by Clark Groome
News headlines from the last couple of weeks include the Philadelphia District Attorney being investigated for all manner of inappropriate financial issues; saber rattling by North Korea’s seemingly insane supreme leader, Kim Jong-un – and his sabers have nuclear points – the announcement that one of the area’s top arts organizations, the Philadelphia Theatre Company, is taking a one-year hiatus as a producing organization so that its new artistic chief can plan the company’s future while dealing with some of its “financial challenges,” and the president and the Congress are continuing to find ways to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, to create a new budget, to keep the government from shutting down, and perhaps even to build a wall along our southern border.
All of these issues are significant, and all have – for the last few weeks – been relegated to secondary import by the local media to make room for what the TV folk say is “The Big Story Tonight” – the NFL Draft.
This sports story that has taken over the city and dominated the news since late March. The event itself is three days (April 27-29) of NFL teams drafting amateur players to play for them and, perhaps, improve their competitive position.
It could be done in a big auditorium. It could be done in an NFL stadium. When the NFL chose Philly for the event, only the second city outside of New York in recent years, its demand was that it take place on what we used to call “the Art Museum Steps” but are now almost universally being referred to as “the Rocky Steps.” The reference is to that classic scene in the first “Rocky” movie when Rocky Balboa runs up those steps, a feat that countless residents and tourists have undertaken when visiting the city.
It’s clear that the event will be good for the city. It’s predicted that several hundred thousand people will bring millions of dollars into town. The national press coverage should be spectacular.
It’s not as positive for the citizens who live around the Museum or those who count on the streets in that area – like the Kelly and King Drives, the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and the streets around Eakins Oval – to get to work or dinner or other events in town, particularly for those who live in the Northwest.
The inconvenience might have been tolerable if the three-day event had taken about a week to set up. The reality is that the inconvenience it’s causing has been a month so far and is likely to continue for more than a week after the League and its attending multitudes depart following the Saturday draft rounds.
Like all Philadelphia sports fans, I hope the Eagles draft well. It will be interesting which premium college players – two among them are from Temple – go to which teams.
But come on, this isn’t the second coming of the Pope.
This is a necessary part of every sport’s business and football – as is plain to all who watch sports and news on TV or read local papers – is clearly the number one sport here in Eagles country.
In truth, however, the attention to the draft is out of proportion to other current sports stories. The scrappy Phillies (some will tale the S off scrappy, but I’ll persevere), the NBA playoffs, the NHL playoffs, the Union’s struggles and the upcoming “most exciting two minutes in sports,” the Kentucky Derby, on May 6 all deserve more attention than they’re getting. I’d love to hear and read more about these rather than the “all-Eagles/NFL-all-the-time” approach we’re getting now.
Certainly the possibility of a nuclear confrontation with North Korea tops who goes number one in the draft.
Again it’s all about priorities; what really has an impact on our lives. Why does the city have to turn over six weeks to the NFL, a league that, by the way, was born in Philadelphia and held its first draft here in 1936 in a hotel room?
Clearly times have changed but it doesn’t make much sense to spend so much time and energy on what is, basically, a three-day business meeting.