Fans of the NFL Draft

24 04 2010

I went to the streets surrounding Radio City Music Hall Thursday afternoon expecting a line around the block for entrance to the NFL Draft. Instead, all I found were rows of production trucks with what seemed like 100 people scurrying around and setting up for the draft. (There were probably 300 people outside, with I’m sure another 1,000 draft-preppers inside.) NFL Network, NFL Films and ESPN folks, I presumed.

I couldn't figure out what was going on here.

To find the fans who were going to enter the draft, I had to walk across Sixth Avenue to the western side of the street, across from Radio City. I wanted to find three or four groups of fans, preferably wearing jerseys, and discover why they were at the draft and what they wanted to see. Little did I know I’d start rushing everything because rain was in the forecast. Rain ruins everything.

I didn’t have the focus and patience to camp for tickets myself. The NFL began doling out wristbands Wednesday evening for the Thursday night first round. Then there was another wristband hand-out session Thursday or Friday for the Friday night second and third rounds. I was planning on attending Saturday until I woke up at 9:30 and read that draft began a half hour later. So I suppose I’ll have to live my NFL Draft experience for this year through the fans I spoke with on Thursday.

Packers fans

From left to right, we have Gary (Greg Jennings jersey), Kyle (Donald Driver) and Ben (Pro Bowl Brett Favre) from Wisconsin.

Ben, Kyle and Gary came from Wisconsin just to watch Brett Favre re-appear on the Draft stage and announce that he was going back to Green Bay to challenge Aaron Rodgers — to a mustache-growing contest. I’m kidding, of course. That’s all ridiculous. Rodgers is unchallenged in his ability to don a porn-like mustache. Maybe Stan Van Gundy can compete….but back to the draft.

The Ben/Kyle/Gary crew said they had “no idea what to expect” upon their first draft experience in person. They just wanted an offensive lineman in the first round and for the Pack to bolster their running back depth. (Ben pointed out C.J. Spiller and free agent Brian Westbrook as his preferred options.) Well, the Pack drafted Bryan Bulaga from Iowa, so not only did they get an offensive lineman, but they got one who likely can live off a hay- and corn-based diet.

49ers fans

Jake, from Boston, and his friend, whose name I couldn’t pick up because a freaking semi drove by and ended up canceling out his voice on my voice recorder (I obviously didn’t write down or memorize his name for safe-keeping) are avid 49ers fans. And avid Draft fans. Jake’s friend said he had been attending the Draft every year. That’s basically what he said — he didn’t name the first year he attended, just that he’s been going every year. Jake has “only” been attending since 2002. What a slacker.

Jake (right) and his Draft friend, both sporting classic Joe Montana jerseys.

They said they were the first guys in line for the first round wristbands, claiming they got in line at 10 a.m. Wednesday. They became friends after meeting at the draft, and Jake said he saw 30 or 40 of his Draft friends every year at this event.

“If you enjoy your team, you meet a lot of different people,” said Jake, who planned on being in attendance for every draft pick from Thursday-Saturday. “Sometimes you talk baseball, basketball, hockey, whatever.”

And he described the draft as “like a graduation that lasts eight hours.” Sounds like a lot of fun, talking NFL with similarly passionate fans, experiencing the draft in person and obviously eating good food to complete the good times, right? Right?? Wrong.

Jake explained that since the NFL moved the Draft to Radio City Music Hall — it’s obviously a performance center for concerts — the food was comprised of movie theater fare such as pretzels and hot dogs. Even worse is the fact that fans can’t leave once they make it inside. God forbid the league permit their hard-suffering fans to retain their seats after spending more than a full day standing on one block of New York City.

There are some good street vendors around that Sixth Avenue/low-mid 50s area. Couldn’t the vendors form a deal with the NFL to serve their food inside Radio City? Wouldn’t they make a killing? Anyway, back to Jake: He was hoping for an offensive tackle and he got exactly that in Anthony Davis from Rutgers. Then he and his buddy got another lineman — a guard — by the name of Mike Iupati from Idaho. Hopefully Jake and his friend were pleased despite their hunger.

Jets fans

Brian (right; still not sure that's his name) is obviously a member of (Darrelle) Revis Island while his buddy is a Mark Sanchez supporter.

I wanted to start chanting J-E-T-S and call new-Jet LaDanian Tomlinson a crybaby, but I didn’t want to upset Brian (I think that’s his name) and his friend, a couple of Jersey guys who were making their first draft appearance. Plus, they were both a lot bigger than me and probably would’ve sat on me, just like what Rex Ryan would do in a fight.

Brian (again, my recorder failed to pick up his name but I’m going with that name) and his bud had been saying for years that they wanted to go to a Draft. Thankfully, Jersey isn’t that far away. Maybe in class and dignity, yes, but not in terms of miles.

They claimed to love every off-season move by the Jets, even the Santonio Holmes deal in which he was suspended four games AFTER he was obtained by the J-E-T-S. Even the Jason Taylor signing, despite the fact he spent most of his career on the rival Dolphins. Brian and his bud wanted to see Taylor Mays added to the defensive backfield mix; alas, they have to settle for Boise State’s Kyle Wilson.

The guys also desired to see Tim Tebow drafted. They didn’t care where — they just wanted to see him chosen. “He’s a good dude, especially in light of what’s going on with Roethlisberger,” Brian said.

Patriots fan

Kellen was doubling up on his sports fun by soaking in the pre-NFL Draft experience before attending his third straight Mets game that night.

Kellen from Buffalo really likes Tebow, as well. So much so that he hoped the Pats would draft the former Gator to become Tom Brady’s backup. Kellen might’ve seen his wish come to fruition had it not been for the Broncos trading up to the No. 25 spot to take Mr. Tebow. (The Pats drafted at 27th.) Instead, Kellen has to settle for Rutgers cornerback Devin McCourty, who was so excited to become a Patriot that he claimed the greatest sentence he ever heard was the Pats asking him “How would you like to become a Patriot?” just before they selected him.

I felt bad for Kellen, especially since he’s a Mets fan. The kid has had a rough go of it the last year. But he was rather excited about the draft, which he wouldn’t attend, instead going to a Mets game for the third straight night. He had been seeking a Jose Reyes autograph and was determined to get it, even though David Wright signed a baseball and a hat for him two days in a row. Kellen wanted Reyes and I hope he got him.




One response

24 04 2010
Mets Maize

“Maybe in class and dignity, yes, but not in terms of miles.”


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