MORRIS: Thank ESPN for the hype

May 3, 2014 

Jadeveon Clowney jokes with ESPN's Sal Paolantonio, Todd McShay and Tedy Bruschi about his hair after he worked out in front of NFL coaches, scouts, media and the fans April 2, 2014 at Williams-Brice Stadium.


THE NEVER-ending string of Football Non Events, or FNEs, continues this week with the annual NFL draft. That should conclude the FNEs for this offseason, or at least until the SEC Media Days, followed by the Opening of Fall Camp and the First Day of Practice.

Note that these FNEs all carry CAPITAL LETTERS, presumably so that football fans across the land can be fooled into thinking these are actual sporting events. By changing common nouns to proper nouns, football has somehow attempted to lend more significance to certain days. You know, like National Signing Day, Pro Day and the Spring Football Game.

We are close to FNEs outnumbering actual events – such as games. Let’s count the ways. Four days for the NFL Combine, three days for the NFL draft (and it could expand soon to four days), one day for National Signing Day, one day on each college campus for Pro Day, one day for the spring game, and four days for SEC Media Days.

That is 14 days total, or two more than a team’s 12 regular-season games played during a college football season. That total also does not count the days, weeks and months of buildup for the NFL draft, National Signing Day and the first game of the regular season (an actual football event).

Of course, the hype attached to events is inherently built into football since there are six days between each game, with a few exceptions. It remains the only sport where each week, day after day, is spent building up to a game that lasts three-to-four hours and includes considerably more time spent in huddles and TV timeouts than in game play.

And we know all this hype is about TV. If you are a sports fan not the least bit interested in the NFL draft, then there has been no reason to tune in for ESPN’s SportsCenter the past couple of months.

What ESPN does not tell you about its draft coverage is that it is pretty meaningless. It is all speculation about which team will select which players and in what order. But until the NFL commissioner announces the selections Thursday through Saturday, does it really matter what Mel Kiper or anyone else thinks.

Even at the conclusion of the draft, it might take another three to five years to assess which teams came out winners.

It is nice that former USC player Jadeveon Clowney might be the first player selected in the draft and that former Clemson player Sammy Watkins might be among the first five players taken. But it does not mean a great deal to their former schools, certainly not as much as it does to those players’ wallets.

Once the selections get past the second round, the draft loses almost all of its luster because late-round picks essentially are guaranteed only a tryout.

Then there’s the NFL Combine, Pro Days and the Spring Football Game. Call me crazy, but I fail to see the excitement in watching a player run a 40-yard dash. Now, let them run the 40-yard dash against a few track stars, and you’re talking about adding value to FNEs.

As for the annual Spring Football Game played on college campuses across the country, all you need to know is that Steve Spurrier runs a play every year in which a receiver illegally comes off the sideline to catch a touchdown pass. This year, that receiver was USC women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley.

Give Spurrier credit for recognizing the worth – or worthlessness – of the Spring Football Game by making it a light-hearted affair and by instituting a running clock throughout the second half.

At least the spring game has some redeeming value in that it represents the only “game” played each year that a family of four can afford to attend. There are no parking fees, no seat-license fees and no admission charge.

There also is no admission charge for Pro Day or the NFL draft. That is the surest sign those occasions are Football Non Events.

Meanwhile, enjoy the Countdown to the NFL draft.

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