An escape for a few hours

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So, did you enjoy it?

For roughly four hours Thursday, we got a bit of a break from the coronavirus as the NFL went virtual with its annual draft. 

It was a collaborative effort on the part of ESPN and the NFL Network, which meant having to listen to Booger McFarland and Michael Irvin. But even that didn’t discourage me.

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What did discourage me, as a New York Giants fan, was general manager Dave Gettleman appearing to have whiffed by taking Georgia offensive tackle Andrew Thomas instead of Iowa OT Tristan Wirfs or going for defense with Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons with the No. 4 overall selection. 

So in reality, it was business as usual. I cursed at the screen of my living room elevation. I texted my friend and fellow Giants fan Harvey in New Jersey and vented. I dropped an F-bomb on Twitter.

Yep, normal indeed. 

But it was still a fun night. It was good to hear commissioner Roger Goodell get booed, even if they had to pipe it in. He took a page from the Gary Bettman playbook, chiding the boo-birds, “You can do better than that.”

It was weird to hear “The Las Vegas Raiders select …” although ESPN host Trey Wingo mistakenly referred to them as the “Oakland Raiders” before the selection of Ohio State corner Damon Arnette at No. 19. But trust me, he won’t be the last one to screw that up this year.

In many ways, it was like any other draft, save for the unnecessary obligatory interviews with the draftees. There were only a couple, starting with Joe Burrow, the No. 1 overall pick. Two positives came out of that — One, he was sober. Two, he couldn’t try to kiss Suzy Kolber from his living room in Ohio.

Instead, we got heartwarming stories of the draftees overcoming adversity within their families or directly themselves. The vignettes weren’t long, maybe 30 or 40 seconds. But it sent a powerful and uplifting message during a time we are all struggling to stay positive and keep the faith. 

When it comes to striking the right chords, the NFL has its own well-scripted playbook. It always make sure it does the politically correct thing during the draft. In the past, we’ve seen policemen, firefighters, first responders and military personnel honored during the proceedings, receiving standing ovations from the fans in attendance. This time, it was all about the doctors, nurses, EMTs and hospital workers who have been on the front lines of the coronavirus war. 

Virtually every commercial had a COVID-19 theme to it, all saluting those who are saving lives every day across America. The NFL was also raising money in telethon-fashion to aid in the relief effort.

So in reality, it wasn’t a total escape. But there was enough talk of teams reaching for a player or coming up with a hidden gem to offset the coronavirus talk and make it worth sticking with.

My initial plan a couple months ago was to cover the draft on the Las Vegas Strip and write this column about what that experience was like. I was going to tell you how I thought the Raiders did with their two first-rounders and try to explain the craziness that was going to be everywhere.

That column will have to wait a couple of years. 

But it appears Mike Mayock, the Raiders’ GM, addressed his team’s needs. He got a speedy wide receiver in Alabama’s Henry Ruggs III, the first wideout to be taken in the draft. He got some secondary help with Arnette. Both should be able to step in and help win some games in Allegiant Stadium this fall.

All in all, Thursday’s first round was an uplifting experience. I’ll get over the Giants’ questionable pick. Besides, there’s six rounds to go. Maybe Gettleman will get it right. I plan to tune in again Friday afternoon for rounds two and three. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of company.

About the Author

Steve Carp

Steve Carp is a six-time Nevada Sportswriter of the Year. A 30-year veteran of the Las Vegas sports journalism scene, he covered the Vegas Golden Knights for the Las Vegas Review-Journal from 2015-2018.

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