NFL Inhales Talent. NBA Rolls On

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This weekend, the NFL draft scooped up the brightest, biggest and best in young players. Meanwhile, the Phoenix Suns staved off elimination from the NBA playoffs. Bill Wolff checks the score.

RACHEL MARTIN, host:

I'm going to make a rough transition to talking about your junior-high years.

MIKE PESCA, host:

Uh-huh.

MARTIN: Maybe it's not so rough. When you were in eighth grade, was it more or less likely that you would have been chosen for dodge ball first?

PESCA: Dodge ball?

MARTIN: Yeah, dodge ball.

PESCA: Yeah. I had a strong arm. I wasn't spry. I couldn't get out of the way, but I would, in fact, throw the ball so hard that people holding - trying to deflect it would drop their ball, thus eliminating them. So, I'd do well in dodge ball.

MARTIN: OK. You did well.

PESCA: Yeah.

MARTIN: Well, this is pretty much the dynamic that happened over the weekend. It was the NFL draft. Everybody knows this. You couldn't peel me away from my television all weekend long. This is what a bunch of these big, burly NFL types do every time this year. They sit around - well, they don't just sit.

They run around, do little test exercises in the Combine, and then in the draft, they hope that they're going to get tagged to join the top teams in the NFL. The future of 252 college players was on the line at the seven-round pro-draft at New York City's Radio City Music Hall. Who got dibbed first? And who was left for last like the poor kid holding his inhaler?

That was me, by the way, holding my asthma inhaler. Back with us for the weekend sports' roundup is Bill Wolff, father-to-be of the BPP baby-to-be with Alison Stewart, and resident sports guru. Hi, Bill.

BILL WOLFF: How are you, Rachel? I would guess Pesca was a high pick for that angry streak, you know? Dodge ball all came down to the angry streak.

MARTIN: Dodge ball was all about anger.

WOLFF: And in eighth grade, there was plenty of it to go around.

PESCA: That's right. They'd poke me with a stick, and I'd just go off.

WOLFF: Yeah, oh, yeah. It doesn't surprise me one bit.

MARTIN: So, I was so disheartened, really, in doing all of my copious research for this segment...

WOLFF: Yeah.

MARTIN: To find out that there was something called "Mister Irrelevant."

WOLFF: Oh, yeah.

MARTIN: This is the saddest, saddest moniker I've ever heard of.

WOLFF: Yeah. Had you not heard of it before?

MARTIN: No, I'd never heard of it before. I mean, Mister Irrelevant - there are lots of people I've dated who I now call Mister Irrelevant, but I'd never heard of it in the NFL context.

WOLFF: Well, you know, there are six billion people on planet Earth, so it's arguable that pretty much all of us are irrelevant, but there's a group of people in Newport Beach, California, who, like, 30 years ago, decided that the last player picked in the NFL draft would be officially called Mister Irrelevant, because that player would sit there for two days waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and would be the last guy tabbed to play in the pros.

And so, every year, they wait, and they wait, and they wait, and every year, they fly the guy out, whoever he is, to Newport Beach, and they have a party, and they have a little, silly regatta in their marina, and they give him all these prizes. And he's typically, you know, a guy from some little school who's thrilled to be drafted into the NFL, and here are all these Orange-County types sort of mocking him and denigrating him at the same time.

MARTIN: Oh.

WOLFF: I went. I went. I met Mister Irrelevant 1995, which dates me. I mean, I am irrelevant. It's all irrelevant. Anyway, I went, and it is sort of a cruel celebration, is the way I would describe it.

MARTIN: So, this year...

WOLFF: Yes, they wait and they wait. So, this year, yes?

MARTIN: So, this year, David Vobora, right?

WOLFF: Well, I'm surprised you're not a big Vobora fan.

MARTIN: Are you?

WOLFF: Well, he's a - because he's an Idaho Vandal.

MARTIN: What?

WOLFF: Oh, yeah. From the university...

MARTIN: I clearly didn't do as much research as I just purported to have done.

WOLFF: I was going to say, what happened to that research? Yes, he was the last guy picked.

MARTIN: Well, good job, David. Or not so good. But he's going to the St. Louis Rams.

WOLFF: Yeah.

MARTIN: So, good for him. But on the opposite end of that scheme is the number one pick. First-round pick, Jake Long, for the Miami Dolphins. That was pretty much expected?

