For many, many years, I have held dual beliefs that are somewhat unpopular but certainly not unreasonable:
1. Marijuana should be legalized.
2. The NFL draft should be illegal.
I say this as someone who never has participated in marijuana or the NFL draft, though I have observed both phenomena countless times at close range.
(I might be swimming upstream without pads on these matters, but I believe, as Irish statesman Edmund Burke once said, “One man, with conviction, makes a majority.”)
I won’t delve into the marijuana issue in too much detail – after all, this is, technically, by the loosest of definitions, a “sports column” – but, suffice to say, as a sporting libertarian, I reckon that most activities should be allowed if they do not encroach on others’ rights, particularly in the comfort of your home. I mean, I like to play Racko while watching “Taxi” reruns on chilly winter evenings; if my next-door neighbor prefers to roll a joint while watching “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” why shouldn’t he?
Now, on to more important affairs.
Sure, I realize if you eliminate the NFL draft, this nation’s GNP would be reduced by 4 percent. And I can hear some of you already: If the NFL draft is discontinued, Mel Kiper would have to move to Canada! No worries, good people – doesn’t the CFL have a draft?
Quite simply, every player should be a free agent from Day 1. Would this create chaos? No. Would this mean the richest franchises would get the best players? No. Would this mean every player would be switching teams every year or two? No. Would this destroy the game? No.
(Column Intermission: Last week I wrote I considered relocating to the United Kingdom but I feared “cricket could be the next inexorable replay victim.” Uh, as it turns out, cricket already uses replay. My bad. And, incidentally, another reason the British Empire continues to wither.)
The thing is, in many ways the NFL is a rigged game, like Wall Street and Washington. In this case, in the name of “competitive balance,” the NFL wants the worst teams to draft the best players; it also jimmies the schedule to allow the weakest teams to play the easiest opponents, plus there’s a salary cap, revenue sharing and restricted free agency.
These are all pretty effective gimmicks if you can get away with it, and the NFL gets away with it 17 Sundays a year in broad daylight.
This doesn’t make it fair for the NFL’s worker bees; their place of work is determined for them. The rest of us deal in a free market.
Let’s look at my own personal example:
Coming out of college in 1981, I was one of the top sportswriting candidates in the nation, considered a “five-tool prospect” – I could type, report, interview, write and write for power. I was lucky enough to land with the Washington Post, and from there, developed into the non-award-winning, couch slouching columnist I am today.
But had there been a sportswriter draft and I happened to be picked by, say, USA Today, my choice would’ve been either to go write 75-word stories for a newspaper I didn’t want to join or move to Barcelona and try my hand at street mime.*
(* - I did not speak Spanish fluently at the time, thus I would’ve pursued work in which the language barrier could be overcome.)
Granted, it would be difficult to challenge the draft. A draft-eligible player would need to sue the NFL, it could take years to grind through the judicial system and, if it makes its way to the highest court in the land, need I remind you that Supreme Court justices often have sat in luxury boxes at Redskins games.
Another benefit of ending the NFL draft: No “Draft Day II” coming to a theater near you.
By the way, I just had a brilliant, out-of-the-box thought, the kind of thought, I imagine, one gets when smoking reefer – in the event the NFL draft remains an annual staple, a team like the Cleveland Browns might benefit from making picks while high.
On the other hand, Mel Kiper, on cannabis, over three days, on live TV? That just might scare someone straight.
Ask The Slouch
Q. What’s the difference between Donald Sterling’s racism toward blacks and Daniel Snyder’s racism via the Redskins’ team name? (Charles R. Thomas; Chicago)
A. Snyder doesn’t have a Native American girlfriend.
Q. I hate to be contrarian, but isn’t a lifetime ban and being forced to sell his team an inordinate penalty for making moronic statements during an illegally recorded, private phone conversation? (Lynn Chapman; Fishers, Indiana)
A. Heck, if David Stern were still NBA commissioner, Donald Sterling also would’ve been banned from Beverly Hills for life.
Q. Would you happen to know someone with audio expertise who works in the Redskins’ office? (Dave Weinstein; Bethesda, Maryland)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.