The Fatuity of NFL Conjectural Draft Analysis

 During the primaveral period of the calendar that is typically witnessed between the NCAA basketball tournament and the early rounds of the Stanley Cup and NBA Playoffs, we are besieged with an inordinate amount of pre and post-National Football League Draft observations. Nevertheless, many effete attempts of cogent analysis from the selection of collegiate athletes has no more merit than trying to debate the legitimacy of Peter Cottontail or Bigfoot.

The problem with professional football’s clerisy and the average fan is that it is essentially futile attempting to previse how a young man will be able to perform on the field and adaptation to organizational structures (coaches, ownership, et cetera) infused with a vastly different financial portfolio is problematic. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees in this process because the human element is difficult to predict because the individual is as unique as the stars in the cosmos.

It has been several years since one prominent expert made elucidating arguments that Rick Mirer would be the reincarnation of Joe Montana. Most sports fans were surprised (along with the Seattle Seahawks, Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders, and Detroit Lions) that Mirer was more akin to Rusty Hilger than any quarterback donning a bespoke gold jacket.

In fairness, it is certainly understandable why some in Cleveland are a bit uncomfortable with the Browns drafting of Baker Mayfield from Oklahoma due to the fact that they have no idea if the ebullient quarterback can achieve like the thaumaturgic Doug Flutie or fail similarly to the repulsion of Johnny Manziel.

The probability of Hall of Fame induction by any signal caller in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft is long, but the consternation by some against the selection of any young man regardless of position may be unfair. For example, I thought a franchise would have drafted Lamar Jackson of Louisville well before the Baltimore Ravens did; a few individuals were so enraged by the perceived disrespect that there were rumblings of another boycott were afoot.

In reality, the selection of Jackson by the Ravens may ultimately prove that he was placed in the right place at the right time in positioning him for a Warren Moon type career save the five-year stint in the Canadian Football League. The most important factor is that Jackson has earned the opportunity to prove the naysayers wrong despite what the “experts” have to say about his arm strength, style, and other observations.

The transition from college to professional is a challenging proposition for anyone. We must exhibit patience with these athletes as teams adjust rosters and strategy to coincide with the talent that they procured via the draft and trades. Also, most of us can in no way pretend that we are Nostradamus in player evaluations of athletes that we only have a cursory knowledge of from highlights seen months ago.

Atlanta’s Risorgimento in Sports

   In the late 1970s, soccer in the United States was still considered in its nascent stages of development. The proximate decade-long odyssey of the original, fledgling North American Soccer League was beginning to assert itself with the arrival of a force majeure known as Pelé.

When Pelé commenced play with the NASL’s New York Cosmos by 1975, he was almost 35 years-old and played 18 seasons professionally in Brazil, but he may have provided the NASL a stay of execution with his mere presence. My father and I were enamored with the aspect of watching capacity crowds at Giants Stadium go into a frenzy over soccer on American network television.

Nevertheless, the demise of the NASL was a fait accompli following Pelé’s retirement and those images of fans’ vociferous support for teams like the Cosmos and Rowdies began to fade until its fatal collapse in 1985. Atlanta’s franchise, known as the Atlanta Chiefs, could only last five seasons before devolving into a footnote in sports history.

          Few would have augured that 44 years later that the formation of the Atlanta United FC would become a sensation in the metropolitan area. During that span, Major League Soccer formed (almost folding itself by 2002) as a replacement for the North American Soccer League and Atlanta lost two National Hockey League franchises relocating to Canada. Although the Five Stripes waited a number of months before the newly constructed palatial Mercedes-Benz Stadium was completed, committed fans turned out in droves at home games held at Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field.

As Atlanta United FC transitioned to MBS, the club managed to compete in front of over 70,000 fans during their inaugural season and playoff run. This was an impressive accomplishment for city that is often maligned for being apathetic and disloyal. Some observers felt that this verve enjoyed by the Five Stripes was akin to a one-hit wonder.

        Last Sunday’s first home game of the new season for Atlanta United FC broke another attendance record with over 72,000 against D.C. United. A steady stream of ravenous fanatics traversed corridors of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium frequenting team stores at a steady pace purchasing merchandise to the point of repletion. The Five Stripes did not disappoint as they would take a 3-1 victory.

Many are anticipating another attendance record as Atlanta United FC prepare to face the Vancouver Whitecaps FC on St. Patrick’s Day.  Pregame festivities will undoubtedly eclipse the festivities of last weekend twofold. Atlanta has certainly embraced the Five Stripes its very own and the demographics prove that the team has been effective in reaching the community. Consequently, the fans have bought into this franchise big time!

The Fallacy of the Academics & Athletics Union in Revenue Generating Sports


 The recent allegations of impropriety regarding star Cam Newton’s collegiate experiences prior to his arrival in Auburn have caused controversy in sports coverage. We may never completely know if any of these accounts have any merit, but this may become a signal of a necessary change in the manner in which we handle big-time college sports in the United States.

As sports fans, we have as much culpability in the situation as do some athletes, universities, and governance with endless allegations of corruption. Of course, these problems are not usually seen in swimming programs, etc. No, these trials are magnified when everyone and their “uncle” realizes that their beloved young sports star has a realistic opportunity to help an institution win a coveted national championship and earn multi-million dollar contracts in the professional ranks.

Sadly, there are cases where the athlete’s domestic life could play a part in decisions that run contrary to the student athlete ideal of the NCAA. Whether the athlete comes from a single parent, two parent, or multi parent (with grandparents) household, struggling financial conditions can fuel the worst behaviors in people who may not normally behave in such a fashion.

It is still amazing to see a person play a sport that used to be merely a backyard b activity being transformed into a career that could potentially uplift the fortunes of a family for a minority of athletes who happen to win the genetic lottery. This is a tremendous difference between the parent working two menial jobs while living in a two-room shack to taking early retirement and living in luxury homes that would have made Jed Clampett say, “Well doggie!”

In all seriousness, there will have to be a fundamental shift in the relationship between revenue generating college sports and professional leagues to help prevent these troubles. The NFL and NBA have benefited greatly from college programs because they have provided them with player development and evaluation without financial obligations. Also, universities in major conferences have benefited from these athletes with lucrative broadcasting rights and ticket sales to fund there initiatives as well.

The only thing that could change this is to require the professionals to fund legitimate developmental leagues that would fairly compensate young athletes who may have little interest in setting foot in a classroom. Also, college programs could continue provide a more subdued athletic scholarship program that would probably mirror Ivy League institutions. They will no longer enjoy the fervor of ravenous fan bases purchasing tickets and merchandise as before but educational standards would be maintained.

Are we willing to change our traditions? It depends if we are willing to watch a “minor” league football contest between Toledo and Birmingham as these prospects prepare to enter into the majors. This would certainly change the way football fans prepare for Saturday games in SEC Country.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010