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Patrick Connelly / Allied News sports Editor.

 

I may be young, but like someone years older, I’m set in my ways.

I like how the sun rises and sets each day. I like how in western Pennsylvania we only have a small percentage of sunny days with perfect weather. It makes us appreciate it all the more when we do.

I also like how ice cream tastes like ice cream, ketchup tastes like ketchup and peanut butter tastes like peanut butter.

Maybe most of all, I like my sports just the way they are.

I like that fighting’s a part of hockey as much as I like how a baseball game can hypothetically last forever.

I like that the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cleveland Indians are in divisions the franchises are geographically suited for with traditional rivals, some dating back a century.

I like how the Big Ten has 11 teams and how NCAA men’s basketball tournament has 65.

And up until it was changed for the latest installment, I liked how the NFL Draft happened entirely on a weekend. For the first time Thursday, the NFL will make the draft a prime time TV event, with the opening round beginning at 7:30 p.m. The second and third rounds of the draft will be held Friday night, with the final rounds wrapping up Saturday.

Am I in the minority rooting that the idea is a total and utter bust? Here’s to hoping the unnecessary change flat-out fails.

The NFL effectually has lightning in a bottle with the draft. It stirs football talk throughout the offseason and keeps people interested in the league year round. The NFL could broadcast this thing at 3:30 a.m. live from Timbuktu and people would watch. In fact, they’d plan their schedules around it and you can bet there’d still be hundreds of New York Jets’ and Oakland Raiders’ fans in attendance.

That’s why I hate the idea. The NFL knows how popular it’s product is with fans and many won’t even bat an eye at choosing to watch the draft over the NHL and NBA playoffs, let alone a measly regular season baseball game. It’s a business move by the NFL and a business move only - attract as many viewers as possible, at whatever cost to those around you.

The first few rounds on a Saturday afternoon and evening were perfect. It was a great watch on TV. If you had something else going on, you could casually tune in when you had a few moments and it was easy and enjoyable to catch up with your favorite team’s picks and the mishaps of others.

Thursday’s first round will begin shortly after the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators drop the puck in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup playoffs and the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls tip things off in the NBA playoffs. Many fans like myself who want to watch both hockey and the draft won’t be able to in the comfort of their own living room without missing parts of one or the other.

The NFL tinkers with its product too much and other entities are beginning to follow suit.

The NCAA has no plan in place to restructure its unfair but incredibly profitable postseason bowl setup, but is already putting the moves in place to expand its annual basketball tournament because it can make more money. The Big Ten and other conferences are looking at expansion because - you guessed it - they can make more money.

Even MLB has discussed restructuring its divisions in the American and National Leagues because clubs like the Indians believe they can make more money bringing the New York Yankees to town a dozen times a year than by actually fielding a team that can compete year in and out.

As much as I hope it fails, the prime time draft will no doubt be a success for the NFL. The league likely deemed it a change that was inevitable and the next step in the evolution of the event.

Why continue to change things that work? When will it end? The truth is it won’t.

Like sunrises, sunsets, ice cream, ketchup and peanut butter, the draft was fine the way it was.

But as long as another dollar or two can be made by bucking tradition, entities like the NFL, NCAA, the Big Ten and MLB will continue fixing what ain’t broke and fans will be right there to buy in.

 

Patrick Connelly is sports editor at Allied News and can be reached at pconnelly@alliednews.com or 724-458-5010.

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