The NFL Draft will be returning to Chicago next year, and that’s not a bad thing.
It’s kind of like a geek pro football party for stats nerds and fans, without a Super Bowl attached.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced Tuesday that the multiday festival with huge young college men attached will be back for the second straight year, the third time in half a century.
What is really a full-blown promotion for the NFL product was held last spring in Grant Park, and people got to see sober-faced representatives from each of the 32 NFL franchises stock their respective teams with fresh, largely undamaged meat.
The Bears took West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White, and the fact he hasn’t practiced with the team this season, well, that didn’t take away from the thrill of simply seeing the fellow picked and learning he has 9¼-inch hands.
Indeed, this draft is becoming a product in itself, and don’t think networks, advertisers and marketers haven’t noticed. Held for years in New York, it was just another blip on a calendar full of daily mayhem in Manhattan.
But in Chicago it’s something with limitless, camera-worthy expansion possibilities. Players arriving by speedboat from Navy Pier? Emanuel tip-toeing across a suspension wire strung from the Bean to Buckingham Fountain? Goodell being lowered like Michael Buffer’s microphone from a Goodyear Blimp?
Two-hundred thousand people came out to see the amusement park-like aspects of last spring’s event. It was a rather strange setup, in this scribe’s opinion, in that the crowd could have easily filled the entire grassy area of Grant Park or Northerly Island and watched the process live instead of on big screens.
The only folks who had the good fortune to see Goodell stroll onto the stage and say, “With the tenth pick in the 2015 draft, the St. Louis Rams select Todd Gurley…” were those who got into the small Auditorium Theatre (3,875 capacity, which didn’t include Chris Berman’s ego).
Everybody else watched on giant monitors, just like in their basements.
It was swell that “Draft Town’’ itself, the NFL self-promotional village in Grant Park was free to enter. (Apparently, even the craven NFL shies away from charging to view it’s bullion and used mouthguards.) But the draft show itself should be visible to all.
Isn’t that the point?
Make it like Woodstock or the Indy 500. Let Goodell walk out like Mick Jagger ready to sing “Tumbling Dice’’ in front of a million people on Copacabana Beach in Rio.
He and Mick have a lot in common, power-wise. Don’t they? Put Goodell in leather pants and a cutoff T-shirt with a red tongue on it, and who could tell them apart?
There is no logic to this, anyway, in that, at its heart, the draft is as thrilling and predetermined as dividing up the cake slices at your neighbor’s daughter’s wedding.
We’ll assume Chicago didn’t give everything to the NFL to lure it here, and that we actually make some money off this deal. Big assumption. One we’ll have to wait for federal investigators to clear up. When they come.
This is Chicago, remember? The city that couldn’t get the 2016 Olympics? The city that is almost bankrupt?
But let’s stay positive. Let’s remember the joy of finding out — live — that wide receiver White, per NFL Draft Tracker report, is “pigeon-toed,’’ and that in college he was “allowed to play in space.’’
He’s fast, but, as we now know, he has “average wiggle after the catch.’’
It’s Mel Kiper, Jr.’s world. We’re just renting it for another season.
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