The NFL draft is now a fixture on TV. ESPN has been presenting it for years now from start to finish as a two day event on the last weekend in April. Purely as a television event it ranks up there with the International Silly Putty Championship but I love it.

The draft starts Saturday at noon and runs until ten at night for just the first three rounds. They do it all over again on Sunday for rounds four through seven. On Saturday, in the first round, each team has 15 minutes to make a pick. There are 32 teams and this can take a long time. I think last year’s draft set a record for the first round at five hours and change. The shortest first round was three hours and change. The draft runs way too long to ever pay attention to the whole thing but you don’t have to.

ESPN has lots of commentators and experts to fill the waiting time with information and blather about the players being drafted. It is one of those jobs that is great because it doesn’t matter if you are wrong. One guy says a player is a great pick and the next guy says he’s a bum. On Monday no one even cares who said what because it can take years to tell if a player is good or bad and no one goes back and checks who said what on draft day.

Players take years to develop. That is what makes the draft such a unique event. It is important because you have to draft good young talent but you really can’t judge the success of a draft until three to five years down the road. A successful draft is when, four years down the road, two of the seven players you have drafted are starting for your team. It is all a crap shoot but no on can tell if their team is rolling sevens or snake eyes. You can only guess and listen to the “experts”.

The reason for the draft being such a fun event is that football has such a short season compared to all other professional sports. It lasts from opening day in September to the Super Bowl in January (the first weekend in February recently). Five months of football a year is all we get. Other sports have seasons seven or eight months long but with football the off-season is longer than the season itself. Just one game a week too. So the NFL draft is an oasis of football in the middle of a long off season. A reason to gather friends together.

For years now a handful of friends have gathered at my house for the NFL draft. We turn on the TV and mostly ignore it until our team, the New York Giants picks. We munch on some snacks, talk some football, order some pizza and hit the back yard to play some Trac Ball. There is a Wham-O flashback game for you. A good time is had by all. I’m for any reason to gather together with friends.

There are some great football moments in the draft too. A highlight is waiting for the New York Jets to make their pick. The Jets haven’t been a very good team for a long time and as a consequence they often have a high draft pick (the worst team gets to pick first and the Super Bowl winner picks last). Since the draft is now a TV event it is held in a theatre (Radio City this year) and fans can attend. Plenty of Jets fans attend because it is held in NYC. And they boo. I can’t blame them. The Jets have a history of picking the wrong guy on draft day. Sure any team can pick the wrong guy. Sure fire can’t miss prospects miss all of the time. Like I said, the draft is a crap shoot, but the Jets have a way of passing over the sure fire can’t miss guy in favor of the “why the hell would they ever pick him?” guy. So the Jets fans boo and wring their hands in despair. Not every year but enough years for ESPN to have a highlight clip of Jets fans moaning in pain and pounding the table in frustration. I feel their pain but it’s funny if you are not a Jets fan. This year the Jets made some good picks and the fans were satisfied so my friends and I were robbed of our amusement. Oh, well.

Four more months until the season starts.