First of all, looking at the opening day of the NFL draft from a distance, all credit goes to host city Nashville. You are the winner of this draft.
If you can get more than 100,000 people to stand in the rain to boo NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, then you are indeed a special sporting town worthy of national notice. And you have your priorities straight.
The honky-tonk-lined streets were crammed with people wearing Vikings horns and cheese heads and face paint, a football Mardis Gras the scale of which has never before been seen for something so speculative as a draft. I’m launching my next IPO in Nashville.
And where else could you strike such a synergy between music and sport? There on the ESPN set Thursday night was country star Luke Bryan, professing his love of the Falcons one moment and then valiantly disguising his disappointment when they were one pick late getting Clemson defensive lineman Christian Wilkins. Instead of picking one of the more engaging and colorful figures in the draft, the Falcons took a guard, a necessary, but electrically uncharged position. Guards are to draft day what sparklers are to the Fourth of July.
There’s a sad country song there somewhere, if only Bryan can figure a way to rhyme something about getting drunk and getting dumped with “interior offensive lineman.”
A few other takeaways from Thursday’s programming, which I’m ashamed to say I couldn’t turn off in order to work on a novel or discuss what to do about North Korea with my wife.
*Traditionally, we like to come up with winners and losers in the draft before any of the players have even taken off their elaborately-themed sports jackets.
As we said, Nashville is the big winner. One of those who lost out, oddly enough, was Alabama coach Nick Saban. He was unable to be in Nashville to, as usual, usher his first-round picks into their future (Bama had three). A draft-night tradition was undone with Saban recovering from hip-replacement surgery.
That left the stage to Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and his three first-rounders. And the effervescent Swinney used his time to steal the show, taking more photos and videos with his phone than a proud father.
Still, Saban even made history while he was healing up. With the three first-rounders Thursday, he passed late Penn State coach Joe Paterno for most ever (34 to 33 now).
*The SEC still managed the most first-rounders (nine), as is its wont. But the ACC was uncomfortably close – seven. That’s half the first picks accounted for in the two conferences that matter most around here.
I know, you wanted them all.
*Two stars of the night: Cheryl Bosa, the mother of two top-three drafted linemen. Youngest Nick was taken second Thursday by San Francisco (Joey was taken third by the Chargers in 2016). Just feeding them should qualify her for at least a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Plus, she seems just smart and tough enough that someone may want to look at her in the later rounds.
And, one look at the smile on his face and the way he filled the room Thursday, and you just knew that Alabama D-lineman Quinnen Williams (taken third by the Jets) is going to be special. Oh, yeah, if you ever saw him play, you knew that, too.
*Smartest person in the room Thursday night? My vote goes to the toddler Kentucky defender Josh Allen hauled up to the stage. The boy just did not want to wear that Jacksonville Jaguars hat. He has higher standards than that.
*I’m not sure the New York Giants got their quarterback of the future when they reached for Duke’s Daniel Jones. But, looking at the classy, conservative cut of his suit and his executive look, I would like him to do my taxes.
*Can ESPN just let Louis Riddick talk all the time? He’s smart and he’s smooth, and he’s one of the few on that network who seem to realize he is miked, and there is no need to scream to be heard.
*There seemed a record amount of tears in this draft, although that might be the only analytic that escaped the notice of the talent evaluators. The emotions on display by players and family were a heartening reminder that this is still a game of passion as well as profit.
And a there was little anger, too, Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins vowing to wreak his terrible vengeance on the league for waiting until 15th to take him (by Washington). What, does he think he plays an important position, like defensive line (11 of those were taken in the first round)?
That’s why we watch. That’s how the simple playground activity of choosing up sides can be as watchable as “Game of Thrones.”