Call me old fashioned, but I miss the NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall.
There was something special about the marriage of one of Manhattan’s most historic venues with one of the NFL’s tentpole events. From the red carpet in the middle of midtown, to the concert hall’s classic art deco design, to the surly Jets fans on the third level mezzanine, it all fit like Tetris.
Of course, as you get older you learn that most things don’t stay the same. Change is inevitable in life — especially in the NFL, where bigger-is-better is the preferred long-term marching order. So we saw the draft eventually shift to large outdoor venues in Chicago, then Philadelphia, and this past weekend, North Texas, where most picks were announced inside a $1 billion stadium.
The greatest benefit of this evolution has been the platform the draft now provides for fans of the host city. Over 250,000 people packed downtown Philadelphia last April, turning the three-day event into the NFL version of Coachella. This infusion of humanity paved the way for what’s quickly become one of the draft’s most entertaining aspects: The Day 2 troll jobs from representatives of rival teams.
Continuing in the new tradition of a host city roast, former Eagles kicker David Akers stepped to the mic on Friday and went off the top rope on America’s Team:
Akers’ fiery commentary — his announcement of Philadelphia’s selection of tight end Dallas Goedert was clearly of secondary concern — was an obvious clapback at the host Cowboys and, specifically, Dallas wide receiver great Drew Pearson, who didn’t hold back last year in Philly. Here’s your refresher:
Which begs the obvious question: Whose troll job was better?
Pearson is in complete control. He knows he’s about to drop WMDs on Philly, but you have to respect how he begins his comments in facile tone before revving up the anti-Iggles engine. Akers, meanwhile, is all fire and brimstone from the jump. It’s like Akers studied hours of Jimmy “The Mouth of the South” Hart footage to achieve maximum irritability. I respect it, but Pearson’s slightly more hinged approach sat better for me. Call it kicker bias.
Pearson: “I want to thank the Eagle fans for allowing me to have a career in the NFL. Thank you!”
Pearson drops that line with just the right amount of condescension, and it’s topped off by a mock-friendly hand wave that sends Eagles and Cowboys fans into hysterics (for opposing reasons). This is just expert-level trolling.
Akers: “Hey Dallas! The last time you were in the Super Bowl, these draft picks weren’t born!”
Akers doesn’t hold back on Big D. My column:
OBLIGATORY WAR ROOM REACTION SHOT
My initial take was to give the Cowboys the nod, thanks in large part to the Dr. Evil’s lair IRL vibe of the whole scene. But then I noticed the Eagles have the G-D Lombardi Trophy just sitting there on the table, out in the open like a buttered croissant at breakfast. There’s just no way to beat that type of set dressing.
I have to be honest: I actually worried for Drew Pearson’s safety after his rant. The man took on 100,000 Philadelphians, many high on beer, in the middle of a public square, during a delicate time in history when the Eagles were 0-for-51 in Super Bowl championship attempts. Through that lens, the Jerrah World crowd was about as dangerous as bingo night at Shady Acres Rest Home in Arlington.
“That is an all-time great pick announcement! I am standing and applauding! Drew Pearson soaking in the hate and spittin’ it back! … Fantastic!”
“Moving in front of the Cowboys. In the house of the Cowboys. Trolling on the Cowboy fans by telling that these kids tonight weren’t even born the last they were in the Super Bowl … and they take the player they want named Dallas!”
The Face does a nice job painting the picture of a flawless victory for the Eagles, with Akers’ histrionics playing a key role in the fun. But Eisen was literally on his feet in admiration after Pearson stepped away from the podium last year. In retrospect, Pearson caught everybody off-guard, the anchor of NFL Network’s draft coverage included.
AND THE WINNER IS …
Akers delivered an undoubtedly memorable draft moment, a carpet bombing of America’s Team that comes during a special and unique time in the history of a great rivalry. Still, we have to give the crown to Pearson, who acted as something of a draft trailblazer while delivering his message in a far more hostile climate.