• Saturday Morning Quarterback — Where are we going to play this fall?

    By Andy Reed -

    During the NFL Draft a month ago I wrote a fictitious story about kids in a neighborhood getting dressed up and being driven to a neighbor’s house for a game of front-yard football.

    A red carpet awaited the pre-teens and a fancy draft was held and streamed live on Twitter (or was it YouTube?) while the parents watched, either from their front porches, front windows, computer screens or mobile devices.

    Some of the bigger kids interviewed the players as they were picked and others critiqued or praised them. Some of the parents complained their kid wasn’t chosen high enough and began trash-talking each other by text.

    The kids were taking their cues from the NFL, whose draft has become an Academy Awards production.

    We’ve found out this week it’s not just the fact the draft is the yearly offseason highlight for pro football, but where the event is held is as big a deal as where the Super Bowl is played.

    The Titans and Nashville have been dancing a jig since it was announced a couple of days ago Music City will be the site of the 2019 draft party (Now that is a miracle).

    Imagine if the neighborhood kids (or maybe some of their parents?) got together in the spring and decided where their game(s) should be played in the fall.

    How about Butch’s house? He’s got the biggest yard, and his mom makes really great snacks.

    This is an event (the NFL Draft, not the pickup game) which should be held by conference call. And in reality, it is. The real work is being done in each team’s headquarters across the country. Phone calls are made between teams discussing and making trades in the final seconds while the clock is ticking. Scouts and coaches are lobbying the general manager to pick his favorite prospect.

    Finally, a decision is made and a final call is made to draft headquarters (which logically should be in New York, but the NFL marketing geniuses have found taking the show on the road makes for a bigger splash) where a franchise legend takes the call and, after commissioner Roger Goodell is completed announcing the first-round picks, announces the draft choice.

    ESPN, the NFL Network and any other broadcast entity immediately cues up video of the drafted player, even those from the most obscure college programs. Mel Kiper Jr., or his counterpart, immediately breaks into a dissertation of the player.

    I’d love to see a Cumberland player drafted sometime just to see if any of those guys have done their homework from Nokes-Lasater Field.

    For years, the draft was held on a weekday and you had to wait until the 6 o’clock sportscast to learn if someone from an area college was picked. An infant ESPN asked permission from the NFL in 1980 to broadcast the draft and commissioner Pete Rozelle, with the same reaction I would have if someone out of the blue came up and offered to cut my grass on a hot day – for free, said, “Sure”.

    The draft has never been the same.

    Once upon a time, there wasn’t even a conference call.

    Somewhere in my desk drawer is a copy of a letter from the Chicago Bears dated 1958 informing Lebanon’s Bob Hallum he had been selected by the team in the 30th round of the draft.

    Hallum quarterbacked Middle Tennessee State (then College, not University) during the ’57 and ’58 seasons to an 18-2 record, a .900 winning percentage which is still the Blue Raider record. The details are foggy since his family sent me the letter a number of years ago at the time of his death – and looking through my drawer is like going through a landfill (fortunately without the smell). But as I recall, Mr. Hallum had a year of college eligibility, returned to MTSC and went on to his career – which wasn’t football.

    The draft has come a long way from informing players by what we call today snailmail. Wonder if the neighborhood kids would consider using the United States Postal Service to inform their neighbors whose team they would be playing on in the front yard this fall?

    If so, here’s something they should know. This square piece of paper which a color drawing on the front and stickum on the back?

    It’s a stamp.

    Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 615-444-3952, ext. 17, or by email at [email protected]

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