Marketplace in the morning had a piece this morning on what a spectacle the NFL draft, starting tonight, has become.
I blame Donald Trump partially for this.
In the early 1980s, the United States Football League arose to challenge the National Football League for the hearts and money of American pro football fans. One area of competition was in signing players, especially college players, and Donald Trump was one of the most spectacular of all at that particular task. In different years, he signed players like Herschel Walker and Doug Flutie out of college. The NFL responded by changing their rules so the team with the first pick in the draft could negotiate with players before the draft and even sign their eventual first overall pick before the draft even started, as a mechanism to keep the USFL from poaching the best incoming players.
This challenge to the NFL’s draft was at least partially responsible for the NFL draft becoming more news-worthy in the spring. Who’d draft someone already under contract to an USFL team? Who would get drafted early because a potential rival went to the USFL instead?
The creation later of ESPN and its subsequent voracious appetite for sports programming to fill those 168 hours each week later added to the hype around the NFL draft, as well as college football signing day, other pro drafts, other college signing days, and so on, and so forth. It turns out lots of sports fan would rather talk about football in the off-season than figure out the intricacies of hockey or try to keep up with the non-stop action of basketball.