Why would we want to go to the NFL draft? Why does an event that consists of Roger Goodell reading names into a mic and then hugging a few prospects appear on our sports bucket lists?
I get the draftnik thing. I am one. As I headed to Radio City Music Hall on Wednesday morning, I packed the new (maybe final) edition of the royal-blue Mel Kiper guide, with Luke Joeckel and Geno Smith on the cover. I Instapapered a bunch of articles about Jerry Jones’s master plan to trade down and control the seventh round.
But why see it live? Later that day, I asked Mike Burton, a Browns fan who’d come all the way from Regina, Saskatchewan. Burton said, “It’s part of football lore, football cultu—” And then he broke into a run across a midtown Manhattan street at rush hour to get in the ticket line for the draft.
I was running after him when I thought, Who cares about why? So today, let’s focus on how. This is how you get into the NFL draft.
It's really hard to be a Yankees fan. Nobody else understands.
Hey, I'm kidding. I'm not going to start off that way. I just have this weird thing where I like watching people get mad. Sorry about that. And if I'm being honest, the worldwide cyclone of hatred for the Yankees brand is heavy on my mind right now, and it's making me a bit insecure. In a second, I'm going to talk about this thing they're going through, this awful 43-game nightmare that dates back to July 18 and has seen their AL East lead dwindle from 10 games to one. I'll kvetch about curses and injuries and the hazards of having a team full of old people. You'll hate me, because I'm whining about the juggernaut franchise with the most championships in American professional sports history. And that's fair. I don't want sympathy. I just want to shout out to the blackness for a second. Before that, though, let's talk about baseball collapses in a more general way.
On July 4, tens of thousands of people will cram the corner of Surf and Stillwell avenues in Coney Island to witness grown men and women devour frankfurters in Nathan's Famous July 4 International Hot Dog Eating Contest. In many ways, it is our country’s most barbaric spectacle.
The contest is reminiscent of a deleted scene from Game of Thrones, only with more PETA protesters and fewer dwarfs.
Perhaps I exaggerate the savage nature of the event because of sour grapes. The truth is that (and I really believe this in my plaque-infested heart) two decades ago, it’d be me — not Takeru Kobayashi, not Joey Chestnut — who could have headlined this celebration.
In the fourth inning of Sunday night's 6-5 win over the Mets, Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira came to the plate with one out and the bases loaded. In 27 postseason games since coming to the Yankees in 2009, Teixeira has hit .170 with three home runs in 106 at-bats. I won't get into the whole "clutch" debate, other than to say that as a spoiled Yankees fan, I believe that Teixeira is a chokety-chokey-choker who panics and flails at bad pitches when the pressure's on. I understand that my position is largely unscientific and based on limited sample sizes, but for some additional evidence, he's batting .188 with two outs and runners in scoring position this year. Still, there's a great argument for the other side, including his strong career numbers with two outs and runners in scoring position.
But suffice it to say that it didn't surprise me when he hit a double-play ball to second base in a situation where a double-play ball is even worse than a strikeout. Luckily, it was far enough to the right that Ruben Tejada had to rush his throw from second, it sailed over Justin Turner's head at first, and Curtis Granderson scored to give the Yanks a 5-1 lead. But the hit itself was pure Teixeira, and, at least this year, pure Yankees. Here are two incongruous facts about the 2012 Bombers:
When Mariano Rivera tore his ACL shagging flies last night in Kansas City, you knew two things would happen: Yankee fans would freak out, and we'd pry my buddy JackO (a die-hard Yankee fan) away from the ledge for an emergency B.S. Report podcast. We also grabbed Grantland's Jonah Keri to discuss the implications of Rivera's injury on the AL pennant race and give us a snapshot of both leagues heading into the first weekend of May.
