Clint's Corner Archive

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The source for back issues of Clint's Corner. Forget a trade? Were Clint's predictions correct? Here's every edition, verbatim.

For 4/12/2001

Editor's Note: For the first time in 5 years, Clint's Corner has a guest columnist. We get many emails here at inquiring about attending the draft in person, so I asked Scott McCandless, who attended the draft last season, to help me out. I will be back on Clint's Corner immediatly following the draft. Thank you Scott for your contribution!

"Any Given Saturday"
A Fan's Guide to Attending the NFL Draft
By Scott C. McCandless

I am an unusual Patriots fan. I was born, raised, and spent most of my life in New England, yet a few years ago, I did the nearly unthinkable: I moved to New York City. Forget the border wars, I crossed right through the DMZ and into the heart of enemy territory. The move was job related, and I remained loyal, boldly wearing my old #87 jersey (with the name "Ben Coates" on it, in case you've forgotten) whenever I could. But living in New York gave me an opportunity to do something I will long remember and I recommend every NFL fan do once in his or her lifetime.

I attended the NFL Draft.

The off-season can be a lot of fun, and checking the waiver wire in February and March can often be as exciting, or frustrating, as examining post-game statistics on a September Monday morning. This is particularly true of a rebuilding team like the Patriots.

But the most off-season thrills are found in the NFL Draft. I write this to urge you to make the pilgrimage to attend the NFL Draft yourself and to offer you any insights my experience might offer.

I attended the Draft in April of 2000. This was a particularly challenging Draft to choose to attend because the Patriots had no first round pick. The fact that it was still a great way to spend a Saturday despite that lack of a first round selection illustrates just how very much worth it attending the Draft can be. Perhaps most the important factor: it is free.

The Draft is held in the Theater at Madison Square Garden, but the building is not easy to navigate, since it contains not only the Theater but also the sports arena, which sits on top of the always-busy Pennsylvania Station. However, unless you arrive at 3 in the morning, the line of eager draftniks is easy to spot. The Theater holds 2,000 people, so you need not arrive too early, but you'll be amazed at how long the line is whenever you arrive.

The line forms outside of the Garden/Pennsylvania Station building at the corner of 8th Avenue and 31st Street. Before you get in line, go to the very front of the line near the doors and obtain a wristband; this will have a number on it marking your place in the crowd. Make sure to get your wristband before taking a spot at the back of the line, or won't be able to get in the doors.

When I attended last year, I arrived at about 6:50 a.m., yes, that's ten of seven in the morning on a Saturday. Like I said, living in the city had its advantages, as it was only a 5-minute cab ride at that time of day. Still, even that early, the number on my wrist-band read "439"--- that's right, before 7 a.m. and I wasn't even in the top 400 people.

You will be standing outside until about 9 a.m., so be sure to dress for the weather. Last year, it was raining on and off, and some Steelers fans had umbrellas shaped like their team's helmet. You will have the opportunity to enjoy many variations of fan support for their teams, and there were several Raiders fans in full black-and-gray, silver skulls, face paint and Darth Vader masks and capes. It is New York City after all, so expect anything. I was surprised how few Jets jerseys there were; they were there, but they seemed to be outnumbered by Eagles fans of all things and after that the teams were fairly well distributed. Let me know what it looks like when you go.

Once the line starts moving, you'll go inside, into a long hallway. They take people inside about 200 at a time. Here you only get to wait again. It seems exciting at first when the line starts moving, but it's a tease. The new line is used to exchange your wristband for an actual admissions ticket to the Theater. You will be standing inside in this new line for only about a half-hour to an hour. Once you get your admissions tickets, you will be instructed to go back outside, this time to the more-recognizable front of the Garden along 7th Avenue. At this point, people can run to get ahead of others; the numbers on the wristbands that formerly held your place are gone and it's dog-eat-dog to re-form the new line.

This new line will begin moving just after 10:30. You'll go into the main superstructure and towards the Theater, and almost immediately near the doors, the line falls apart. Show your ticket and watch out, as everyone starts running, but be sure to grab one of the big plastic bags they are handing out. This is very important as the bag contains some essential items as well as some information and souvenirs. More on that later.

