I have never seen a more unprofessional, underprepared, nonsensical telecast than ESPN’s “Primetime” foray into the NFL Draft. Understandably, the first time for anything can be expected to have it’s share of miscues and rust, however, they’ve been doing this exact thing for decades already…the only thing that changed is the time it was aired!
I wasn’t quite sure what was worse: Chris Berman’s appearance to be hammered, stoned, or both, or the fact that I almost felt bad for Mel Kiper Jr. I never thought that could ever happen but I found myself slightly empathetic to the self-proclaimed “draft guru” for the simple fact that he looked like a 3rd string guard just looking for the game to get out of hand so he could pick up some garbage time. The guy spends 363 days of every year of his life preparing for this event and he was given about as much respect as the Philadelphia Eagles by NY fans during their selection. Normally, his near-creepy ability to recite a player’s height to the sixteenth of an inch and weight to the ounce (including whether it’s before or after big lunch) would freak me out, but it became comical as he inserted the stats at odd points in the telecast just to prove he has a photographic memory of these kids’ physiques.
If Mel was the 3rd stringer who desperately wanted to come off the bench and provide a surge of energy, then Berman was Rasheed Wallace and Dennis Rodman (the Celebrity Rehab version) rolled into one. He might have considered himself Chris Matthews at a presidential debate by trying to spur awkward lulls in the conversation, but he came off more like your crazy drunk uncle at Thanksgiving who constantly changes the conversation to whatever Mike Tyson-like rant that pops into his head at the time. I actually think I heard him blurt out, “So, how ’bout them Cowboys?”. And as for his outbursts directed toward some poor offscreen PA who probably makes $6 per hour, it’s just plain pathetic. One would think such a “titan” in the industry would have learned his lesson after videos of some other of his off-camera tyraids previosuly became published for all to see his ire. Instead, we were rewarded once again and can clearly see why ESPN tries to keep him in the closet most of the time these days.
After Berman’ constant blunders, there were Young’s. Apparently Steve Young annointed himself as the most important man to ever speak about football. He regularly interrupted and spoke over everybody on multiple occassions. At one point, Berman and Young looked like they were going to throw down. As for Tom Jackson, he looked as defeated and dejected as any of them. I think he might have actaully threw up his hands during a Young, Gruden, and Berman rant and said, “to hell with this”.
Rounding out the worst commentary I’ve ever seen was Coach Chuckie (aka Jon Gruden). While he probably made the most insightful comments during the broadcast, his outright disdain for anyone who is not a Super Bowl winning coach such as himself was palpable. He and Mel shared what must have been a hilarious joke that ended in Gruden proclaiming someone a “dumb-ass”, during what was supposed to be an off-camera exchange.
Overall I have to say it might have been the worst coverage of a live event I have ever witnessed. It was a bigger train-wreck than Jim Grey interviewing Pete Rose. I actually found myself flipping over the NFL Network at times hoping to listen to some wisdom from Deion Sanders…could you imagine??!! ESPN had so few interviews with players and such guesswork of the picks that they should be ashamed of the broadcast. I never, ever, ever, thought I would long for more Mel Kiper Jr., but just letting him spout off about how teams passing on Jimmy Clausen was the worst move ever would have certainly been more entertaining than this. Here’s an idea for ESPN for the last 2 dasy of the draft: cut half the talking heads from the desk. I know the “less is more” theory is merely a sick joke at ESPN, but it can only help. Let’s also put Berman out to pasture where he has belonged for years. I’d rather listen to a couple of real fans discuss the draft over a few beers than these frauds any day of the week.