WOLFF: In fact, he had been signed to a contract. He had been drafted by the Miami Dolphins. He had been signed to a contract about 48 hours before the draft, which, obviously, telegraphed what the Dolphins would do. The Dolphins had the first pick, and they could have had any player who had declared for the draft, and they chose this guy.

PESCA: Instead of Vobora?

WOLFF: Yeah, well...

PESCA: They went the Long route instead of Vobora.

WOLFF: Well, they figure that he, Vobora, would be available later.

PESCA: Yeah, he might slip to number 252.

WOLFF: So they picked this guy Jake Long, who is a monster. I mean, he's six-seven, 315, plays on the offensive line, University of Michigan, and he's a big monster, and obviously is expected to be an excellent player. The NFL draft is something. I've only been a sports fan for about 35 years. The excitement over the NFL draft eludes me. It mystifies me.

MARTIN: Oh, really. You don't get it?

WOLFF: I don't understand it. Yeah, well, I mean, I watch it because I'm a sucker, and because I'm waiting for the birth of my child, and there's not much else to do, but yeah, I don't get it. Friends of mine covered it this weekend for various sports agencies, and it was at Radio City Music Hall in New York, and there was a line from Sixth Avenue to like Third Avenue.

People waiting 14 hours to get into Radio City Music Hall, football fans from across the country supporting every team, and what they do is watch guys get picked. There's no action. Nobody throws a ball. Nobody tackles. Nobody wins. Nobody loses. They watch this sort of, you know, chattel. They watch this draft happen, and I don't get it. It's on ESPN all day Saturday, and all day Sunday. It gets really good ratings. Everybody watches.

MARTIN: And there aren't that many surprises.

WOLFF: Well, the surprises all come five years from now.

PESCA: Right.

WOLFF: I mean, everybody knows who Tom Brady is, right? The great Tom Brady, for the...

MARTIN: Of course.

WOLFF: Right. He's hunky, Superman of the decade. Well, he was picked in the sixth round, so that by the time he was picked, nobody was watching, and nobody expected that a sixth-round-pick guy like him would go on to be the greatest player in the game, and hall-of-fame guy, and world champion, and dating supermodels. No one would have picked that.

PESCA: Definitely not the dating supermodels. He was pretty skinny and gawky then.

WOLFF: Right, but now he's all studly and square jawed.

PESCA: Right.

WOLFF: And he has the dimple, and it's all Kirk Douglas, and he's a big stud. But you wouldn't have known, watching the NFL draft in 2000 when he got picked with the, you know, the 199th pick, so there were surprise - not surprise, that's the thing that gets me the most. People instantly rate - you know, experts rate and fans rate, and they decide, how has the team done?

So, Michigan's Jake Long is picked by Miami. Then Virginia's Chris Long is picked by the St. Louis Rams. Then Boston College's Matt Ryan is picked by the Atlanta Falcons. And then Darren McFadden is picked by the Oakland Raiders. And everybody wants to declare who had the best pick, and then they keep picking.

And now it's 300 guys you've never even heard of. Even if you're a big fan, you've never heard of them. And experts are sitting there saying this is the greatest draft. This is going to turn the franchise around. They don't know.

PESCA: I agree with you.

WOLFF: It's like when children apply for nursery school. This one's going to be a genius. Well, how do you know? He goo-goos and ga-gas better than the other children? None of these guys have proven that he will be become a great player. And so, it's obviously a very important process.

MARTIN: Yeah.

WOLFF: It's just - it's an utterly unpredictable process, but in sports, everybody wants to rate everything and declare winners, no matter what happened. So, even though the winners in this draft will not be determined for a number of years, everybody already did it. Everybody decided it.

PESCA: I agree with you, Bill. You know, now the Miami Dolphins can put the Jake Long sticker on the back of their Volvo, like proud parents who got their kid into a school...

WOLFF: Yeah, right.

PESCA: But everyone claps like something's been accomplished. We're so far from anyone putting on the uniform and playing a game. You and I, I guess, are two of the biggest sports fans I know who just think the draft is all about potential, and like you said, Joe Montana's a fifth-round pick.

Tom Brady's a sixth-round pick. And the year Tom Brady goes in the sixth round, the number-one pick overall is a guy named Courtney Brown, who, I'm sure, at the time, they all applauded, and they said it was a great thing, and where's Courtney Brown now?

