I like Christmas, and am pretty fond of my birthday – but there are only two times of the year that the next day’s excitement pulls me from my fitful sleep before dawn fearful I have overslept. That, my friends, is draft day. (MLB and NFL – I gave up NHL drafts in order to introduce myself to my kids who by all accounts were pretty cool people). At least there used to be only 2 such mornings. Miraculously I have stumbled upon a way to get that first round draft rush 10 or 15 times a year instead of only twice.
If you are reading this, my guess is draft day is one of your favorite days of the year too – if not your most favorite day. Father’s day should so be moved to the first Sunday in April to give a free pass to all dad’s to be sent off to their drafts with a belly full of French toast and coffee eaten in their beds and delivered by their children.
I am lucky enough to still participate in the same baseball and football drafts I have been in since I was 12. That was 35 odd years ago – some years undoubtedly odder then others. These two leagues exist with many of the same participants that first gathered in Rob’s basement with stats from the Saturday paper back and back and back. I treasure it like few other possessions. If the house was on fire and I had to choose between my draft and my cat – I’d grab the draft (I don’t really have a cat – but if I did :). Not much has changed over those 35 years other than I now happen to live 10,000 miles away from the original draft site where most in our fellowship still remain. But that is not why I called you here today.
Those circumstances though, and others like them, led myself and my fellow draftees to a very scary place a few April’s ago. With 15 draftees spread over 3 countries and 12 time-zones, all with demanding work commitments and young families that despite and super hot wives (you see honey I did put that in there – Yes, I know you said ‘understanding’ – but ‘super hot’ sounds so much more ‘super hot’). Well with all those things we eventually stumbled upon the scariest of scenarios. You mean, ‘Mr. Kruger will be your gynecologist, sir.’ No worse then that. We stumbled upon the dreaded year when we simply could not find a ‘draft day’. No common evening, no weekend, no nothing.
No draft ?
We needed to find that way. Perhaps… we puzzled. And yes, we puzzled til our puzzlers were sore. Perhaps we could have our first round of the draft on the league’s message board and then open the draft room and providing we could each find a few minutes at the end of our days we could at least start the draft. Would the sit even let us ? Would our site allow for a draft of indeterminate length? Turns out they would. Perhaps we weren’t the first ones down this rabbit hole. If this tantric draft thingy worked then we then might only need to find a single common hour before opening day to finish her off.
It was madness. Crazy talk. Dogs and cats sleeping together kind of calamites would surely ensue. Some things are sacred. You don’t mess with ‘draft day’. Messing with draft day is like cancelling Christmas. The words should not be spoken aloud.
What choice did we have? We were desperate men seeking desperate measures. Many were skeptical. But as Yogi Berra said, ‘just because it’s never been done, don’t mean it’ll always work.’ And just as baseball is proof that God loves us – so too was the success of this ill conceived undertaking proof of His love.
You see it did work and we’ve been working it for a few years.
And it aint all that bad. In fact it’s pretty damn fun.
This evolving feature of our draft draws out the joy of the draft (see tantric) for a few days in football (similar to the actual NFL draft) and a few weeks in baseball (similar to nothing you’ve seen before). We enter the draft room – not for a few hours – but for a few days (NFL) or weeks (MLB).
This usually sees each team making a pick or two every evening (or morning for me) for 3 or 4 days leading up to our sit down, in person, NFL draft and a week or more for MLB making a couple of picks in the morning and a couple more in the evening due to the sheer size of the roster (Our league has 15 teams and 28 man rosters – 21 active).
Now let me stop here to say I fully understand your skepticism. And you’re right – you don’t mess with Christmas. But note we were not trying to suggest we replace the tree with a coatrack and the presents for opportunities to express how you have disappointed us over the last year (see Festivus). We were merely trying to tweak Christmas. And don’t many of you already tweak Christmas? While I am firmly in the ‘open your presents Christmas morning ’camp’, I married into the ‘open one present Christmas Eve camp’. A slippery slope to be sure. When will the madness end I said? When we go full European and open all the gifts on Christmas Eve or, God help us, full Scandinavian leaving presents in shoes a full fortnight before the big day.
I am not trying to suggest you abandon your favorite day of the year. Merely that if someday, and that someday may never come, but if it does and you cannot find on a draft day, you do not need to blow up your draft or jettison your buddy who can’t make it the last Saturday in March. I am merely positing (see Fifty Shades of Grey) that there is, (to borrow what is hands down the most disturbing of all modern euphemisms) more than one way to skin a cat.
So what worked exactly you may ask? Well not only did we find ourselves able to draft teams in time for that most sacred time of year ‘opening day’ without having to annex any of our longstanding fellowship, but we found some unexpected benefits as well.
Firstly it allows a week’s worth of nights to have the rush of the first round. It allows you to turn Christmas into Hanukah. As Adam Sandler said, ‘instead of one day of presents we get 8 crazy nights’. We don’t have one day of drafting where you pace all day hoping Aaron Rogers or King Felix drops to 10. This way you get that wonderful anticipation over and over again. Over and over again that hope that springs eternal is yours to enjoy. Not just one night of restless dreams – but a weeks worth.
It also allows you to slowly and thoughtfully cherish each round – as you are not madly flipping through notes and projections and tiers wondering which round you’re in and how long until you pick but slowly and thoughtfully crafting the masterpiece that will be your roster. OK – to be fair you are still doing all the combing and tier-ing and prep like you always do – in fact you might add some new one’s like asking your wife or kids if they like the name Brantley or Bryant better (hard to pull that little bit of wizardry off on the usual draft night). But what it really does is add is just a little a little more special and a touch more exclusive to each round. There is far less blur and far more cherished. This is a little more fine cigar and a little less pack of smokes.
It also allows time to settle in and find your groove or if you lose your groove to find it again. Like that time you had that fight with your girlfriend before the football draft ‘96 (put her on waivers by Thanksgiving), or the time the baby threw up the just before you left for the baseball draft in 2010. These moments left you running late and holding up the party and then chasing picks the entire night. You felt like you were a day late and a dollar short all season. Not here you won’t.
This format allows you time to regroup when the 6 player queue you have painstakingly and brilliantly prepared for your next pick gets knocked down (choose your own simile) : ‘like ducks at a carnival shooting game’ or ‘like doughnuts at a fat kids birthday party’ by the 6 drafters ahead of you and you are left with an empty queue and the sickening taste of failure in the back of your throat. No worries – here you got time to find the guy you overlooked instead of knee jerking your way to taking a reliever 5 rounds too early because…well just because. We’ve all done it.
Yes, the rush of draft day is sacred and should be held on to tightly with both hands as being that one day of the year which is yours. BUT if that day comes, and indeed it may never come, but if some year that day comes and the ‘draft day’ proves elusive, try ‘draft week’.
If you’re in this for the long haul – and you should be for I know no better way to stay in touch with the kids you grew up with then fantasy baseball – then some year you too might find yourself unable to find a draft day. Don’t despair. There are other ways. It may not be the same. But it can still be pretty frickin wonderful. It may not be an 8 year old’s Christmas morning, but you can still get your menorah lit in time for the other big day. Because opening day will come. It’ll come without ribbons!… it’ll come without tags!… it’ll come without packages, boxes, or bags! And now even if you can’t find a draft day – you’ll still be ready.
Drop the mic.