On Tuesday, the NFL released its 2010-11 season schedule in a two-hour prime-time special on its own cable network. ESPN joined in the fun with a one-hour special of its own.
On Thursday, April 22, ESPN will devote four and a half straight hours to previewing the NFL draft, followed by the first-ever prime-time telecast of the first round. The second and third rounds will air on Friday evening, with rounds four through seven taking place on Saturday. A scheduling grid on ESPN.com indicates the network will spend more than 22 hours on draft previews and live coverage between Thursday afternoon and Saturday evening.
The draft shows play out the same way each year. So-called draft expert Mel Kiper Jr., an overexcited guy with a great mane of hair, will alternately congratulate and berate NFL general managers based on how well they adhere to his own mock draft. Players will be summoned to the stage, to don the cap of their new team and pose with the commissioner. Each will profess how excited he is to play for whichever team picked him; a few will actually mean it.
The former players and coaches - what Howard Cosell called the "jockocracy" - sit at a desk that gets bigger every year, yelling at the camera in a way that makes each pick seem like the most important thing ever.
That these broadcasts draw millions of viewers proves the NFL's bully status among the major sports. In a week when the NBA and NHL playoffs are contested and baseball starts to generate momentum, football shows up to remind everyone who's boss.