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      Building a Better NFL Draft

      April 12, 2013
      From the column 'The Mercy Rule'


      Photo via Flickr user Marianne O'Leary

      On the one hand, it's easy and petty and mostly stupid to be snobby. On the other hand, there are the things that people watch on television, and oh Lord. If TV were reality, every murder victim in the United States would be an attractive white woman and all of them would be killed in their spacious homes by urbane serial killers who have mannered, punctilious diction and quirky, OCD-ish habits. (The upside of this is that those serial killers would invariably be captured or killed by attractive teams—really like families, if you think about it—of women with small features who wear low-cut tops to investigate homicide scenes, faintly Australian-seeming cop bros, quippy middle-aged coroners, and forensic lab techs with unorthodox hairdos.) Every apartment would contain a quirky dork, an outlandishly foxy woman, and a mild audience surrogate; they would rove around suspiciously clean cities and have mellow adventures. There would be many, many more instances than occur in actual life of a Super Hot Chick asking a Nerd to put sunblock on her back, but then he gets too excited and squeezes the bottle and (uh oh) sunscreen squirts out. Some parts of Los Angeles may actually be like this, I don't know.

      The point is, people will watch anything on television, provided it isn't a critically acclaimed NBC sitcom, and that makes it tough not to be superior about it. Especially when the NFL draft, of all things, is a big deal on television.

      We've been over why this is wrong, strange, sad, and even a little frightening. The draft takes three days and involves some of the dumber shout-machines on American television applying the same five adjectives to various muscular men over and over. There is a red carpet segment, which someone thought would be interesting to sports fans, and there is Mel Kiper Jr., a draft maven who looks and acts less like an expert of any kind than like someone trying to sell damaged carpet and/or illegal handguns out of a Buick LeSabre in the parking lot outside a Bass Pro Shop near Jacksonville, Florida. Long-tenured ESPN personality and free-range booze-ham Chris Berman screams—just fucking screams as loud as he can—various puns based on Lovin' Spoonful songs and sweats Crown Royal. It is very bad. But it can be better, if only because it can't be worse.

      Below are three ways that the network could make its NFL draft broadcast more enjoyable. Ordinarily, these suggestions would retail for upwards of “the cost of one domestic beer at happy hour.” But, because this is an urgent situation—Chris Berman has some Eddie Lacy/Big Bopper puns to make, and he will make them, and the draft is just a couple weeks away—let's consider them free of charge.

      GO MINIMALIST 
      Somehow, 25 people will be discussing the draft on air for ESPN this year. Many of them will be tasked with pretending to argue about various hulking 21-year-olds; others will have the more familiar football-on-television role of laughing heartily for no obvious reason. This doesn't work. Even if Todd McShay and Kiper really had a serious disagreement over (actual person) Barkevious Mingo, watching them hash it out would be as interesting as watching your dad and uncle argue about charcoal versus gas grills. There is only so much to say about Barkevious Mingo—What is his best NFL comparison? Is it weird to name your dog Barkevious? What if your dog were a corgi?—and new topics of discussion won’t magically appear no matter how many Big and Tall goofsteak commentators you stack atop one another. Instead, let's pare it down to the essentials: Two people sit behind a desk. One of them is Berman, in a nod to tradition; he's haggard, but we can let him drink if that'd help. The other is Mickey Rourke, who doesn't follow football at all, is wearing sunglasses, and mostly talks about how many alligator-skin jackets he owns (a lot). Both are gone by the second day, when the whole of ESPN's coverage is a single camera set up in the back of Radio City Music Hall pointed at the stage. We hear ambient sound only, which means long periods of rustling faraway conversations and silence. As the day continues, the sounds change. Jets fans try to start a “T-I-T-S, tits tits tits!” chant in the balcony and fail. Finally there is just one noise to be heard: the sound, soft at first but getting progressively louder, of a goateed man in a Buffalo Bills jersey sobbing. It would be far more entertaining, and arguably more illuminating, than any NFL-related item ESPN has produced in the past decade.

      TURN UP THE DRAMA 
      Or there's always the other direction. Today's audiences are not looking for the same old NFL Draft experience! A bunch of rectangular dudes from Florida shaking hands with Roger Goodell while Kiper barks about their psychological makeup and “explosion towards the ball” in ways that make everyone uncomfortable? No thanks, grandpas. Why not turn the production over to Bravo and Watch What Happens™ when Trent Dilfer finds out what Merril Hoge said about his fashion line (it’s called DILF, and there are a lot of pleats) during an excruciating white-wine-saturated lunch in an empty fusion restaurant at 3 PM. Seems like a good bet that the claws will come out! Yes, Bravo will insist that Kathy Griffin anchor the studio coverage, and yes, Kathy Griffin will just yowl awful, desperate Kardashian jokes if permitted to do that. You'd really prefer Ron Jaworski?

      JUST AIR A BUNCH OF CHIPS RERUNS OR SOMETHING
      This is pretty clearly the best bet option.

      @david_j_roth

      Previously: Horrible Bosses

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      Topics: The Mercy Rule, david roth, the nfl draft, Mel Kiper Jr., ESPn, Bravo, Chris Berman, yelling, bright lights, rectangle-shaped men from Florida, football, television

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