Its the second holiest day in the NFL’s liturgical calendar, Draft Day. Its a testament to the popularity of the NFL, when you can get millions of viewers simply by televising the selection of players by teams. Nobody is putting on pads or playing, its two days of commentators and fans obsessing over projected talent levels. This year’s number one draft pick QB Matthew Stafford went to the Detroit Lions with a six year contract for $78 million. That’s right before he steps on the field or puts on a uniform his contract is done, plus $41.7 million of that is guaranteed money.
Its mind boggling in today’s economy that unproven draft picks can still command that kind of money. There is no shortage of first round quarterback busts like Alex Smith (2005), David Carr and Joey Harrington (2002), Tim Couch (1999), and Ryan Leaf (1998). But to put the salaries in perspective, the NFL makes tens of billions of dollars selling TV rights and then throw in another billion in merchandise sales. Paying the “employees” and that’s what the players are– a few million here and there makes sense. And not everyone is a millionaire, minimum salary for a rookie in 2007 was $285,000 while a fourth year veteran could expect $510,000. Yes, its a six figure salary for the average players, but there aren’t many occupations that combine the toughness of boxing (expect to hit and be hit) and the shallowness of modeling (there is always someone younger ready and willing to take your job).
What are the other holy days in the NFL calendar? Obviously its my opinion, but number one for the holiest is Opening Weekend of the season which now stretches from a Thursday Night opener to Sunday and then a doubleheader the following Monday night. This is when hope springs eternal and all the hard work of training camp is supposed to be revealed.
Next on the list is Draft Day where the hopes and dreams of teams, fans, and college draft picks come to fruition or are dashed on the rocks. Drafting is more of an art than a science, just look at Tom Brady who was a 6th round draft pick and the 199th player taken in the 2000 draft. Only two of the six quarterbacks taken ahead of him have had success in the league: Chad Pennington and Marc Bulger. The other four are journeymen or not even playing anymore: Giovanni Carmazzi, Chris Redman, Tee Martin, and Spergon Wynn.
The third most holy day is Super Bowl Sunday. Why would I put the biggest sporting event third on the list? As big of a fan of pro football as I am, its still a game– what happens if you don’t like the teams playing? It makes the whole thing a little boring. At least with Opening Weekend and the Draft, hope is still alive. By midseason, you know if your team stinks or that they might be on the bubble and limp into the playoffs as long as their head-to-head record, divisional record, conference record, strength of victory, etc pan out. Come that special Sunday in February, it might be two teams you hate, or a player that you’ve had a grudge against since their days in college. I’m just saying that its complicated.