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NFL Draft Coverage Displays League’s Mystifying Power

“We’re into this thing a little over an hour. How do you like it so far?” Chris Berman bellowed during the opening portion of ESPN’s NFL draft coverage, traditionally one of the more mystifying displays of the league’s almost cult-like hold over a segment of the audience.

Even as a sports fan, I’d like it a whole lot better if you’d stop screaming at the top of your lungs, Chris.

But that’s what the NFL draft is — a shout-it-from-the-mountaintop demonstration of pro football’s ability to attract viewers in a gaudy manner that dwarfs all other sports in the U.S., and which thus invites the kind of marathon coverage and hyperbole that draft week engenders. Last year’s draft averaged more than 8 million viewers, a 16% surge over 2011.

Perhaps the strangest part of the draft, invariably, is the audience reaction, as the crowd cheers or (more often) boos as each name is announced, as if they were absolutely stunned that the Jets would draft Alabama’s Dee Milliner with the ninth pick in the first round. As opposed to, um, who?

The number of players drafted in the non-glamor positions makes much of the analysis seem particularly silly, which hasn’t stopped ESPN from taping video of them posing and posturing, as if this were a sequel to “X-Men: First Class” — which, in a way, it sort of is.

Perhaps nothing quite tops the banality of sitting down (or actually, standing up) these 20-something soon-to-be-millionaires and throwing content-free questions at them — a distraction, really, from unleashing the in-studio team to start waxing eloquent about their 40-yard-dash times.

Hey, I get it, marquee draft picks are a big part of replenishing any NFL franchise. And who doesn’t love football, except perhaps for all the former players suing the league for the toll they saying playing exacted upon them.

Still, given the level of padding and endless blather as minutes drag by between sightings of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to announce the next selection, if you watch more than three picks consecutively without having extensively sampled the night’s sponsor Bud Light, it’s probably time for an intervention.

“Five lineman in the top 10 picks. Hello!” Berman ejaculated.

Actually, goodbye. (Click.)

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