STEVE INSKEEP, host:
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The first round of the NFL draft took place at Radio City Music Hall in New York City last night. Quarterback Sam Bradford was the first pick overall. He went to the St. Lois Rams. A couple of his Oklahoma teammates went in the top four as well. Florida quarterback Tim Tebow was chosen higher than expected, by Denver. And while Tebow was not there in person to pick up his Broncos jersey, thousands of fans watched these proceedings in person. Their devoted attendance, at what amounts to a business meeting, leaves NPR's Mike Pesca with one burning question. Why?
MIKE PESCA: To fans in attendance, the NFL draft is like sports talk radio without being cutoff. It's like an Internet message board without hiding behind a fake name. It's hours of waiting on line for the free tickets the league disperses, talking with fans of every team.
Mr. DAN O'CONNELL: Yeah, don't tell me Percy ain't worth it.
PESCA: Inside Radio City Music Hall, a guy in a Florida Gators shirt approaches a guy in a Vikings jersey. Gators guy says, Your team should thank us. We gave you Percy Harvin. Vikings guy concedes the rookie running back was good but might still be trouble. They tease, they cajole.
Mr. O'CONNELL: And Sidney Rice, please, spare me.
PESCA: Soon the arm length of Iowa tackle Bryan Bulaga is being discussed. In this case, Vikings guy is Jack Flaking, who flew into New York for his seventh straight draft.
Mr. JACK FLAKING: Oh, yeah, hope does spring eternal in the draft. I think people come to the draft because it's a tradition. You know, everybody's in first place until training camp starts. Even Lions fans and Rams fans get excited.
PESCA: Florida Gators fans, too, in the form of Dan O'Connell, who just wants to see the players he rooted for in college leave the nest.
Mr. O'CONNELL: I'm a casual NFL guy, but I'm a diehard college guy. So I watch them get drafted. I follow them for a few years. Want to really see if they're a bust or not. You know, it's like that every year. I have a lot of fun doing it.
PESCA: O'Connell, who's been asked to leave past drafts for excessive fandom, flies in from Nebraska. His brother, who's in the Navy, came in from Italy this year. This is football-palooza. A chance to spend time with fans of every single team and hash out who should go where. And if Bryan Bulaga's modest wingspan will drop him out of the top ten.
Chris Joseph is originally from San Jose. He knew his 49ers had two first round picks.
Mr. CHRIS JOSEPH: For a football fan, this is like Christmas morning. You get to open new gifts and find out what we got.
PESCA: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell�steps to the lectern. The Niners second pick is about to be announced.
Mr. ROGER Goodell�(Commissioner, NFL): Mike Iupati.
Mr. JOSEPH: Yes. Yes.
PESCA: You like the pick.
Mr. JOSEPH: I love the pick. The guy's got a mean streak. We're too soft on the offensive line.
PESCA: Some kids want an Xbox for Christmas, 49er fans yearn for a guard with a mean streak. But everyone's happy.
(Soundbite of booing)
PESCA: Well, not everyone. There's one group noted for their belligerence. Ryan Trisbenski(ph) flew a thousand miles to get here and was surprised at which one of the local teams would pose a problem.
Mr. RYAN TRISBENSKI: Every Giants fan I talk to is like a nice guy, like a guy I like hanging out with. I meet a Jets fan and I feel like, you know, they're all bad. They boo me, and like, we're the worst team in the league. How do you boo a lion's fan?
PESCA: This was Trisbenski's first year. Anita Skelton(ph) has been to 27 drafts. At first, she says, fans didn't fancy themselves experts.
Ms. ANITA SKELTON: We didn't study in the beginning. We didn't know what to do, so we just watched.
PESCA: This year more people than ever watched. ESPN's prime time draft was a huge success. The network, along with all the players taken, made millions. Even offensive tackle, Bryan Bulaga, who was the 23rd overall pick, stubby arms and all.
Mike Pesca, NPR News, New York.
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