By Luciano Rapa
Featured writer for Sideline
NFL Draft Mania! …. A little history
How in the world has the Annual NFL Draft become such a huge event?
Back before light was invented, in the early 70s, I remember that there was very few ways of getting draft news, and mostly you waited until the newspaper published the next day (if you got the late edition that is). Since I have been a Football fanatic from day one, I used to wait for 5:30 pm, and turn the radio dial to 770 AM, and catch Howard Cosell’s Speaking of Sports. Howard would dedicate 20 minutes to the daily sports news, and he would usually give you the top 10 or so picks. Cosell was all business and about facts, he never gave you his opinion, or what he thought would happen (a lot like TNSA today).
Living just north of NY City, we had the most advanced media in the world, yet, the draft (held in NY) was hard news to come by. I went to two live sessions, but man it was a long day of waiting, and you had to be there hours before to even get a chance to enter. Most fans today don’t realize that we didn’t have Cable, Satellite, or 24 HR Sports stations. It all started with Art Rust Jr. in the mid 70s. He was the very first Sports Talk Show host in the New York area. A two hour show, during which he attacked listeners, but gave you news along the way, and his picks and opinions. Finally the draft was a lot more interesting, since he would spend days discussing it, however, Art’s love was baseball, the NFL was only the second sport that mattered.
On September 7, 1979, a small video company from Bristol, Connecticut, held their first broadcast on cable tv. I had cable then, but ESPN was far from perfect. Their claim to fame was tennis, Billy Jean King, etc. They had no NFL rights; Sports Center was a bore, and very little coverage. Their biggest problem was that only a tiny portion of America had access to a Cable Network, making ESPN a demand that you couldn’t get.
The Sports Talk World in NY changed more drastically later on. The way we cover sports today was really born on July 1, 1987, and radio provided it. I was glued to WHN, a very popular Country station, at 3pm, because history was about to be made. A sports fanatic’s dream was being unveiled, as WFAN broadcasted for the first time. Suzyn Waldman (now a Yankee Broadcaster) and Jim Lampley kicked off a new world.
Nobody gave a 24-hour sports radio station a chance. And they were almost right. It wasn’t until WFAN hired Don Imus to host his morning show, and Acid Breath, Pete Franklin, the ultimate tormentor, that the station began to flourish. Draft news was like never before. Weeks of discussion, opinions, HC talk, it was great!
Eventually as we all know, ESPN turned the draft into a moneymaking event, and the mania began. Since nobody could find any information about college players (no internet yet), Mel Kiper became a believable encyclopedia and a millionaire. Today we are no longer blinded by news, and even if some of us don’t watch every college game available, we can still find out for ourselves what we seek.
Enjoy the various articles that are coming up about the draft. Nossorc published his Patriots Big Board, as Archer is about to with his Bills. I will be doing a two part Jets Big Board….I really hope a Miami fan does one covering the Dolphins as well.
Its amazing to me that I went from a kid that starved for information, to a little Oriental dude that now helps give information………I love technology!