Phil Jackson, Jerry Sloan, Isiah Thomas, Isaiah Thomas, John Calipari, Phil Spector, Rick James, James Naismith's ghost, Spike Lee, Wesley Snipes, Danny Aiello, the "Rent Is Too Damn High" guy, the original cast of Rent, Dr. Dre, Dr Pepper, the doctor dude with the good hair on Grey's Anatomy, the doctor dude with the stubble on Grey's Anatomy, Larry Brown, Rex Ryan, Carmelo Anthony, George Karl, Timofey Mozgov, and, the bookie's favorite, Dan D'Antoni. (AM I MY BROTHER'S KEEPER?!)
I’m from Los Angeles, and lately, I’ve been wanting to move back. I’d be closer to my family — and Grantland headquarters. Also, I’d get my pickup basketball game back.
They call it “noonball” at USC, my alma mater. I've played ever since my sophomore year, about a decade ago. Pete Carroll played with us for years before leaving to coach the Seattle Seahawks. But we were all equals on the court. It was almost like a fraternity.
A regular pickup game is therapeutic and calming. I’ve lived in New York — the mecca of hoops — for more than three years, and haven’t found anything remotely close to what I had at USC. I played at Columbia for a while before they realized that I didn’t actually go there, and that was the end of that. Most gyms cost more than they should and don’t even include basketball courts. Frequent travel makes it an unwise investment. And the East Coast weather means outdoor games aren’t always an option.
In 1993, a screenwriter staked his burgeoning career on a movie about chess. His name was Steven Zaillian, and he might be the most important man in Hollywood you’ve never heard of: In the two decades since, he’s written (or cowritten) adapted screenplays for Schindler’s List and Clear and Present Danger and A Civil Action and Gangs of New York and Moneyball and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. His track record is not perfect (his adaptation of All the King’s Men, which he also directed, is considered a Heaven’s Gate-level Hollywood failure), but he is one of the few screenwriters capable of freeing a film from the shackles of literary tyranny — a reasonable case could be made that at least two of Zaillian’s screenplays defy the cliché and are actually better than the book (exactly which two is an argument for another day).
On Tuesday, from 7 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. EST, I spent my time at someone else's parade.
I beg of you, never make the same mistake.
I'm not a Giants fan, but after the Super Bowl win over the Patriots, I thought it would be fun to watch tens of thousands of New Yorkers celebrate. It was easily one of the worst decisions I have ever made. When I wrote this, I was still a little shaken up by the day's proceedings, so crafting prose didn't really go too swimmingly, but I did manage to assemble a list of reasons one should never attend someone else's parade, based on what happened to me Tuesday morning. It was so bad.
As a New York Knicks fan growing up in the '90s, nothing was more annoying than having to listen to my dad repeatedly say: "They're good, but they're not great. Those '70s Knicks -- they were great." He had a point. Those Knicks teams were comprised of Walt "Clyde" Frazier, Willis Reed, Bill Bradley, Phil Jackson, Dick Barnett, Dave DeBusschere, and ultimately Earl Monroe. They did something that no Knicks team has been able to since -- win championships. Harvey Araton’s book, When the Garden Was Eden: Clyde, The Captain, Dollar Bill, and the Glory Days of the Old Knicks, discusses all these on-court personalities and their success. But it also puts everything in context, placing the team within their turbulent era and tracing the disparate lives of the players up until today. I spoke at length with Araton about his book, the difference between the NBA then and now, and the way we choose to remember it all.
I'm curious if you could talk a little bit about how this book came to be. In an interview I read, you said it was suggested to you and you had to take some time to think about it.
There were a lot of Old Knicks books written in the early '70s, in the wake of that first championship season. There's an old line about the Knicks: "So many books, so few titles." It plays into this notion of New Yorkers making a bigger deal of what transpired in that era than what really did. So I was a little reluctant at first.
Grantland's Jonathan Abrams is staking out Friday's NBA lockout meeting, and he's e-mailing us updates throughout the day. Can someone send Jonathan Abrams a pizza or something? He's probably in for a long day.
From: Abrams Sent: Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 6:05 PM Subject: Adios
It could have been much worse and much better. Worse, in that I was prepared to stay here through the night and watch as my e-mails grew more delirious and frustrated. Better, in that I thought the lockout could be solved today.
Instead of a handshake deal, Hunter said the union had been "snookered" into believing an agreement could be struck today. If I take nothing else away, snookered is now one of my top 5 favorite verbs.
All in all, it was only about eight hours of awkwardly staring at everyone who walked into the hotel and wondering if it was Mark Cuban.
But that is the life of a stakeout reporter: wait, optimism, wait, pessimism, rinse, repeat.
Please tip your reporters, who have delivered you such emotion since the first meeting. They deserve it.
From: Abrams Sent: Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 5:41 PM Subject: E-mail #whatever
These talks ended in the most predictable way. All of the optimism stemmed from just skirting the bigger issue: the actual split. When they got to it, neither side budged and now more games will be lost. Hunter and Derek Fisher already spoke to media, while a kind Mo Evans held up a tape recorder for a boxed-out reporter.
Stern and Adam Silver are warming up. The swarm of media is now by the elevators, blah, blah, blah. Why are you not getting ready for Game 7 anyways?
From: Abrams Sent: Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 5:03 PM Subject: E-mail 11
And the two sides are sadly and officially done for the day. Media has swarmed the lobby with cameras in hands, only to be moved twice by hotel security -- somewhere to where the paying folk can't see or feed the herd.
Some are sad that talks broke during the daylight. Kept hearing an entirely different clientele comes to this venue later in the evening.
From: Abrams Sent: Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 4:47 PM Subject: E-mail 10
The talks appear to be over for the day before 5 p.m., which a) means there is no deal today b) points out the hopelessness of getting too up or down unless there is an actual deal done and c) means that I should have taken the under on when Stern will talk. Reporters are scrambling to cover everything: elevators, exits and hallways. I am still hesitant to give up my prime location. It could be a set up.
From: Abrams Sent: Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 4:22 PM Subject: E-mail 9
There is a $1 pool that most of the reporters throw in on. The aim is to guess what time NBA Commissioner David Stern speaks to the media. The low wager tonight is 9:17 p.m. The latest one is for 2:24 a.m. I placed mine at 10:17 p.m., guessing that there are too many factors that have to fall in place for a deal to happen tonight.
From: Abrams Sent: Fri, Oct 28, 2011 at 4:00 PM Subject: E-mail 8
I made a pact with Brian Mahoney on arrival here. We share a table and vowed to watch over one another’s computers and more importantly, power outlets. Mahoney, the capable basketball writer for the Associated Press, has been gone for an extended period of time. I will now auction off both for a bag of Doritos.
Meanwhile, we're about six hours into the meeting.
Last season’s NBA storylines are indefinitely paused because of the lockout. High up on that list of suspended intrigue is how the Knicks will fare in a full season of Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire paired together.
During a media blitz for his shoe launch, Anthony spoke with Grantland’s Jonathan Abrams about his recent surgeries, frayed relationship with George Karl, and his desire for the Knicks to become a defense-first team. C’mon. Stop laughing!
If baseball were a novel and I had to write one of the characters, I’d have a field day with the Yankees’ current roster alone. Alex Rodriguez could carry a book all by himself. He’s physically magnificent and extravagantly, superhumanly talented — and extravagantly, superhumanly rich — and his life seems to be an ongoing mess. On one level he’s all tabloid all the time, but on another he’d fit a deep, psychological study about pressure and the fragility of personality and performance. So would I pick him? No. He’s the face of the modern game, but his story is essentially very old-fashioned. On reflection I’d leave him to a Fitzgerald clone to write.
Or there’s the gift any bench gives you — the bit player enjoying a couple of unlikely seasons in the sun. Brett Gardner, maybe. Left fielder, speedy base stealer, pesky leadoff hitter, average in most ways, but he’s enjoying a run of luck right now. The little runt is having the time of his life. But that’s a book about chance and pluck, and a hundred people could write it better than me.
Here at The Triangle, we are committed to answering your most burning questions. In the second issue of our mailbag, the Bake Shop, we discuss a new era of sports films, the people we’d want to be reborn as, and false prophets.