SIDELINE SLANTS – Player draft hits last-picked kid hardest

Who would have thought that draft day would become a nationally televised phenomenon? On the other hand, in this age of reality television, perhaps it is entirely appropriate.

Most of us can relate to being drafted, just not on a national stage. Those of us whose school days occurred many years ago know what it was like to be drafted on school playgrounds. It was a mixture of apprehension or anticipation, depending on how talented you were and who your friends were.

Draft day has become one of the biggest days of the year for fans of the National Football League and National Basketball Association. The Major League Baseball draft doesn?t have the same sizzle, largely because few people know the best high school and college baseball players.

The popularity of the draft has created a new market for those ?experts? who evaluate high school and college talent and share those insights with the public.

You could argue that the public has more interest in the NBA draft than the game itself. Of course, one or two players can change the fortunes of an entire franchise in basketball, where rosters are smaller.

In football especially, there may be more Monday-morning quarterbacks second-guessing the draft picks of general managers than of decisions made by quarterbacks during games.

Fans debate whether their teams should draft players to fill the needs of the team or if they should pick the most talented player available.

Should the team take a chance on a very talented player with questionable behavioral issues?

As teams make their selections on draft day, TV analysts immediately debate whether the selection was a good one. Never mind that in most cases, it takes a couple of years before anyone will know whether the selection was a good one.

For those of us who grew up in the 1960s, we know all about the pressure of being drafted. Whether it was a physical education class or recess, designated captains were told to take turns drafting classmates to play kick ball or another game.

Looking back, I realize this had to be an agonizing experience for those who weren?t blessed with much athletic ability.

The most talented or the most popular kids would normally be picked first and the least talented would be left for the end. No doubt they knew that no one really wanted them on the team, and no doubt they would have preferred being somewhere else entirely, but the system demanded that everyone be placed on a team.

Perhaps I didn?t cringe at the time, but in hindsight, it?s easy to see how cruel the system was. Even though I was usually picked sooner than later, I can recall being anxious while names were being called.

I doubt that most schools allow this to happen in physical education classes today. For one thing, it?s not politically correct. For another, it?s very demeaning.

I guess kids survived and got through it, but it had to be uncomfortable and somewhat embarrassing for those who always were picked last.

Let?s be honest, how many kids ages 8-12 understand that in the long run it really doesn?t matter how talented you are in kick ball, basketball, football or whatever? There?s a lot more to life than that.

Maybe it would have helped the athletically gifted better understand the feeling if teachers would have turned the tables and allowed academically gifted students pick teams for spelling, geography or science competitions in class.

Some, but not all, of the students who were great at kick ball might have found out what it felt like to be a leftover.

Of course, in time, we have to face the fact that life is full of competition. But it?s too bad if you have to face the cold hard facts when you?re only 10 years old.

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