The NFL Won't Ever Embrace Addition By Subtraction, But It's Working Right Now

Kyle Koster
Handout/Getty Images
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Normalcy is a funny thing. If the NFL Draft had been operating on a spartan budget with its primaries spread throughout the country all these years before suddenly turning into the American version of Brazil's Carnival, then the addition of bells, whistles, and just pure busyness would stand out as sort of weird. Because it's the other way around, Roger Goodell's basement lair and staccato jumps between far-flung pundits was tough to comprehend.

But a funny thing happened about an hour into last night's draft. The novelty wore off. People began to realize that the nuts-and-bolts goals of the event were still being accomplished. Teams were selecting eligible players in sequence and that information was finding its way to the viewers in a prompt fashion. And dare I say it: things weren't that bad.

In fact, one could be forgiven for daydreaming about a world where a stripped-down version of the annual bonanza lives on in spirit. That dream may spend most its time in a pipe but commissioner Roger Goodell leaving the door open to some change is not insignificant.

"Goodell said the league went into the evening assuming that something would probably go wrong somewhere, so to emerge with no problems was a relief. "Absolutely, without question, 100 percent," he said. "The technology worked, so it shouldn't be an issue, knock on wood. You never know with things. I think the mock drafts and all the work, and the clubs put a tremendous amount of work into it, too. There were elements we'll look back at it, this may change the way we do it." The NFL surely will not pare down future drafts to this degree, but Goodell especially liked how using FaceTime allowed him to interact with so many players. And he was delighted to see that so many head coaches and general managers, who had been the most vocal about their concerns about how a virtual draft would work, were so relaxed that they had their kids with them in their home war rooms."

There are major financial reasons that render the idea of a drastically pared-down future draft unrealistic. When things get better, the party will return to pre-Coronavirus levels of extravagance. And maybe that in itself is something to celebrate. Openly embracing the big, dumb event and treating it with undue reverence would be, by defnition of normalcy.

But there's a real argument to be made that last night's success -- and make no mistake in underestimating the monumental logistical hurdles involved -- laid bare the reality that laying some things bare results in a more powerful product.

Seeing these players sheltered in place with their most inner of circles in the places they call home provided a better picture of who they are. It humanized them in a way that walking from a table to a stage in a cavernous arena can't. There was something pure and joyous about seeing the diversity in environments instead of them all sharing the same sanitized version of reality.

Even the NFL, it would seem, is capable of realizing this and adapting. If they can make this year's production work, then they can tackle much smaller edits. Addition by subtraction is hell of a trick, even for a $16 billion monster whose every impulse pulls it in the opposite direction.

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