There’s nothing cold or shameful about staging the NFL Draft in times like these

first_imgNot one of them should feel badly about watching.No one presenting it as a television program should feel guilty about airing it.And the enterprise at the heart of it all, the National Football League, should not be publicly shamed for staging it.MORE: “Madden” NFL players tournament: Bracket, rules, live streamThe NFL is in the entertainment business, as are Netflix, Columbia Records and, for the most part, SiriusXM. A lot of the entertainment universe has been forced to shutter because its product depends on live performances engaging live audiences. But these vehicles, and others like them that can be consumed at home via a television screen or other device, have been able to continue operating.Were the NFL in its playing season, it would be in the same circumstance as the NBA, NHL, MLB, MLS and the NCAA. But pro football games are not supposed to begin until September. What the league is doing now is going through its typical business of facilitating roster construction for the 32 franchises. That includes, most prominently, the player draft that will be conducted April 23-25.This is not a problem in the least. In fact, it’s wonderful. But just as prominent NFL analyst Mike Florio scolded the league for going forward with its free agency period, ESPN pro football reporter Adam Schefter now is blasting the league for proceeding with the draft while the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage.“The draft is happening only through the sheer force and determination and lack of foresight from the NFL, frankly,” Schefter said on Tuesday’s edition of “SportsCenter” with Scott Van Pelt. “They are determined to put this on while there is carnage in the streets.”That wasn’t all. Schefter made reference to the draft occurring while “we’re carrying out bodies” and termed the decision to stage the draft “cold-hearted to be perfectly frank.”If the NFL in any sense were contributing to that carnage, he would have a point. The league canceled the public events surrounding the draft, which were scheduled for Las Vegas and most certainly would have attracted a crowd numbering in the hundreds of thousands.Instead, its executives, coaches and scouts are mostly working from home, telecommuting, as are so many in other industries. The Bears and Steelers were among the teams that shut down their facilities two weeks ago. Colleges are no longer conducting their “pro day” workouts for players to be scouted in person.The NFL Scouting Combine took place in Indianapolis the last week of February, which gave all teams an opportunity to get numbers on a vast majority of draftable prospects. Much has changed in this nation since that event concluded.The free agency period so many lamented last month — that included team executives, NBC Sports’ Peter King reported — created a commotion only in the sense the greatest quarterback of all time, Tom Brady, chose to leave the team that had employed him throughout his career.Most of us now are at home almost exclusively. That’s what we’ve been asked to do to help save the planet. A lot of us, as a result, are searching for preoccupation. There would be no value to a 24/7 obsession with the threat of the pandemic. This is why Alicia Keys and Dave Grohl were among those signing from their homes to us on a Fox/iHeart broadcast Sunday night, and why Keith Urban and Kelsea Ballerini will be among the stars on a similar country-music based show April 5 on CBS.MORE: SN’s latest NFL Mock DraftSchefter is an exceptional reporter. Had he endeavored to use his skills to cover politics or national affairs, he no doubt would have excelled. Instead he chose, as I did, to cover sports. The 2020 NFL draft will proceed without so much of what had come to define it as an extravaganza: the massive crowds in the street, the groups of friends, family members and agents around the candidates, the curiously familiar hugs exchanged between each selected player and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.We don’t yet know what it will look like. One imagines ESPN and the NFL Network will do an imaginative job creating compelling productions for those fans who choose to watch. And it is a choice, probably one even more will be inclined to make given the absence of live sports on television and the confinement to which most Americans currently are subjected, by choice or by law. There are serious elements of sport — actions taken by the participants that might be illegal or untoward — and it is essential we as sports journalists cover them. The majority of our work, though, is designed to inform or enlighten or entertain the audience that is attracted to the sport in question.If it wasn’t clear that the draft is entertainment before it was taken to Nashville last spring and overwhelmed its city streets, it surely was obvious then.Earlier this week, ESPN announced it was advancing the broadcast date of its eight-hour Michael Jordan documentary, “The Last Dance,” from its planned June dates to April 26-May 10. It was a logical move. People marooned at home might find it intriguing. Making this decision seems to be the very definition of foresight, not cold-hearted at all.last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *