NFL Draft Goes Primetime (We Don’t Mean Deion)

Football fans  love the NFL Draft. Fans know it, the league knows it, ESPN knows it, and advertisers know it. What started as a way for ESPN to fill offseason airtime has turned into a major national sports event worthy of only the loudest and most opinionated hype - wait, that’s true of everything on ESPN. But still, it’s a fun way for fans to spend a  weekend otherwise bereft of sports events (because who watches the NBA or NHL playoffs anyway, right?).

NFL Draft

(The hilarious new primetime series, coming this fall!)

But like a five-egg omelet, 64-ounce Big Gulp, Hummer H2, or like any of the millions of other examples of American greed and avarice, the NFL has decided that two whole days of draft just isn’t enough for football fans. Starting in 2010, the first round is moving to Thursday. If NBC thought ratings for ‘Parks and Recreation’ were bad before, just wait until Amy Poehler and crew go head to head with Chris Berman and Roger Goodell. Let the ratings battle begin!

It’s no secret that the NFL has been working to get part of the draft in primetime for a while, but this is the first time they’ve confirmed that it’s happening, starting next year. It’s a pretty cynical move on the NFL’s part to tap into primetime ratings and ad dollars, but of course the Commish tried to spin it to the NEW YORK TIMES as a fan-friendly move:

Now, the N.F.L. is making a move to raise the profile of the draft even higher, scheduling the first round of the 2010 draft for prime time on a Thursday night and spreading the event over three days instead of a weekend.

“We continue to look for ways to make the draft more accessible to more fans,” N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “Moving the first round to prime time on Thursday night will make the first round of the draft available to fans on what is typically the most-watched night of television.”

As a general rule, any time a sports figure starts telling people that a change was made “for the fans,” it’s safe to assume they mean the complete opposite. How exactly does moving the first parts of the draft from a daylong event on a Saturday to a weekday night make it “more accessible” to fans? This is a logic that could only have come from the bizarro world of sports business.

Heck, if the NFL thought it would make more money, they’d just move the draft to a year-round event; one pick every weekday. Think of the ad dollars! Think of the hype! Think of the money ESPN would save by not cryogenically freezing Mel Kiper, Jr. for 8 months a year!