The Theater is surprisingly nice looking, a very professional studio with movie style seating. There is a big stage up front, and up high on either side of it are televisions showing highlights from the Superbowl as well as the previous season's games. The sound system, playing music and the booming voice of "NFL Films," is impressive, and it along with the crowd noise makes it very loud. Find a seat ASAP, and try to get one in or near the middle of a row, and not too close to the front of the section. This is because in the middle front of every section is a large screen television showing ESPN's coverage of the draft, the same broadcast you'd get at home. These televisions are large and if you get a bad seat you'll have trouble seeing the stage. Also, watch out for the studio lights shining on the booth where the ESPN broadcasters are sitting; these are extremely bright and shine out towards the crowd, and if you don't avoid them, it'll be a long, painful day.

A note about those televisions showing the ESPN coverage. The televisions are turned down to pure mute; picture only. Look inside those plastic bags they handed out, and you'll find a miniature radio with headphones. Scan the band and you'll find the ESPN broadcast (it's the only thing you can tune in with these radios, at least in the Theater). These little radios are terrific and free, and allow you to listen to the reports, such as from John Clayton, Sal Palantonio or Hank Goldberg in differing team's war rooms, on television without missing the live action in front of you. It's a great touch. The bag also contains scouting reports, a copy of NFL Magazine, and some other souvenirs.

There is a booth about three-quarters of the way to the main stage where Mike Tirico and Chris Mortensen do their reports. They are off to the side of the main booth where Mel Kiper, Jr., Joe Theismann, and Chris Berman perform. These familiar faces are close enough, from wherever you sit, to yell at them-last year, the crowd tore into Theismann when he predicted that the Chicago Bears, after they picked safety Mike Brown, would win their division. As much fun as it is to shout at these television personalities-and yes, Mel's hair really is something-it is even more impressive how composed and professional they are in the face of these barrages.

There are several sections roped-off for draftee family and guests and for reporters. The top-rated players will be there live-last year, Courtney Brown, Lavar Arrington, Chris Samuels, Peter Warrick, and Thomas Jones were there, along with several current and past players. They are all over the place giving interviews and observing the festivities. I got to meet Ronny Lott when he walked in through one of the corridors right next to where I was sitting. I recommend you keep your head, as they say, on a swivel. One seating section right next to Chris Berman's seat is labeled "Jets Fans" so you'll know where to look for Fireman Ed and a fight if you're so inclined. (Interestingly, when I was there, the big crowd of Eagles fans sat right behind this Jets section and heckled the Jets fans mercilessly.)

There are several vendors walking around with hotdogs and popcorn and even other fare like sandwiches, but it's expensive so pack a lunch if you want. You're allowed to bring things in but bags are subject to search. Remember, the first round allows 15 minutes per pick, which with 31 teams can mean 465 minutes or more than 7 hours. You'll be surprised that each team often does use it's full, allotted 15 minutes, and the crowd is very funny when it gets frustrated and starts yelling at the team representatives' tables down front to hurry up and make the pick. Last year, the first round ended around 5:30 and I waited just long enough to hear New England finally make its pick, Adrian Klemm, just before 7 p.m. The Patriots politely used less than two minutes to make the choice.

Getting to that point is worth it. Back at mid-day, at about twenty to twelve, Gene Upshaw approaches the podium. Silence. "Welcome to the NFL Draft!" Eruption. Even better, at almost high noon exactly, Paul Tagliabue walks up, puffs out his chest, leans into the microphone and pronounces, "The Cleveland Browns are now on the clock!" This year of course it's the San Diego Charges who own the first pick, and the announcement is a moment you'll not soon forget. The crowd roars as if it were season kickoff. The excitement in that room at that moment, regardless of team affiliation and records and schedules and trades, is something to behold. It is raw, frothy, passionate football fandom-it is us. If you're reading this, you know what I'm talking about, and by God -or by Steve Grogan, or John Hannah, or whoever else ranks up there with Him - it's about time you took part in this great event.

The NFL Draft is held this year on April 21st and 22nd. The first round allows each team 15 minutes to make its pick, the second round 10 minutes, and the third through seventh round 5 minutes each. ESPN will broadcast the first three rounds from noon until 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 21st, and ESPN2 will assume all remaining coverage that Saturday evening. The second day, consisting of rounds four through seven, will be shown on ESPN from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m., then on ESPN2 for the remainder of the day. The television coverage is excellent, but just once, just one given Saturday, go see the real thing.

Proud to be a Patriot,
Scott C. McCandless