WOLFF: Well, there was that famous draft in which there were two great quarterbacks, or perceived to be great quarterbacks, Ryan Leaf from Washington State and Peyton Manning from the University of Tennessee. And there was this unbelievable argument going on among football experts. Who would be the greater quarterback?

And the San Diego Chargers made a move in order to get Ryan Leaf, and they picked Ryan Leaf. And the Indianapolis Colts picked Peyton Manning, but everybody thought San Diego had done a great thing to pick this guy Ryan Leaf.

PESCA: Yep.

WOLFF: And he was a bum, a straight-up stiff, from day one. Just never once had a good moment in professional football, but on that day, well, the San Diego Chargers were these great winners.

PESCA: They won, yeah.

WOLFF: So, look. It is an important process, and they spend a lot of money trying to figure it out who the - you know, they poke these guys and prod these guys. And I heard a discussion of one of these guys, a quarterback from Louisville, a discussion of his soft tissue because he constantly gets sprained ankles, and, you know, muscle pulls.

And so, they had a doctor on talking about his soft tissue, really, on ESPN. And everybody watches it. It's a huge commercial success. I can't deny that. But it's one of those things I just will never understand. I'll never understand it. Why don't we play the games and then declare who had a good draft?

MARTIN: I'm going to let you guys...

WOLFF: But it went on all weekend.

MARTIN: Continue this conversation on the blog about the NFL draft, but in the minute we have left, Bill...

WOLFF: Minute?

MARTIN: I know, it's gone so fast, our time.

WOLFF: My lord.

MARTIN: I think something kind of important happened. Chien-Ming Wang in baseball, if we can segue a little bit...

WOLFF: Yes, let's do it.

MARTIN: Became the first American league pitcher to reach five wins after throwing seven shutout innings against the Cleveland Indians yesterday. What do you think about that?

WOLFF: I think it's fine. I think what's interesting is that the New York Yankees - and they are the sort of - people watch the Fed in business. People watch the Yankees in baseball. How are the Yankees doing? And the Yankees are really, really struggling.

And more importantly, perhaps, than Chien-Ming Wang pitching really well, which he did, for the Yankees, is that their catcher Jorge Posada, who has been a real stalwart, a pillar for all the great Yankee teams of the last 15 years, well, last ten years anyway, went on the disabled list for the first time in his career with a sore shoulder.

And what we see happening with the Yankees is that they're getting a little bit long in the tooth all at once. Alex Rodriguez went on the - hurt his leg. Derek Jeter missed a bunch of games. Here goes Posada onto the disabled list. Andy Pettitte is a little bit sore. These guys are all pillars of the Yankees, and they're not 25 anymore.

They're all 32, 33, 35, and in baseball years, that's very old. So, the Chien-Ming Wang thing was a big deal. He's an excellent, excellent pitcher from Taiwan, the greatest athlete in North America who's from Taiwan, and a huge national hero. A big piece on him, I believe, in Sports Illustrated this week, but the bigger story with the Yankees is they're a little old and rickety.

And I don't think anybody really anticipated that, and that may be the story as the season goes on. The Yankees may be getting old. We can only hope. Yes, we know how I feel about the Yankees. Not good.

MARTIN: There's also some NBA stuff. Denver hosts game four tonight against the L.A. Lakers, but you know what? I won't talk about that. We have only 30 seconds left, and I want an update on Alison. Is she doing OK?

WOLFF: Well, she's a beautiful woman, a sophisticate, a professional.

PESCA: Courteous, kind and forgiving, yes.

MARTIN: And patient, apparently.

WOLFF: I would say the patience, well, she has the patience of Job, but it is being tested. I think there is no sign of movement. This child, I think, is waiting for the Indiana and North Carolina primaries to declare. Superdelegate Baby. So, we'll see.

MARTIN: Well, we're thinking about you guys.

PESCA: With any luck, you'll have him or her by Guam.

WOLFF: We're hoping so. Guam already passed, so we missed that landmark. Oh, no, Guam's next week.

PESCA: Guam's Friday.

MARTIN: Guam's next.

WOLFF: OK. We're actually targeting Guam.

MARTIN: Baby-by-Guam.

WOLFF: So, nothing yet, but we will certainly keep you posted.

MARTIN: Keep us posted.

WOLFF: Absolutely.

MARTIN: Bill Wolff, friend of the BPP, sports guru. Thanks, Bill.

WOLFF: You got it. Have a great day, guys.

MARTIN: Take care.

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