Editor’s note: Paul Muth is an Army vet who tends to talk a lot, so when his friends tell him to stop, he either writes or talks to a microphone and calls it a podcast. He writes better with a beard and looks better with a beer. Or something like that. Follow him on twitter at @abumnamedpaul
BY PAUL MUTH
When I was in high school my buddy and I would play the hell out of Madden. I believe in 2004 we got about 15-20 seasons deep into a franchise; the furthest we’ve ever gone, and–I can say confidently–the furthest we will probably ever go again.
My buddy would play defense, I would play offense. That was the set up. Our created franchise was the Texas Bandits, and their reign of superiority over the (virtual) National Football League was unparalleled–until it was time for dinner.
In retrospect, it’s fascinating how much effort we put into that season. Every day after school we would scout players, figure out what holes needed to be filled on the roster, make trades, everything. I loved the offseason aspect of it. My buddy was more interested in hit-sticking everything into oblivion.
So we were knocking out our 7th or 8th draft one day and were in the 5th round. We had grabbed every player we needed really at that point and we’re just looking. At the top of the board was a quarterback we hadn’t scouted and knew nothing about. His (auto-generated) name was David Patterson.
“Grab him,” my friend said.
“Why? We have a quarterback.”
My buddy shrugged. “I don’t know, man. I like him. He’s got spunk.”
David Patterson went on to become the greatest quarterback in (virtual) NFL History. Yards, Touchdowns, MVP awards, Super Bowl victories. You name it, D-Pat owned it. Patterson’s virtual legend was apparently cool enough to me at one point that I made his name an answer to a custom security question in the event that I forgot my password to log in to the junior college website I had been taking dual credit courses in.
“Greatest Texas Bandit ever” was the clue. Not a problem until 10 years goes by and you’re trying to request transcripts. We’ll file that under lessons learned.
Now why the hell does that still resonate? I was thinking about that the other day whileyou guessed it–playing Madden. I’ve played that game for going on 14 years now (side note: An 18 year old kid at work made me realize I’ve been playing since before he knew how to read. Damn). That’s a lot of drafts, and I don’t remember any of the other names.
It resonates because we struck gold on a player when we weren’t really supposed to. That’s what left such a lasting, albeit facetious, impression. It’s part of the fun and allure of that aspect of the game.
It’s the same perspective that I use now when focusing on the NFL Draft. Originally I would eat up all of the big board movements projected by the McShays and the Kipers of the world. I would pour over rumor after rumor, combine measurables, and pro day performances. I would investigate athletes for the better part of a fiscal quarter, up until the night of the draft because I loved it. I mean, I still do, but I’ve certainly taken my foot of the gas some.
Why is the NFL’s draft put on such a higher pedestal than, well, any other professional sports draft? How does what is essentially a human resources process manage to command three days of prime time coverage in addition to three months of headline news?
So, the most obvious reason lies within fans and team allegiances. You’re reading this article because it has a 50% chance of dealing with Houston sports (and stuff, if you feel like being super ambiguous), yes? So, by that logic pattern, you’re probably looking to read about the Houston Texans, and something related to what they could be doing to improve their personnel. There’s an entire fan base interested in this process. So, as a fan you’re interested; which is something that Major League Baseball, and the National Basketball Association have in common in most cases. The question is why are we watching this, yet mailing in our interest during baseball and basketball drafts?
This answer has two parts. One, and most conspicuously, the NFL saw a marketable opportunity and seized it. A good fan is always going to want to be “in the know” on their team, so let’s make it a spectacle. But what fueled the marketable drama and urgency of the NFL draft specifically was its ability to see results on the field more immediately.
Think about it. As an Astros fan, we’ve had our fair share of number one draft picks in the MLB draft. Yet, most of those picks were from 2011-2013. It isn’t until four years later, at the earliest, that we’re truly reaping the benefits. Same goes for the NBA (which is why Daryl Morey gets rid of draft picks like they were a hot coal in his shoe). Draft a “surefire first rounder,” and watch how 90% of them become mediocre professionals, at best. With the NFL, you can draft guys in the first round and see them immediately improve your team. Look at the Cowboys last season with Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. Look at the Raiders with Derek Carr. These players provided immediate impact, which is what assuages our need for instant gratification.
As for me, I’m intrigued by something else. While I do tune in with a fan’s interest, I view the entire production as an opportunity to witness the greatest day of the lives of 253 young men. Each year there are 253 incredible journey narratives that led to one of the rarest achievements: the opportunity to play football professionally–and (most importantly) finally get paid for it. I can’t think of another job with a longer interview process.
So the NFL benefitted from its players ability to produce early, and marketed the hell out of their fan’s insatiable thirst for team news when the team wasn’t really doing anything. Brilliant.
“So who are the Texans going to draft?”
I have no idea. As a fan, I’d like to see an offensive lineman or quarterback taken. The problem is, this is a very shallow draft class for both, so I’m just going to ride the wave on this one and trust our GM (at least in the first round). Not a bad strategy either, apparently. According to Deepi Sidhu:
I’m down with that.
Happy draft day, People.
Let’s get it:
They lost yesterday, but it took one of last year’s AL Champion’s ace pitchers along with 7 runs– all while two of our best players sat. The Astros are not a fluke. Only the Washington Nationals have more wins (15, to the Astros 14). The Astros are very, very, very good.
The Rockets played very sloppy basketball and still throttled the Thunder. I’m glad that they eliminated the Thunder early enough to give themselves time to get healthy before the next round. I’d prefer the Spurs over the Grizzlies because I think we match up with them better, despite the season record. I’d also prefer a 7 game series between those two so that whoever the winner is arrives to the second round exhausted. Whoever the Rockets play next round, they’ll need to be more mindful of their passing. Otherwise we’ll lose the opportunity to potentially watch Draymond Green kick James Harden in the face, causing him to draw a three point free throw attempt in the Western Conference Finals. Just speculating.
Does anyone else think that Russell Westbrook scared off a lot of potential free agents for Oklahoma City because of this series? Asking for a friend.
CUBO! The MLS goals leader (7) added to his tally last weekend as the Dynamo climbed up to the number three spot on the Western Conference table. Friday they play a Toronto squad that has managed two whole wins. Go check them out, it’s a blast.
Don’t go see Free Fire. It’s a dumb movie about people crawling around a warehouse with terrible aim. Wait until it shows up on FX while you’re folding laundry or something. Again, not a good movie.
Bro of the week:
Gift Ngoepe. Baseball has been around FOREVER, and yet on Wednesday, April 26th, 2017, the first African player debuted in a Major League game. Think about that. That’s awesome.