Dear NFL Draft;
You’ve been my close friend for over four decades now. We’ve been through thick and thin. No matter how many times you’ve disappointed me, I always come back to you. Like a victim in a abusive relationship, I forget about the constantly numbing lows ( Lynn Boden, Charles Rogers, Terry Fair and anybody from the fourth round and lower) when you acted without rhyme or reason and only remember the fleeting glorious highs ( a set of running backs with the initials B.S.) when the rest of the NFL applauded our wise choices.
I remember the first time I heard about you. We, the Lions, had just selected the Heisman Trophy winner Steve Owens. At the time I thought that meant that were were automatically going to the Super Bowl. I didn’t know that Heisman Trophy winner was another name for Average NFL player. In 1974 I couldn’t sleep at night wondering who we had drafted with the first pick that day. Back in the stone age of media when there weren’t updates every three seconds, you had to wait until the morning paper hit your porch. There on the front page of the Free Press sports section was a picture of Ed O’Neil, no, not the guy who played the Al Bundy character on Married…With Children, but I TOTALLY can understand why you would think that, I mean HE DID score four touchdowns in one high school game. That’s when I started poring over every selection that was printed. It would be days before my mom could pry that paper out of my hands.
After that was a string of anonymous picks that didn’t distinguish themselves at all. I tried to induct my oldest daughter into the coven when she watched with me that Ttuesday morning in 1986 (in ancient times, ESPN televised you alongside the soap operas), when we cheered like crazy that we had finally drafted our savior quarterback. “With the twelfth pick of the draft, the Detroit Lions select Chuck Long, quarterback, Iowa!” It’s no wonder she has never watched another sports program.
After throwing for a touchdown on his very first pass, it was all down hill from there. No worry, You sent another franchise savior our way four years later. “With the seventh selection, the Detroit Lions take Andre Ware!” “Run and Shoot City” he was quoted as saying when drafted. When the Lions discovered his favorite receiver was the carpet of the Silverdome, they shot down his career and ran him out of the city. Like a scorned lover, it was twelve long years before we rang that number again. “With the third pick, the Detroit Lions select Joey Harrington, Quarterback, Oregon!” By now, we were jaded and skeptical and it didn’t help matters that when Matt Millen informed the media of his pick, he looked like a hostage with a sawed off shotgun sticking into his back. When the Lions drafted Matthew Stafford with the first overall pick in 2009, I was numb to the savior tag and only hoping that he was a decent player, which is yet to be seen.
The turn of the century ushered in THE DARK AGES. The Fords not only tried to think outside the box, they tried to think outside the universe. With no experience what so ever, Matt Millen was hired to run the Lions, and he promptly ran them right into the ground. His first draft was his best one, He got Jeff Backus, Dominic Raiola, adequate starters for over ten years. That draft also yielded Shaun Rogers, who would have been great if he could have stayed away from the all-you-can-eat buffets. I think he was banned from the casinos because they were losing money on him.
It was painful to visit you in those dark times. The constant cruel jokes about which wide receiver we’ll take that year; trying to keep a stiff upper lip while explaining why we’re drafting in the top five–AGAIN. At the end of Millen’s reign of terror, I could hardly summon the strength to turn on the TV to visit with you. I couldn’t even get excited about the first legitimate Hall of Fame candidate the Lions have drafted since Barry Sanders. Sorry about that Calvin, but being drafted by Frankenstein, it took some time for you to wash away that stench. I swear to god that my draft magazines and I could have drafted better during those years.
Every year when the weather starts to warm up, most people think things like “what are the Tiger’s chances this year?” I, on the other hand, start poring over the draft rags to see who is gonna be the next great Lion. You were so special, that when my kids still lived at home, I would ship the wife and kids to her sisters so we could spend the day together uninterrupted. Those were the days.
Look at you NOW! You’re all grown up and on prime time television. I used to spend the weekend staying in front of the television for 48 straight hours, admiring your beauty. You never know if that guard we picked up in the sixth round from a school you never heard of is gonna be a starter next year, and Mel Kiper would always know everything about him, even his 40 yard dash time when he was in 9th grade. You now stretch your presence across three days of television programming. Five if you count the review shows. We started off meeting on Tuesdays when nobody was looking, and now we hook up for five straight days of heaven. Life is good.
STRANGEST MOMENT OF THE DRAFT:
I was shooting a wedding on the day of the 2005 draft. I told everybody I met that day to not tell me anything about the draft. It was no problem because they were thinking about the wedding and didn’t even know what I was talking about. Unfortunately when I said this to the banquet manager, she blurted out, “You mean the wide receiver?”. I knew she was talking about Mike Williams. I don’t know if I was more stunned that she told me or that Millen had passed on DeMarcus Ware and Shawn Merriman for that dead weight. It was the only draft I didn’t watch.
WORST MOMENT OF THE DRAFT
I had just shooed the wife and kids out the house on draft day in 1993. I was settling in with my usual party favors, when the scroll on the bottom of the screen said: (now I know it didn’t say this exactly, but what I read was “LIONS HAVE JUST TRADED AWAY FUTURE HALL OF FAMER Willie Roaf FOR WASHED UP, OVER-THE HILL LINEBACKER Pat Swilling“). I didn’t and couldn’t move for twenty minutes. I was totally devastated. No Christmas presents for me that year.
BEST MOMENT OF THE DRAFT
There are certain players that you just know are going to be special. When you draft them, it sends you to the moon. Ndamukong Suh is one, and boy has he delivered; but everybody saw that coming. The one that stands out the most was when we drafted Chris Spielman. I didn’t know if he was even on the Lions radar, but I wanted him, real bad. He slid all the way through the first round and we snagged him with the second pick in the second round.
Funny thing was that because the first round was over, I never saw them announce his name. I found out from the scroll during a commercial.
It’s tough being a Lions fan.