A Stones Throw 5-15-14

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I really don’t understand people.

How can anyone sit in front of a television and watch 14 hours of the National Football League draft?

How can 14 hours of watching and listening to talking heads talk about a bunch of college football players have enough interest to keep anyone’s attention?

What is even more amazing – and a bigger question – is what makes the NFL draft interesting enough to have my wife sit in front of the television the entire 14 hours? After all, Jade seldom watches sports on television. Instead, she will walk out of the room the minute I turn on a game. (Of course, this means she and I are seldom in the same room during baseball season, or football season, or basketball season, or golf season, or even curling season.)

In other words, why would a non-sports fan spend 14 hours watching the NFL draft?

I asked Jade.

Her answer was simple. “The NFL draft is not about sports – it is about people. It is about the players and their families who sit in the ‘Green Room’ waiting for their names to be called. It is about players who are accepted and those who are rejected. And, it is because you (she means me) sat and watched the same 14 hours of the draft.”

I admit – I am one of those people who watched all 14 hours of the NFL draft.

In doing so, I came away with several observations.

First, I found the coverage on the NFL network to be predominantly positive. After each selection, the NFL Network experts tried to explain why and how the selection was good for the team due to the strengths – or potential strengths – of the player.

At the same time, it seemed that the experts on ESPN were more concerned with explaining the negatives and the weaknesses of players selected – especially after the first round of selections.

As a result, I watch the NFL Network most of the time.

Second, I have mixed emotions concerning the players and their families who were invited to sit in the Green Room while waiting for their name to be called. I enjoyed seeing the joy and excitement as a name was called. I hurt along with the players who continued to wait for their name to be called – several of which waited long after they expected to be drafted.

I felt for the players and their families being shown by the networks as the talking heads talked about the players “falling down the board.” I realize these young men – by choice – are embarking on a high profile profession. However, I think we have to keep-in-mind that they are still very young men, with developing maturity, that have not experienced negativity in their athletic careers.

Third, I think the value, the importance, and the interest should be on one’s favorite team and how each draft pick will affect the coming years. I think each time a player is selected, that player is the most important player in the draft – for that moment.

Obviously, I must be in the minority.

On the first night of the draft there was considerably more time spent on Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, than on players selected earlier in the draft. Two months ago, Manziel was favored to be the first pick in the draft.

He was selected on the 22nd pick of the draft.

While selection after selection passed, the ‘talking heads’ continued to talk about Johnny Manziel.

Not the first pick of the draft – Jadeveon Clowney.

Not the first quarterback selected – Blake Bortles – the third pick of the draft.

The talk of the first night was Johnny Manziel.

Then, finally when Manziel was selected by the Cleveland Browns with the 22nd pick, he walked out on the stage with the “show me the money” outstretched hands and click of his fingers.

Cleveland Browns fans went wild.

The ‘talking heads’ talked even more about Manziel.

And, Jade was disgusted over the “show me the money” gesture.

If nothing else, this gesture disrespected the NFL and the draft. More importantly, it disrespected Manziel’s maturity and personality – or lack thereof.

Then, it was on to days two and three of the draft.

And, on to Michael Sam – the first openly gay man available for selection in the NFL draft.

While most of the conversation about Sam and why he was not being selected as pick after pick was announced revolved around his football abilities as they translate to the NFL, I found it offensive that the ‘talking heads’ felt these explanations (justifications) were necessary time after time after time. It made me wonder if they were trying to hide what might have been the real reason for Sam’s falling “down the draft board.”

I also had to wonder if there were strong football reasons that many other players were either selected in late rounds – or not at all.

The answer there is that several of those players were discussed. Some were selected late, or not at all, because of how their football skills translated to the NFL. Others fell into this category because of “off field” problems. (In truth, “off field” problems had little affect if the player’s football skills were strong – just ask the Cincinnati Bengals and the Indianapolis Colts.)

While several of these players were discussed, the discussions were short – I think because the ‘talking heads’ wanted to speculate out loud about the potential selection – or not – of Michael Sam.

Michael Sam – an openly gay man – was selected by the St. Louis Rams as the 249th pick of the draft.

That should have ended that.

It didn’t.

Not only did the ‘talking heads’ spend most of the final few minutes of the draft talking about Michael Sam and the impact he would have on St. Louis, on the Rams, and on the NFL, but, Twitter responses flooded cyberspace.

One of the most immediate Twitter threads came from Miami Dolphins Safety Don Jones. His Twitter response was simply “Horrible.”

Obviously Jones did not pay any attention to last year’s bullying and racial slurs that resulted in several Miami Dolphins being suspended and/or fined. This alone questions his intelligence more than his response of “Horrible.” (Note: Jones has been fined by the NFL and has been told to stay away from all Dolphins team activities until he completes sensitivity training.)

While I abhor Jones’ response, I think it shows that Michael Sam will have a rough first season – if he makes the Rams team.

Meanwhile, back to the draft.

I also feel for Memphis free safety Lonnie Ballentine – from now on, forever known as “Mr. Irrelevant.”

“Mr. Irrelevant” is the title given to the last man selected in the NFL draft. Instead of recognizing that Ballentine is one of only 256 players deemed to have the football abilities that might translate to the NFL – he is deemed “irrelevant.”

I think this is wrong.

– Mike Cooney