Drafty In Here

I’ve got to hand it to the NFL in one respect. They’ve somehow managed to persuade the world that their draft is an event worth watching. All three days and seven rounds. Over two hundred selections.

If it was just the first round, I could almost understand it. That’s where the big name players, the ones capable of improving a team all by themselves, get selected. (And in the NFL, unlike MLB, there aren’t any minor leagues. The players selected this month will be on the field in preseason games come August. That’s a powerful motivator: it’s not “Wait until next year,” it’s “Wait until this year.”)

Just to be clear here, I didn’t see much of it, only a little bit in the middle of the first round, and the last few players of the final round. Nor was it by choice: it was on the break room TV when I was eating lunch.

Which is kind of my point, I suppose. My co-workers were riveted to the set. Okay, maybe not riveted, but at least stapled.

And I don’t get it. How does the NFL convince fans to keep watching something that moves only slightly faster than a forty-year old designated hitter?

It’s not the “Mr. Irrelevant” award. (Yes, really. There’s an award for the last player picked.) If that was all people cared about, they’d watch the first round, then tune out until the end of the seventh round.

I can’t believe a significant audience really believes a fifth round pick will be so important to their team’s performance that they’ll watch the other thirty-one teams make their selections–at least two hours in the later rounds and up to five hours in the first round–just so they can cheer for ten seconds.

Amazingly, it’s not done with the standard attention-getters. Very few skimpily dressed women (or men, for that matter), not much thundering rock music, no booze or other drugs outside of the same commercials running everywhere.

It’s not even schadenfreude, neither taking pleasure in seeing who doesn’t get picked (you could do that by watching just the last round) or in the horrible choices made by your opponents (because you don’t know they’re any worse than your team’s picks–and half the time you were probably hoping they’d remain available long enough for your team to grab them with their next pick.)

It’s not even the drama of the situation. Commentators speculating in voice-over about who’s going to get picked while the screen shows a few people in suits leaning over computers and talking quietly isn’t drama. Maybe it’s exciting the first two or three times, but after twelve hours over two days, it’s old hat.

How do they do it?

And how do we convince them to put the same level of effort and attention to detail to work on protecting the players’ health after the draft?


Remember Aaron Hernandez?

(No, it’s still not raining around here, but it is overcast and the temperature is only in the high sixties, so, close enough. Decline of civilization, here we come.)

A quick memory refresher for anyone who doesn’t want to read the post I linked up there: Aaron Hernandez was a football player. In June of 2013, he was charged with murder. Immediately after his arrest, before the charges were announced, his team, the New England Patriots, terminated his contract, removed as much evidence that he had ever been on the team as they could, and issued a statement that essentially says “He was arrested, so getting rid of him is the right thing to do.”

Last month, he was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Clearly, this shows that the Patriots’ actions were fully justified. Being accused of a crime is clear evidence of guilt, right? And no morally-upright person would want to be in any way associated with such a villain, right?

Apparently the Patriots’ views are more nuanced than that.

In January of 2015, the Patriots and their star quarterback, Tom Brady, were accused of using under-inflated footballs. Let’s be clear: using a football softer than the required standard might give you a competitive advantage. I doubt anyone but the most rabid football fan would consider it in any way equivalent to murder. In brief, it’s an ethical violation, but not a federal offense.

But in Hernandez’ case, the Patriots framed his immediate firing, well before his guilt was established, as an ethical decision. So when Brady was accused of cheating, shouldn’t they have immediately terminated his contract, removed all Brady-related merchandise from the team store, and considered themselves well-shut of another villain?

Apparently not. They chose to support Brady and backed his denial of any involvement in the scandal–or even that there was a scandal.

The NFL completed its investigation earlier this month. They found Brady guilty of (my paraphrase) requesting and using under-inflated footballs. He was suspended without pay for the first four games of the season. They also identified two non-playing employees of the Patriots organization, John Jastremski and James McNally, as the people who actually let air out of the balls. The Patriots voluntarily suspended both men without pay indefinitely, and will only reinstate them if the NFL tells them to.

So Brady has been officially found morally deficient. Have the Patriots cut him loose yet? Don’t be silly. They’ve denied the validity of the evidence that Brady was involved, denied that the balls were too soft, and are assisting Brady in his appeal. McNally and Jastremski apparently don’t qualify for an appeal.

So what’s the difference between a Brady–who committed his crimes on the job–and a Hernandez, whose illegal actions were carried out when he was off duty? It can’t just be the nature of the crime: remember that the Patriots severed ties with Hernandez before the reason for his arrest was announced. Nor can we attribute it all to the players’ value to the team: Hernandez didn’t have Brady’s long record as a star, but in his three seasons with the Patriots, he produced star-quality statistics–good enough for the Patriots to give him the second-largest contract extension in NFL history.

Is it completely unreasonable of me to suspect that the key difference is that Brady is white and Hernandez is not? (Hint: I haven’t used the word “thug”, but that bastion of journalistic integrity Rolling Stone did.)


How refreshingly meta. The fourth-most popular search on Google yesterday was “Google Drive”.

That’s right: The Internet swarmed to Google in an effort to confirm that Google Drive was down.

