In the global pandemic that is the coronavirus, sports remain a bug on the windshield. I know. They still matter to those of us who spend our lives trying to avoid being squished by those darn wiper blades.
Darwin said the species that survives is the one most adaptable.
Pfft. What did he know?
Thursday night’s draft as a virtual experience is one more reminder that our world has changed. Roger Goodell will announce first-round selections from his basement. Nobody wants to shake the commissioner’s hand this time, anyway. Or anyone’s hand.
Las Vegas was scheduled to host the annual spectacle and the hundreds of thousands of fans who would have descended upon the town in a celebratory and mostly inebriated state. If there’s really no party like a Detroit party, a close second are drunk folks wearing Jets jerseys and booing the snot out of whoever the team selects. We will miss them dearly.
We instead get Goodell hoping any long-tailed critters haven’t chewed through wires that lead to his router. Shouldn’t be an issue. I would think his underground dwelling might give the most striking of two-story Colonials a run for design. His annual salary of $40 million can afford a few big screens.
Football fans need this. Not in the way those on the front lines fighting COVID-19 need and deserve our respect. Not in the way such a common enemy has reminded us of that which is truly valuable.
We just need normal for a few hours. How much have we taken that for granted?
“The reality is people are looking for hope,” NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent told Yahoo Sports this week. “America is in a place we have not seen in a few decades. We just hope our sport gives you an alternative to get your minds off what we’re faced with every time we turn on the television, every time we pick up the paper.”
His point: It’s not wrong to both grasp the severity of the virus and also feel a huge crater of disappointment that our favorite sports have gone dark. It’s why Joe Burrow is so important.
The star quarterback from Louisiana State not only represents an opportunity for the Bengals to prove they’re not a completely inept franchise by selecting him No. 1 overall, but such a beginning to a seven-round draft over three days allows us to escape all the bad news.
Nothing in American sports rivals NFL fans for passion. It’s a unique fraternity with 32 chapters. Think about it. While social distancing has created a sense of safety, it has also lessened our connection with others. So even if it means sharing the draft and all its unknowns with loved ones or friends via a screen, we gain back some of togetherness that seems lost.
After all, boozed up Jets fans are just as amusing on a smart phone.
Boo your hearts out
I want to see who might trade up to grab either Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert. I want to see if either (or both) quarterbacks slip. I want to see which wide receiver Jon Gruden really prefers. I want to see if the IT person for Detroit, who will be stationed in a Winnebago outside the home of general manager Bob Quinn, is really Cousin Eddie from “Christmas Vacation.” I want to see how much Love there is for Jordan.
I want to see those screens of each team’s fans behind Goodell unmercifully booing him. I want everyone else at home to film themselves doing the same, because Bud Light will donate up to $500,000 off such clips for organizations helping people affected by COVID-19.
It’s true we appreciate things a lot more now. When was the last time we thought about the importance of scientific advancement this much? About any form of science? About online education? About the fragile state of small businesses?
They, along with countless other storylines highlighted more now by the virus, won’t be any less important come Sunday.
Sports fans now, however, should enjoy every second of the next three days.
It’s not the NFL draft Las Vegas dreamed about.
But, man, is it needed.
Contact columnist Ed Graney at email@example.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.