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Keith Strudler: Seeking Solace In The NFL Draft

If you wanted to be around unhappy people, and I’m not suggesting you should, then you could have found some New York Giants fans last Thursday night. That was the first evening of the NFL Draft, which looked a bit like a country music festival held literally on the streets of Nashville. Causing the lion’s share of malcontent is the Giants’ first pick in the draft, Duke Quarterback Daniel Jones, who was taken with the sixth overall pick. Jones was taken as the heir apparent to longtime Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who most people assume is in the final arc of his football career – at least with the Giants. Quarterbacks are a fairly vogue choice in the first round, since an elite level QB can entirely change the narrative of your football team. The same is less likely said for a running back, or a punter for God sakes, the first of which was selected in the fourth round. This year’s number one overall pick, Kyler Murray, is a 5’10” quarterback from Oklahoma that almost played baseball instead. One other quarterback Dwayne Haskins was taken 15th, leaving the rest of the first round for a hodgepodge of defensive ends and offensive tackles and other assorted roles largely removed from throwing, kicking, or catching the football.

Giants fans aren’t angry because Daniel Jones is bad quarterback. To be honest, we won’t really know that for another two or three years. They’re angry because a) Jones would likely still have been available for the Giants second, first-round pick at number 17, b) they could have drafted a more talented position player at number six, like Josh Allen, c) Giants fans are just as upset when they picked defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence at number 17, which apparently was a horrible pick, and finally, d) Giants fans now assume that their team will continue to stink and make their Sundays miserable ‘till eternity. That’s the general sum of emotion after day one of a draft that lasted way longer than the Avengers Movie, if you can believe that.

It’s no secret nor surprise why sports fans enjoy the draft so much, for any sport really. It’s the one moment to assume endless potential, where savvy back-office maneuvers can yield game changing talents, thus turning a mediocre team into a better one. Drafts are filled with people commodified to specific skills and talents. Like “can run the 40 in 4.3,” or “vertical jump of 44 inches.” These translate into expert opinions that are often taken as gospel. Things like, “has an uncanny nose for the football,” or “great lateral movement,” or even something as amorphous as “great football IQ,” which could probably mean a lot of things. The NFL draft, especially before it starts, is all about potential. And with each and every completed pick, that endless horizon becomes a bit less manifest.

I won’t get into whether Giants fans – or any fans, really – should be upset with their team’s choices. Obviously, as a fan, you have every right to be happy or sad about anything your team does. Which is why people spend so much time and money on sports in the first place. So happy or furious, if I’m the Giants, I’m just happy that people care.

But what is interesting about this particular angst and sports drafts is the idea of control – or lack thereof. As sports fans, we give deeply of ourselves – our time, our hearts, and our wallets, for starters – and we place that completely in the hands of others. Each season, dedicated sports fans place hope and faith in a group of complete strangers that largely will determine the emotional state of an entire region of people. The brightness of your day, or perhaps week, or year, or lifetime even might depend on the outcome of the work of a small group of people – and whomever it is they’re playing against. Any sports fan knows what I’m talking about. The intoxicating euphoria after a big win. The distress after an awful loss, much less a bad season. That’s a tough place to find yourself, basing your happiness on what often amounts to a coin flip.

So maybe that’s why the draft matter so much, and why Giants fans are so upset. For a short period of time before last Thursday evening, it seemed like everyone, even the fans, had some control. And in just a matter of minutes – or however long it took to get to the sixth pick – all that was gone. Which means it’s simply back to hoping and praying that this year will be better than the last, as the Counting Crows one sang.

Who knows if it will. But if you’re inclined to be around happy folks for the time being, I’d suggest for now you avoid New York Giants fans.

Keith Strudler is the director of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. You can follow him on twitter at @KeithStrudler

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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