The 2014 National Football League draft is upon us, and it once again is the single most dominant off-field, off-court, off-ice sports news of the spring. In fact, for those sports fans who love NFL football more than anything—and every Harris and Gallop poll taken from 1963 to the present has had Americans citing the NFL as the favored sports league—there is simply nothing like the draft other than football games themselves.
A couple of news items caught my eye recently and reminded me once again of the enormous growth of pro football over the last 50 years.
In an article in Forbes Magazine the noted business journal stated that the NFL playoff game slated to be on ESPN in January 2015 is considered a reward, or perk, for the cable giant for its 15.2 billion dollar commitment to the NFL over the next eight years.
We hear these numbers and tend to gloss over them, but when one takes the time to let them sink in, they point out once more how many eyeballs are tuned to the NFL, and it is day in and day out, not just every Sunday of the fall and winter.
The second item really galvanizes the size and scope of the NFL draft.
The NFL released its annual guide for fans who wish to attend the draft in person.
First of all, the draft will be held at Radio City Music Hall, one of the most iconic venues in America. Fans can go, but they have to arrange to get passes, must have clear bags only and have the bags checked, and so forth, just like you would at a game.
Just like you would at a game.
The draft is as big as a game, but it is a game day experience that extends over three days, and not for three hours, but for closer to 24/7 for all three, with full, live coverage on two networks, the NFL Network, of course, the league television flagship, and the cable behemoth ESPN.
But one big difference is that it is a game day after which every team remains undefeated and has even greater hope and excitement than it did going in.
All draft, all the time, a fantastic springtime event for everyone associated with the NFL.
But as in all things, one of the measures of seeing how big something is can be by comparison to what it was once upon a time.
Once upon a time, the only way the Chicago newspapers would put items on the Bears in print was that the young Bears owner and coach, George Halas, would drive down to the newspapers offices after games and type out a short story that they then would run. No story written by Halas, no story on the Bears.
Now, you say, that was a long time ago. Yes, but more recently, thirty years later in the 1950's, the NFL draft was held without any press coverage at all. Old school PR pros from back in the day have told me that they did the drafts, then typed up the names, schools, rounds, and so forth, and hand delivered the release to the local sports departments, in hopes of getting a few lines in the local newspaper.
In my own career, which began four decades ago, I too used to drop off press releases, figuring that the personal touch and a handshake would be more certain to produce a modicum of coverage. A tried and true formula, but we have flown past that model to the present time.
No one knows and it would be very difficult to calculate how many dollars and hours are invested by the Broncos in this annual draft, but back in 1960 when the American Football League was holding its very first college draft, Denver General Manager Dean Griffing made his selections out of a popular publications named Street and Smith's College Football.
I cannot say where Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway and his scouting staff are getting their info these days, but I am pretty sure they will not wake up on draft day and make their choices out of a college football magazine due to having a total scouting budget of zero!
The Broncos website will once again be the place to be for the most current print and video news on team happenings during the draft, and Chris Hall, Gray Caldwell and Stu Zaas will do their usual great job in keeping all fans up to date on what is most current. They will work the standard draft days hours—which is to say, their time commitment will be measured by days, not hours, and fueled by a fair amount of sugar. They will cover the present like a blanket. I have a lot of draft day memories of past draft day moments, players and selections which I will be sharing during the three days of the draft and in the days immediately following, and I hope those who choose to read might share a chuckle and have some appreciation for how the past connects to the present in Denver Broncos and pro football history.