John F. Russell: NFL draft sparks fan interest |

John F. Russell: NFL draft sparks fan interest

— I just don't get it.

I've followed the adventures of the Denver Broncos and the NFL for most of my life, but I'm at a loss when it comes to explaining how the NFL draft has become a prime-time television sensation.

I mean, it's one thing to watch a game on TV, but you know you're addicted when you are willing to spend three hours watching draft picks being announced.

It makes me long for the days of those great sitcoms like "Happy Days," "Three's Company" or "MASH." You know, the days when television was entertaining.

Sure, like most avid football fans, I was willing to watch the first couple of picks from Radio City Music Hall on ESPN on Thursday night.

But I didn't spend my night sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for some big surprise. Everybody knew that Andrew Luck was going to the Colts and that Robert Griffin III was headed to the Skins. Maybe I wasn't interested because I already had heard the Broncos planned to trade the team's first-round pick long before Mr. Luck put on his newly acquired Indianapolis Colts cap.

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I wasn't interested in watching every moment of the NFL's annual selection process, and there was no reason I couldn't wait for the 10 o'clock news to get the rundown.

But with that said, I have to admit that I'm in the minority. Most sports fans view the NFL draft as an important part of the game and tune in to ESPN or NFL Network every year to watch the spectacle unfold and to listen to the experts tell them what it means.

It was estimated that more than 7 million people tuned in for the 2011 NFL draft, and early figures have indicated that those numbers are up in 2012, with more than 8 million watching the event.

My guess is that if the draft was not interesting television, ESPN probably would find something else to fill the Thursday night spot. The network also seems to have advertisers lining up to pledge support.

In a sports world driven by die-hard fans, the draft is more than just another footnote; it's a moneymaking opportunity.

To the true fans of the game, the draft represents the future and the promise that comes along with top stars.

Sure, the start of the regular season still is a few months away, but the draft is every football fan's chance to peek into the future.

Fans love the promise of the NFL draft. They want to watch the drama unfold on television and to believe that some young college player is going to change the course of their favorite team.

Personally, I can get that in a short newspaper article or a 30-second slot on TV news. But for some people, that simply isn't good enough.

For them, the NFL draft is must-see TV.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209 or email

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