It’s actually not as silly an idea as it sounds at first blush–Google’s various services are largely independent of each other. Google even hosts its own service status page. According to the status page, yesterday’s outage lasted five and a half hours: more than half of the business day for those on the West Coast. Pretty significant for heavy users of Google Drive and Google Docs.

So checking Google for information on their own outages isn’t crazy, but I still find it amusing that it was so popular a reaction to the outage that it made Number Four on the daily list of searches.

I have a sneaking suspicion that a significant number of those 200,000+ searches were from people trying to find ways to get their work done without their documents, spreadsheets, and word processors.

I also suspect that a fair amount of regular work isn’t getting done today as teams rush to update their disaster recover plans.

Remember, folks: no cloud services are 100% reliable. Always have a Plan B. Keep a local copy of all business-critical, cloud-based documents–and local tools to open them!

Keeping life in perspective, though, it’s instructive to note that football is still much more important to Americans than some weirdo technical thing. “NFL” racked up over a million searches yesterday, five times as many as “Google Drive”. Add in “Green Bay Packers,” “Cleveland Browns,” “Peyton Manning,” “Baltimore Ravens,” “Arizona Cardinals,” “New Orleans Saints,” “Minnesota Vikings,” and “Nfl.com” and we’re left with two conclusions: Google could be much more aggressive about consolidating search results and nobody was getting any work done yesterday.

I am pleased to see Jonas Salk at Number Two on the search list. It’s a nice change from the usual round of sex, celebrities, and sports that usually dominate the rankings. On the other hand, it’s a little depressing to realize that more than half a million searchers apparently had no idea who Salk was.

Well, if one of those 500,000+ people was inspired to make sure his vaccinations are up to date, it’s a victory. With anti-vaccination hysteria on the rise, we need all the help we can get.

Hey, if someone comes up with a vaccine for Ebola, will Robert Kennedy, Jenny McCarthy, Representative Bill Posey, and Donald Trump take their shots?

Rushing To Judgement

Have any of you been following the Aaron Hernandez story? For those of you who have not, a quick summary: Hernandez was, until last week, a player for the New England Patriots (hint for those of you who are totally unaware of American sports: the Patriots are a professional football team–that’s American-style football, not soccer). This week he is in jail, charged with murder and several crimes related to possession of weapons.

Hernandez was arrested at approximately 9 am on Wednesday, 26 June. By 10:30 am, the Patriots had terminated his contract and removed all merchandise with his name on it from the team store. The charges were not announced until almost 3 pm. In other words, the team cut him loose four hours before anyone officially knew what he was accused of.

Let me emphasize here that Hernandez has not been convicted–news reports are suggesting that his trial may not even begin until next year.

After the Patriots fired Hernandez, the National Football League warned all of the other teams that they were reviewing the case and considering whether Hernandez should be suspended or otherwise penalized. In other words, “Hire at your own risk because we’re going to hold our own trial before the official one”.

Hernandez now has no job and no prospect of finding one in his field. Let’s hope for his sake that he’s got some serious savings, because he’s going to need it to hire a good lawyer.

Before anyone says anything, yes, I’m aware that there is apparently a lot of evidence against him. Remember that under the American legal system, the accused has the benefit of a presumption of innocence; the accuser has to prove his guilt. Until such time as the case comes to trial and his guilt is proven to a jury, he is considered to be innocent and entitled to the best representation he can find to defend himself. I don’t know what all the evidence is, and so I can’t argue that holding him without bail is unjustified. But the Patriots don’t know what all the evidence is either. By letting him go–kicking him out the door, in fact–they’re sending a clear message that they believe him to be guilty.

By terminating his contract and warning other teams against signing him, the Patriots and the NFL have seriously limited his options. Put yourself in Hernandez’ place: you’ve been arrested for a crime, and before you even hear the charges against you, your employer fires you and blacklists you through your industry. Even if it’s legal (because you had been employed on an “at will” basis that allows your employer to release you at any time for any reason), you’re going to be (a) pissed off and (b) screwed. So is Hernandez. And even if he’s found innocent, he’ll have been out of football for over a year: that’s not going to help his skills or increase his desirability for another team.

This is purely a PR move by the team and the league, not wanting to be associated with a possible murderer. Understandable, certainly, but it’s going to put them in a really uncomfortable position if he’s found innocent. What kind of apology can they make that would clear that PR nightmare?

What if they had taken a different approach: stand behind him, make statements to the effect of “innocent until proven guilty”, “evaluate the situation as it unfolds”, and “hope the accusations prove unfounded”? They might take a small PR hit for weasel-wording, but it keeps their options open: if he’s found guilty, then they cut him loose; if not, they welcome him back and bask in the good PR. And in the meantime, cynically-speaking, it wouldn’t hurt their bottom line. Season ticket sales aren’t going to be affected much, especially given the Patriot’s place as a perennial front-runner–and the prices that jerseys with his name on them are bringing on eBay suggest that keeping his gear in the store would make up most of what little shortfall there might have been.

Given the choices the Patriots and the NFL had, there really wasn’t a good option, but IMNSHO, they picked the worst of evils instead of the lesser.