The audacious optimism of the NFL draft

Column by Michael Alcorn
Posted 4/30/21

Hey, you want to see a bunch of grown — and sometimes overgrown — men get very, very worked up about something that they have no control over and which they have absolutely no idea how it will …

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The audacious optimism of the NFL draft

Posted

Hey, you want to see a bunch of grown — and sometimes overgrown — men get very, very worked up about something that they have no control over and which they have absolutely no idea how it will turn out?

Watch the NFL draft tonight.

This is one of those nights that you kind of have to look at the wives, as they pull muscles rolling their eyes, and just shrug. It’s like, “I know, hon, it’s completely stupid. BUT IT’S SO EXCITING!!”

Why is it exciting? Because it represents, to many sports fans, the hope of a better future. If you are in the position of picking high in the draft—say, the first ten picks (like your Denver Broncos have for the last several years)—that means one thing: your team has been BAD. Like, every Sunday becomes a necessary ritual in torture bad. I liken it to going to the dentist: the best possible outcome is simply not bad news. And even if you don’t have a cavity or need a root canal, you still have to manage 15 minutes of pain and discomfort.

So that high draft pick gives your team the opportunity to select a player that could change the fortunes of your franchise overnight. John Elway was the first pick of his draft and led the Broncos to two Super Bowl championships — we’ve forgotten that he had a losing record his first season and he tends to get a pass for having lost three Super Bowls before getting those two wins. And, of course, for every John Elway there’s a JaMarcus Russell or a Ryan Leaf, players whose “can’t miss” status lasted until the first time they stepped on the field under the bright lights.

The NFL draft is the beginning of hope for a new day, never mind that, more often than not, it’s more about hype than anything else.

But we cling to hope — it may be our most foolish and endearing quality as humans. And not just in sport. Which is why it is so exciting that these COVID vaccines are widespread, that they seem to have very small incidences of reactions (seriously, that blood clotting thing with the J&J vaccine has an incidence that is a fraction of the blood clotting associated with the birth control pill), and they work! A recent study documented infections among vaccinated people (known as a “breakthrough infection”) as less than 1 in 10,000 cases.

There’s hope!!

And then there’s epidemiologists. “No, you still have to wear masks.” “No, you shouldn’t go out to eat.” “No, you still shouldn’t gather, even outdoors.”

They’re like the guy at the draft party, hovering around the snack table in the back of the room, double-dipping their chips, constantly reminding everybody that “we traded up to get Paxton Lynch,” and pointing out all the weaknesses on the coaching staff.

“Just to keep it real.”

I don’t want that real. Look, I get it — epidemiologists sit in their offices and stare at computer models and printouts and live in a world of “worst-case scenarios”. And their mindset is one of 100% — we need to kill it 100%, and if I can’t 100% tell you it’s safe, then I’m going to tell you not to do it. Remember all the theatrics we’ve had to go through disinfecting surfaces? Not necessary, per the CDC. I know — we didn’t know anything, so we’re all doing the best we can. And thank God for the epidemiologists along the way.

But, I gotta say, Fauci has traded up several times in the last year to get Paxton Lynch.

I’m ready for this summer to be like the NFL draft: let me have my hope and my excitement and my dreams of Super Bowl glory. I’ll still do the work and be smart and all that.

But I’m human. I need to embrace the light at the end of the tunnel. We gotta win sometime, right?

Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His new novel, “Valkyrie’s Kiss,” which is a finalist in the ScreenCraft Book Competition, is available now at michaeljalcorn.net. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.

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