My wife and I were in Nashville while the NFL Draft was going on. Thankfully, we were well away from the excitement.

We arrived in Nashville on Thursday evening, and checked into the Nashville Airport Marriott. After unpacking we retired to the hotel restaurant and asked for a booth with a television, an amenity the restaurant offered.

As soon as we were seated, we turned our eyes to the TV screen and were treated to a view of South Broadway in downtown Nashville. The street was closed to vehicular traffic and thronged with people. While we were waiting to order, rain started to fall outside. Rain was falling in downtown Nashville, too. It didn’t affect the crowd. The draft hadn’t even started.

We later learned that Nashville had something like 100,000 visitors for the NFL Draft, 20,000 of whom spent Thursday evening, Friday, and Saturday in the street, drinking beer and screaming their appreciation at every draft choice announced, even though they could barely hear the announcements over the live band playing outdoors. There were a number of other events going on, too. The restaurants, honky-tonks, and museums were all open for business.

We avoided downtown like the plague. There was no trouble finding food at the hotel and other locations near the conference center. At the hotel, we talked with several people who had “normal” Nashville touring planned. I hope they did all right. We heard on the news that Nashville had its usual assortment of bachelorette parties, whose partiers complained that they couldn’t do their thing because of the throngs there for the draft.

Maybe it’s just my age, but I don’t get it. The NFL draft has been reported in the press for years. So-called experts grade the teams on the quality of the players drafted every year. (They are frequently wrong, but no one cares. There’s no penalty for it.) That’s been going on for as long as I’ve been paying attention.

The attention to the draft has been growing steadily under the influence of 24-hour sports channels, who need something to put on the air to fill all of that time. The draft is perfect for late April, when major league baseball is just getting started, and the NBA playoffs are not quite with us.

All of this in spite of the fact that the draft is not a reliable predictor of how teams are going to do, especially in the short run. Some highly touted college athletes pan out. Others do not. Players who are drafted in the lower rounds, or not at all, turn out to be very good. The dominant NFL franchise over the past two decades has been the New England Patriots. The Patriots’ All-pro quarterback, Tom Brady, was a fifth round draft choice. Another star, wide receiver Justin Edelman, was drafted in the seventh round. Brady at least played for a “name” school, Michigan, in college. Edelman went to college at Kent State.

Successful NFL franchises, like other successful businesses, are built out of careful personnel recruitment and training (called “coaching” in sports). Drafting star players is an important part of this process. But it’s not all of it, or even the most important part. Building an organization where the employees trust the leadership team and perform for them is.

So I don’t get thousands of folks standing in the rain or in blinding sunlight, with barely room to breathe, so they can jump up and down and yell when each draft choice is announced. I was told the draft is just an excuse to party. A city street surrounded by a mass of humanity doesn’t seem to be the best party venue. I suppose a certain level of intoxication may help.

I was just as happy to attend my conference and skip the crowds. Even if they didn’t serve beer.


Photo by zennie62