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This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.
This weekend is one of the biggest for sports television ratings. But the athletes don't sweat at all. As a matter of fact, they don't even suit up. The whole event won't come close to any actual athletic action. It's the NFL Draft and, although the 17 live hours of coverage by 67 cameras and using 20 announcers, will show nothing but guys sitting in 32 different rooms, chatting on their cell phones with agents and families, preening in their finest dress-for-success suits, this event brings in higher television ratings for ESPN than just about anything else they cover, save the biggest football, baseball, and basketball games of the year.
Actually, you can not only watch all these 17 hours live on ESPN, but the NFL Network is also going to televise the entire weekend draft, with its own set of announcers and cameras.
Can you believe people, and there will be millions of them, will sit and watch people sitting and watching a phone to ring? It's quite a bit like playing the commodities market. There are teams that employ as many as 20 separate draft specialists. That's their job year-round. They start scouting high school games, then college games. They develop instincts. Who tends to get injured? Who gets injured but recovers quickly? Who used to be a rebel and uncoachable but has matured through the college years? Who tends to gain weight? USC's second star running back this year, LenDale White, was thought to be a top-15 pick for the draft as of his last college game, the Rose Bowl, in early January. He's injured with a torn hamstring now but insiders say that's not really what's shoving him down the list. He played at 238 pounds, what scouts consider his fighting weight, this last year in college, but by the time he showed up to strut his stuff at what they call Pro Day for USC players, he had bumped up to 244 pounds. Now, six pounds for a young man perhaps still putting on muscle weight doesn't seem like it would register any meaning, but that's where the instincts kick in. The scouts in this case evidently have a hunch that this is not young man muscle but rather a sign of shaky discipline and now the speculation on this commodity LenDale White is that he's a bit soft and he'll move down to a lower, less valuable draft spot.
A test called the Wonderlic is administered to many players, especially quarterbacks, before the draft. It's supposed to evaluate how well a person can learn. Take a look at the thick pro quarterback's playbook which they have to study at the start of each season and you can understand why the ability to learn is just about as key for the position as quick hands. Oh, by the way, most teams won't consider a quarterback with an outstretched hand measurement of less than 9 1/2 inches from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the pinkie. Many a quarterback has been knocked out of contention on draft day for having small hands. No comment.
But back to the Wonderlic test. There are 50 questions and a player has 12 minutes to buzz through them. Questions such as: "In printing an article of 48,000 words, a printer decides to use two sizes of type. Using the larger type, a printed page contains 1,800 words. Using smaller type, a page contains 2,400 words. The article is allotted 21 full pages in a magazine. How many pages must be in smaller type?" ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Fifty questions like that in 12 minutes to guys, many of whom took courses such as ballroom dancing just to get through college?
A former Green Bay Packers exec thinks the scouting for quarterbacks was more on the money back in 1940 than it is today. As Ron Wolf puts it: "There's far too much overthinking. People get into too many unimportant things rather than seeing if the guy can play and lead and win."
Amen. I love the NFL. But curiosity as to who scored high on the Wonderlic test won't draw me to the tube this weekend.
This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that's The Score.
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