TV set. "And what's the deal with that guy's hair?" Then, after a moment, she pointed to the screen again and said, "And that guy's hair, too?"

Yes, she had caught me. I was watching the NFL draft. And she'd walked in just when Mel Kiper and Jon Gruden were debating some point.

Now, I don't know what the deal is with Kiper's haircut, or Gruden's, although I will say that I don't know anyone else with the same hairstyles. Perhaps Kiper is trying to make up for the fact he never played football by styling his hair to look like a helmet. Slap a Raiders logo on both sides, and you could fool most fans. As for Gruden, I believe the center part went out of style when Welcome Back Kotter was canceled.

While the haircuts are perplexing, I do know that, like 45 million others, I watched a good portion of the NFL draft on ESPN last week. More than some watched, less than others. And, like most of those 45 million others, I watched it well past the point where I recognized the names of the players being selected, and well past the point of knowing whether a selection was a "reach."

After a while, they were just names, like the roll call at your niece's junior high graduation. Although they may have gotten to that same point at different times, that moment came eventually for virtually everyone who watched the draft. At some point, the selections stopped being players we recognized or had heard of, and just became names.

In fact, I was hoping that Roger Goodell had a sense of humor and would announce the selection of a fictitious player just to see how everyone reacted: "And with the 92nd pick in the draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars select Robert Hopwell, defensive back, Western Iowa State."

I may be wrong, but my guess is that one of the ESPN panelists would have said that picking Hopwell was a "reach." (Probably Chris Berman, who then would have bestowed a silly nickname upon the fictitious Western Iowa star.)

But I digress.

My point was that I watched well past the point where the draft was in any way meaningful to me. And you did, too, didn't you?

The mere fact that so many of us watched, and watched for so long, makes the NFL draft a screaming success. Could it have been done differently or better? Of course. The technical difficulties can be cleaned up. That's an easy fix. But there is one important aspect that requires an immediate change.

In fact, regardless of the enormous viewership, I wouldn't be surprised if someone from NFL headquarters had a few choice words for ESPN on Monday about the way the network kept stealing the spotlight from Goodell's announcements by revealing beforehand who a team was going to select.

I don't mean that ESPN's panelist accurately predicted who a team would select.

I mean that they knew who a team would select because the omnipresent ESPN cameras caught the player and his family celebrating when they received the call from the team about to select him.

We saw Tim Tebow and his family go wild as they put on their Broncos caps a few full minutes before Goodell made the announcement that the Broncos had selected him.

We saw Jahvid Best having a very subdued conversation with someone we would otherwise assume was a mortician based on his facial expressions, until ESPN made clear that he was speaking with the Lions front office, minutes before Goodell announced, "And the Lions will require Jahvid Best to leave sunny California to go live in Detroit." (I'm paraphrasing here, but boy did Best look sad. Someone should have hugged him.)

Repeatedly, Goodell's announcements meant nothing to anyone other than those who were in the same room with him.

Repeatedly, ESPN stole Goodell's thunder to the point where you wondered why Goodell was even there anymore. You wondered why he didn't just throw up his hands and say, "If you guys are going to make the announcements yourself, then I'm going home. I have better things to do. Like calling DeMaurice Smith over at the NFLPA to try to negotiate a new contract before we all kill this cash cow of ours."

But that's a different subject.

Now, you may say that ESPN is a news agency and is required to report the news as soon as they receive it. They learned a player was about to be selected, and they had an obligation to report it.

I say that's bull.

ESPN is more of an entertainment network than a news network these days, and they were partnering with the NFL on a program. And they ruined the program by stealing climactic moments time and again, not unlike the jerk in the crowd who yells out the punchlines at a comedy club.

It would make better entertainment if ESPN allowed the league and its teams to announce the selections instead of trying to beat the NFL, its partner in the telecast, to the punch. In this way, ESPN made the show about ESPN, instead of about the NFL, its teams and the players.

In the future, perhaps after an unpleasant telephone call with NFL headquarters, ESPN will stop stealing the moments that ostensibly are the focus of the show, the moments when players are selected.

Let's all hear who was selected from the Commissioner, and let's all hear it at the same time. It's more exciting. It's more dramatic. It's better television.

What else would make for better television? A new barber for the ESPN panelists.

That's my wife's request.

By Michael Kun  |  April 27, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Draft , NFL , Roger Goodell Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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This is why ESPN's coverage is unwatchable. Berman loves to smugly give away the pick just seconds before they cut to the actual announcement. It's nauseating.

Posted by: McBride33 | April 27, 2010 12:19 AM

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