I thought I would take a bit of time to share the experience of being a fan in the press box at the Draft. It was an interesting experience. I am not a writer by trade. I have a day job. I really am just a fan so this was all new to me.
It started out with difficulty getting in. There was a perimeter set up around Radio City Music Hall with police and a lot of guards with walkie taklies, who were very focused on bossing people around and yelling at people. My favorite moment happened when the person in front of me started walking forward. One walkie talkie guard yelled at them, "No, do not go until I say you can!" No less than two seconds later, the guard told that person to go. I guess this proves the saying about giving some people a little authority.
I was only able to break the perimeter when I found a guard on the other side of the barricade they set up and told him I was a credentialed media member. He let me through. I got to a couple more walkie talkie guards, and after following their lead, I was in.
The Draft has segregated seating. As a media member, I could pretty much walk wherever other fans could, but other fans could not get into the media area closer to the stage or the interview and food room downstairs. There is another closer level to the stage for team officials, which the media does not have access to, and there is obviously the stage and backstage areas.
Roger Goodell took the stage about a half hour before Carolina went on the clock. He was booed mercilessly. He had to implore fans to stop multiple times and only got them to do so when talking about bringing relief to tornado victims. I later commented that he probably should have brought the military members with him when the Eagles picked up on the stage that first time so fans could not boo. Only the Patriots got louder boos (props to the fans for that).
The internet connection there was very bad, presumably because so many people were on stage. The irony was not lost on me that I was much less active this year while at the Draft than years I worked from home. From the pick of Cam Newton to the middle of the first round, people relying on the venue for access could not get it and only sporadically after that. It was not a banner moment for the league. I apologize for not providing more updates and answering some questions for me. It was a matter of not having internet access.
The feeds from NFL Network and ESPN are both on the air without sound so we pretty much found out picks at the same time everybody else did. There was an advantage, though, being near so many insider writers. One talked about how there were rumblings of a knee condition Gabe Carimi had knocking him down teams' boards. He did not run with it only because he could not get final confirmation. Being in the press box means you cannot boo or cheer, which is a bit tough, but stuff like this definitely makes it worthwhile.
The professional writers love it when teams mess up a pick. You see them doubled over laughing. I even saw one pump his fist when Tennessee took Jake Locker. My comment was, "That pick was the only thing worse than the internet here." SI's Tony Pauline, who was sitting in front of us said, "That is a great pick...in the second round." Pauline had some great one liners like when he chanted at Jets fans, "You don't want him," in response to fans chanting "Da'Quan Bowers."
The place was floored multiple times. Nothing was worse than Locker, but Aldon Smith going early to the 49ers, Christian Ponder to the Vikings, and Mike Pouncey to the Dolphins (which I didn't think was horrible) all elicited skepticism. The Julio Jones to Atlanta trade, though, probably caused the second biggest buzz beyond Locker. My comment was, "Somebody should ask him if he thinks his teammates will nickname him Herschel." I am not against trading picks for established players, but Atlanta just traded a lot of lottery tickets for one. Jones better become an All Pro.
Late in the first round, the mood was quiet. People were winding down. Then Baltimore's pass brought the press area back to life with stunned chatter. People recalled Minnesota doing this a few years ago. A few wondered whether it might be a savvy move since they had their guy and dropping lower might save them some money in contract negotiations. My feeling was that it would save a minuscule amount at this point in the first round, and you risk somebody trading up to snatch your guy.
The best on stage moment came when the Giants absolutely stole Prince Amukamara (unquestionably the best value pick of the first round). In his entourage were two people decked out in gold clothes including elaborate gold hats. One well known writer who I will not name exclaimed, "What the hell is this? It's like a Saturday Night Live skit!"
They also pass out interview transcripts. One of the two biggest highlights was Von Miller calling John Fox a wizard in response to the incredible question of what it will be like for him to play for Fox, who was termed a "defensive guru" by the questioner. The other was somebody asking Tyron Smith the hard hitting question of what he studied in college. He answered, "I studied real estate." I thank the lord for access to this comedic gold and that I can share it.
That was the day. The food in the interview area was good. The SB Nation crew of Stampede Blue's Big Blue Shoe and Bleeding Green Nation's JasonB and me were right behind SI's Tony Pauline, Don Banks, and Andrew Perloff. They were very nice guys.
I guess being there with the media has its pros and cons. All in all, I am looking forward to the next two days there.