Nothing says “childhood memories” quite like the NFL, NBA and MLB draft.
Before you think I’ve lost it, hear me out.
If you’re 60 or older, you may remember with fondness or dread the way we chose teams to play games in PE or for recess. The teacher would ask two of the more athletic kids to pick teams.
The rest of us would stand in a group, waiting for our name to be called.
The first six or eight picks were obvious, because these were the kids who were the most talented. If you had a moderate amount of talent and your friend was one of the captains, you didn’t fall too far down the pecking order. However, if you had little-to-no athletic ability, or you weren’t a good friend with those picking the teams, it got scary.
I didn’t have much angst with the concept, because I was at least in the upper half of those selected.
But the selection process had to be brutal for the poor souls who had little-to-no athletic ability or who were unpopular. There was no place to hide if you were one of the last kids picked. No one likes to be unwanted.
Fast-forward to the NFL, NBA and MLB drafts. It’s a high-stakes version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” The outcome of these drafts will greatly influence the lives of those being drafted. The earlier you are picked, the better chance you have of being a millionaire.
The majority of these talented athletes have super-sized egos. At least a few, and maybe more than a few, believe they should be one of the first athletes selected. If that fails to materialize, some athletes get visibly upset and frustrated as they impatiently wait for their name to be called.
A few first-round draftees are upset because they weren’t picked earlier in the round. They see it as a sign of disrespect and they take it personally.
In 2002, Clinton Portis said, “Man, what pick am I?” Denver coach Mike Shanahan said, “You’re the (19th) pick in the second round.
Portis said, “Why didn’t y’all draft me with the first-round pick?”
Shanahan replied, “Hey, just be happy I drafted you. You were our No. 1 back. We’re glad to have you.”
Each NFL team has different needs to make the team better. Not everyone needs another quarterback, running back, wide receiver or whatever.
Not every NBA team needs another point guard or big man.
Sometimes, a general manager takes the best athlete available. Others take the approach of drafting to fill a need for a specific position.
The drafts have some notable differences. The NFL has seven rounds, but undrafted athletes still have a shot as free agents.
The NBA draft has only two rounds. Each round has 30 picks, meaning only 60 picks in the entire draft. A lot of undrafted players wind up playing in the equivalent of the minor leagues or go play professionally in Europe or somewhere else overseas.
Enduring a Major League Baseball draft is like watching a marathon, which is why the public pays less attention to it. It’s not easy following a draft with up to 40 rounds. Most of those drafted will never play in the Major Leagues.
The draft matters, though, because the sooner your name is called, the greater the likelihood of making it to the big time, or at least getting a big paycheck. There’s a big advantage of being picked in the first round because your team is almost obligated to give you every chance to succeed or fail, whereas lower round draftees have to prove themselves fairly quickly.
The NFL and NBA drafts are events all to themselves. The sports media machine churns out all kinds of information and has expanded the job market for those who do little but talk about the upcoming draft.
If our egos were hurt when we weren’t picked very early on the playground, is it any wonder how much these high-profile athletes struggle with waiting to be picked by a professional sports franchise?
The longer the wait, the greater the agony.
The bigger the ego, the greater the pain.
Hillsboro resident Joe Kleinsasser is director of news and media relations at Wichita State University. You can reached him at Joe.Kleinsasser@wichita.edu.