The NFL Draft Is Sicko Prom

The NFL has worked very hard over the years to make Draft Weekend the Oscars, and for the 10 or so million people who watch it every year—certified sickos, every one of them—it is a thing you schedule family events around: “You’re going into labor? Now? Are you nuts? We’re on the clock!” And everyone who hears you tell that story later thinks you’re insane.

The draft is one of the two things on the league calendar that have been, are and will always be solely sicko property. (The other is the combine, which is in reverse order of the way these things normally work; the prep work/descent into hell that the draft helps you escape.) Casuals don’t watch the draft; it’s not appointment viewing for the whole family. It’s for the ones who care deeply where J.J. McCarthy goes solely because they’ve been convinced over the last three months to care about something they actually don’t care about.

We are not here to slag the draft. If it’s for you (yeah, Comrade Magary, you), bathe in it. Sickos have rights too—just not ones the rest of us would necessarily fight to defend. We are not trying to change the parade route into the canal. If you watch the combine every year, yeah, you should be tagged by Fish & Game for hunting season, but the draft is the redistricting of college football’s best players to your favorite team. College football is trying to recreate that now with the portal, even though that’s more of a transfer window phenomenon, but anyone who keeps up with college football transfers is unquestionably the worst kind of sicko.

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But the draft is not just objectively labor-restrictive; we don’t want to go all IWW on you. As entertainment, it is a rolling insult to the audience that its truest devotees absorb and love it all the more for the insults. It is the elevation of the art of lying by the people being lied to. It is the triumph of people with no knowledge behaving as though they do. It is the Burj Khalifa of brightly colored bullshit. There are a lot of things to hate about the draft if you’re not pot-committed to Drake Maye’s job prospects.

Still, and as much as we know this would be a great idea for everyone, we are not positioned to decide your entertainment for you. You watch the draft despite the draft because you freely acknowledge your basic sickomania and you don’t want to be healed or made better. You don’t want to watch that much Roger Goodell hugging large strangers who will soon be part of the constituency he is charged with keeping in line, but you do it because, well, that’s just the deal. You don’t want the interviews with the players’ families because it’s all like talking with people who know lottery winners, but you do it because 10 minutes between picks is a long time to pretend that Mel Kiper is interesting. It’s a game show where everyone wins except for the two guys who planned on being first rounders but slipped to Day Two, and that’s just one camera shot repeated until you hate the network for treating it as though it were a train derailment.

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And here’s the best thing about the draft: It is the sickos’ last treehouse. For all its failings as the adenoidal-runway-models-in-odd-fitting-suits parade it is, it’s still power football for those easily mockable folks who didn’t get the whole Kelce-Swift thing or are repelled by the idea of a Tom Brady roast on Netflix. Mega-pop stars don’t troll the draft; they wait for the draftees to earn that second contract. The draft is for people who imagine themselves as general managers, which is a certifiable cry for help in all other industries but is a dream when attached to a shiny helmet. It is the last place for people who do football only as football, which could make it retro-cool in a way if it weren’t so fundamentally counterproductive as basic entertainment.

So go with God, sicko brethren and sistren. Enjoy the draft in all its mutant forms this weekend, because it’s going to be the same thing it always is: middle-aged people you either don’t like or know reading the names of young people whose résumés you pretend to know over and over and over again for three entire days. We don’t know if watching J.J. McCarthy not go high in the first or trying to catch a glimpse of Caleb Williams crying is fun, but the draft’s not for us. It’s for you. Bring plenty of snacks and air freshener.

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