Neither glitz nor glitch at NFL's virtual draft

Quarterback Joe Burrow reacting after being selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the first round of the NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Quarterback Joe Burrow reacting after being selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the first round of the NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK • There were no glitches or cyber attacks during the first round of the virtual National Football League (NFL) Draft on Thursday night.

While the draft went off as scheduled, it reflected in every way a sporting world turned upside down by a global pandemic - a fact reflected in the stark image of an empty and desolate Las Vegas Strip, where the event should have taken place.

No technological magic was ever going to replace the buzz and glitz of Vegas, but the NFL and broadcast partners ESPN, ABC and NFL Network threw everything they had into the four-hour primetime online showcase, juggling feeds from nearly 200 players and team officials scattered around the United States.

"I do believe this will be the most memorable draft we have ever had," said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, adding that he was certain things would not go as planned.

He was wrong on both counts. The draft went off without any major hitches and the only thing that will be remembered about the evening will be the unfortunate circumstances that forced the draft into the virtual world.

With most sports in the US shut down for more than a month, the NFL promoted the three-day event as a welcome distraction.

Each pick through seven rounds will be dissected, debated and digested - a welcome change for desperate television networks who have been forced to use big games of past years to fill thousands of hours of programming wiped out by the coronavirus.

Working from his "man cave" in the basement of his New York home, Goodell also tried to inject some draft tradition into an event that had been stripped of much of it, pleading for fans to boo him, as they usually do whenever he appears on stage.

What he got was a cringeworthy half-effort that even he had to chuckle at - before moving on to announce Louisiana State University's Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, Joe Burrow, going to the Cincinnati Bengals as the top overall pick.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2020, with the headline 'Neither glitz nor glitch at NFL's virtual draft'. Print Edition | Subscribe