For the past 15 years, the NFL's annual extravaganza, the NFL Draft, has taken place on Saturday and Sunday. Yesterday, the NFL announced that in 2010, the draft will move from a two day weekend event and now span three days beginning on a Thursday. Matt Maiocco of the Press Democrat seems to like the idea. Being a beat writer, the move makes covering the event easier for him and those in his profession. While I certainly understand his perspective on this move, for fans, this sounds like a terrible decision.
This year, NFL Network and ESPN's draft coverage received a record 39 million viewers. In April of 2010, the first round will take place on Thursday at 4:30pm, the second round will begin on Friday at 3:30pm (followed by the third round), and the remainder of the draft (rounds 4-7) will take place on Saturday.
"Thursdays are a good night for television, and that's exactly what the NFL has in mind with its decision to change the format of the draft," says Maiocco.
This move is to make the draft more accessible to fans according to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. "Moving the first round to prime time on Thursday night will make the first round of the draft available to fans on what is typically the most-watched night of television," said Goodell. While this is all good and fine for fans on the East Coast, where the draft will begin at 7:30pm Eastern, this is a bit of a problem for fans on the West Coast, where the start of the draft overlaps with a little thing called work. You throw in a 3:30pm start on Friday and you are now making the situation even tougher for the die-hard fans who love to watch the coverage live.
Even for this site, the NFL Draft was already the busiest two days of year and the staff works hard to make sure that the fan experience is a good one. Taking place on a weekend, this was not too difficult. It just created a rather busy weekend and locked us at home for a good chunk of the two days.
There are a number of NFL fans who used to go out of their way for the NFL Draft. Some fans would plan parties, travel to visit and watch with friends, or hit the local sports bars for top selections in the first round. After all, this event was the beginning of a new season for most fans. This new schedule makes planning such activities increasingly difficult.
Fan reaction does not appear to be very good. The following are some of the more interesting fan comments on Matt Maiocco's blog:
I don't like it one bit. I think it takes away from the fun of NFL Draft weekend. A lot of fans (myself included) use that weekend to get together friends and family ... We make a party out of the event every year. Now with this new format, we probably won't be able to do that!
I don't like it. The First day of the NFL draft is a special day for us die-hard fans. It's a time of getting together, arguing, laughing, and speculation. I have been sharing it for years with my friends who truly follow football. In fact I didn't like this year's change to a later hour.
- Marco from Stockton
So, instead of stretching over one of my work days, it now stretches over two of them.
Gone are days when the NFL Draft was a fun event for fans. It's all business now. As one other fan comments, "It stinks of commercialism, which is already running rampant in the NFL." The NFL is throwing the average fan aside and looking at the amount of revenue they can make by pushing it into the changed timeslots.
And what happens with the annual party that the San Francisco 49ers used to throw for the fans? With a 4:30pm start time, this complicates things a bit.
The sports world always tends to make moves with an East Coast bias. This change is no different.
* Quoted comments from Instant 49ers. Used with Matt Maiocco's permission.
What are your thoughts on the move? Comment below.