Wednesday, April 27, 2011

2011 NFL Draft: Where is the Interest?

I've been cramming over some free time the last few days, because I realized it was NFL Draft week, and I had done virtually no prep since the college football season ended.


A few reasons ...
  • My overall interest is a bit low, largely because I don't think the draft can be top of mind when we still don't know for sure if we're going to have a season that starts on time.
  • The UMD hockey season elongated into April, and my focus through the national championship game was on those games and making sure I at least came as close as I could to doing a good job. The draft prep suffered as a result.
  • Anytime your favorite team is picking at the end of the first round, it makes everything else a little underwhelming. Don't be looking for the Packers to move up in the first round. If anything, they're more likely to move out of the first round.
It's a team effort.

Anyway, through the run-up to Thursday night's first round, it's come to my attention that the draft just doesn't have the juice it's had in the past.

I don't know if it's all lockout-related, or if it's because we don't have any real clear-cut franchise players in the top five of the draft, or if it's simply a cyclical thing resulting from the NFL and its partners hyping this to the point that everyone realized how stupid it was and got sick of it.

(NOTE: I don't think the draft is stupid, and I think it's still a watchable, newsworthy event. However, people were doing segments on the draft before the NFL playoffs even ended, and that seems a little -- er, a lot -- ridiculous.)

It was bound to happen, especially with this lockout drama. The league has ticked off a lot of its hardcore fans with this garbage, and the players have played a role in it, too.

Fans -- many of whom are experiencing their own economic struggles and still finding ways to buy tickets and merchandise for their favorite team -- don't like watching owners and players fight over a pot of money so big that no one can really fathom how big it really is.

That's not news to anyone, but yet the NFL seems caught off-guard by everything that doesn't go their way.

That alone infuriates me as a fan, because it's a clear sign that fans are being taken for granted by the league. We're not the only ones. The league seems to assume they're going to win every legal battle, and they probably assume that the players will give in and sign a deal on the owners' preferred terms.

The draft ends up suffering. Fans are going to watch, because that's just what they do. But in the end, the casual fans will watch something else Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The NFL is an afterthought to so many, because so many feel the NFL thinks they're an afterthought.

I guess it beats the hell out of thinking you have to work for the fans' support, huh?

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