There was a time when it went without saying that the NFL draft was only for the hardest of hard-core football fans: Who on earth would spend a spring day watching football players’ names being called except people who live and breathe football?
But that time has passed, and not everyone who lives and breathes football is happy about it.
Now the NFL has turned the draft into a massive event, one that draws tens of thousands of fans in person and several million viewers on television. Just as the Super Bowl now includes musical acts that hard-core football fans don’t care about, the NFL draft now includes picks being announced from locales around the world and even in outer space, all in an effort to make the draft a bigger event that appeals to more than just the hard-core fans who have always watched.
NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, about as hard-core a football fan as there is, got fed up with it today. As the Colts’ picks were announced with help from an orangutan at the Indianapolis Zoo, Mayock ripped his employer’s attempt to inject some levity into the proceedings.
“If we’re going back to the zoo, I’m walking off the desk,” Mayock said. “I’ve about had the zoo, OK? Enough. Enough. I mean, is this good TV?”
NFL Network’s Rich Eisen introduced the zoo segment with some sarcasm, saying, “If we don’t go to the zoo, the world will stop spinning.”
When the orangutan revealed the Colts’ selection of defensive tackle Grover Stewart, Mayock indicated he thought it was unfair to Stewart to turn one of the most significant moments of his life into a circus.
“I think we’ve got to be a little respectful,” Mayock said. “It’s a big day for Grover Stewart, and rather than talking about that chimp, let’s get back to some football here. It’s a big day for him.”
As NFL Network went to a commercial after that, Mayock could be heard saying, “At some point we’ve got to be able to talk about this.” It wasn’t clear if he was saying that to the audience or if he thought the commercial break had already begun and was saying it to his colleagues. Either way, he raises an important point: The NFL wants to grow the draft, but as it does so, it risks leaving its most passionate fans disillusioned.