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Article:Reality TV: The NFL Draft

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Sports has always been the best 'Reality TV' but even here, the networks have served up some trash. Hard to imagine? Not really with Pros vs. Joes falling just short of the Olympics in production and drama. But think about it, you can create your niche, like Mel Kiper, whose raison d'etre revolves around one weekend in April. I do envy (hair) Mr. Kiper, for having parlayed one dimension into far more than his fifteen minutes.

The draft creates competitions for picking the most selections correctly, and for endless discussion about who needs what, who the top players are by position and need, ignoring the most important reality of all: that many high draft choices become more overpaid busts than say, Anna Nicole Smith. It has its own preshow (as my oldest daughter calls pregame shows), the NFL Combine, the ultimate Meat Market where hopefuls parade as combination of Adonis and Hercules, answer pivotal questions like "would you rather be a cat or a dog?", take standardized tests (run, jump, and lift and Wonderlic), and of course, pee in a cup. I bet they need some extra large cups...

We hear that Matthew Stafford has signed with the Lions for a guaranteed 41 million dollars. Matthew Stafford? Detroit being the NFL's version of Siberia, the epicenter of the greatest economic collapse in eighty years. Of course, there is some symmetry here, with Detroit planning to rollout the Chevy Volt for 40 plus thousand (good luck to that) in 2010 and the Lions likely defining frustration in a new way this year. At least they still have Thanksgiving football.

Number one overall picks sometimes pan out in strange ways. Kenneth Sims was one of the worst (ever) that I can remember, Terry Bradshaw, Jim Plunkett, Troy Aikman, and the Mannings all won Super Bowls. Jeff George, David Carr, Carson Palmer, and Alex Smith? Not so much, so far. Tucker Frederickson? Did he have incriminating pictures of somebody? Will people remember the Eli Manning petulance that landed him in New York in the first place? If you win a Super Bowl, all is forgiven.

Even players aren't immune to the draftnik label, as Corey Chavous transitioned from cornerback to analyst, partially on his devotion to personnel issues. And of course, Scott Pioli changed his address, moving his personnel gig from New England to Kansas City for an opportunity to be The Man.

We hear about players rising or falling, because of issues. I heard a former NFL player (didn't catch the name) discussing character on the radio once. He remarked that every team had a few great 'character guys' AND three or four guys who were basically thugs, criminals in uniforms. HE said, you take the character guys away, your team might lose something, and you take the criminals away, you won't win a game. After all the NFL is legalized mayhem.

The book "Pros and Cons" created a remarkable expose' about the 'records' (available via the freedom of information act) of NFL players and coaches. Corey Dillon (a fomer Super Bowl champion with the Patriots) had his own chapter. Overall about 20 percent of NFL players had felony charges or convictions, of many different stripes. Speaking of going to the dogs, remember Michael Vick?

So as you watch the NFL draft (who won't watch some?) remember Ben Watson's greatest highlight was running down Champ Bailey, that character guys may not bring as many wins as thugs, and that two of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Joe Montana and Tom Brady weren't on anybody's radar.

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