By David Pfeifer
“I just don’t get the whole NFL Draft thing. To me it’s just very boring. I can’t see why you like
watching it.” For those of us who follow the build-up and ultimately watch the NFL Draft, we have all heard people utter some variation of at least one of those sentences. Even years ago when ESPN pitched the idea to air it live, then-commissioner Pete Rozelle said it “sounded like reading names from a phone book,” according to anchor Chris Berman. Some people simply don’t understand the obsession, which begs the question, “Why do we love the draft?”
The basic yearning for strategic control is what drives our fascination. While the drama of the
big day and watching young men fulfill their destinies certainly factors into our interest (heck, a movie was even made about this aspect of it), it is not the primary reason for our excitement. We draft nerds track moves, team needs, evaluations and updates long before the actual event. We indulge ourselves in mock drafts, stories and analysis. Essentially, we enjoy playing the role of armchair general manager of not only our favorite team, but of every team. We like to view each roster and determine the best course of action based on needs, fit and projected availability, placing ourselves in the chairs of the league’s top decision-makers.
Strategic control can be found in other facets of our lives and culture as well. While the idea of
reading players’ names may seem a bit dull to some, the act of buying and selling real estate might not seem all that thrilling either. Yet Monopoly remains one of the most popular board games of all time. The concept of building an empire of properties and managing its finances allows players to live out the dream of being a powerful mogul. Computer games such as Roller Coaster Tycoon and SIM City also give people the opportunity to allocate funds and make major, albeit fictional, choices. Even sports games like Madden Football and MLB2K feature owner or dynasty modes that are more interesting to many of us than playing the actual games.
Although we are unable to run real sports franchises, millions of us do the next best thing; we
play in fantasy sports leagues. Hours upon hours are spent reviewing draft boards, thinking up trades and scouring the list of available players. Some leagues even require budgeting under a faux salary cap. We create our teams and then fix and tweak them as needed. When following the NFL Draft, we are observers who watch it unfold on a much grander and more complex scale while trying to predict what direction or plan each team might employ. This, of course, leads to much discussion and dissection before, during and after the draft.
So maybe some people will never fully comprehend this draft infatuation we all share. Perhaps
they will never make the connection between announcing picks and the planning involved with it.
However, strategic control resides within everyone. Ours just happens to manifest itself every April in the form of the NFL Draft.