For those on the spectrum of conspiracy theoreticians, there’s one going around this week that the NFL has squeezed the Rams to wait until Thursday evening — when they’re officially on the clock at the 2016 Draft in Chicago — to reveal who they’ve decided to pick with the No. 1 overall choice.
Don’t spoil the suspense for ESPN and the NFL Network, both of whom air the draft that officially starts at 5 p.m., or prime-time in the East. When it’s up against “The Big Bang Theory.”
It became a topic, interestingly enough, on ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption” on Monday. Co-host Michael Wilbon got a little squirmy about it — as he should. He’s now asked to comment about whether the company he works for about whether it should comply to this request.
“Are we sure the NFL asked this, or did the TV networks ask it?” he responded.
Co-host Tony Kornheiser seemed a lot more subdued about it. It’s a TV show, he rationalized. He was fine with it.
“You want to get higher ratings,” he said, “You get higher ratings if there is a certain amount of suspense … If there is going to be a team that would help to create drama to make ratings, it would be a team in Los Angeles. I am OK with it, I don’t think it is bad.”
We’re bothered by the assumption that the league can so easily manipulate a network, even its own. Yet anyone with a true journalistic sense of duty would take this as a challenge to dig deeper through all the obfuscation. Produce a nugget of information prior to when it’s officially announced — a no-doubt true find. Perhaps it would then be just a matter of whether his editors would allow it to get on the air before the pick.
You could go with the Stephen A. Smith method and just guess loudly, with your chances here appearing to be 50/50, and wait for the outcome.
With that, ESPN’s 37th year of coverage begins officially with a “draft countdown” from 4-5 p.m. Thursday and the first round scheduled from 5-8:30 p.m. It’s a production that includes 27 cameras to capture Chris Berman, Mel Kiper Jr., Jon Gruden, new “NFL Front Office Insider” Louis Riddick, reporter Adam Scherfter, Suzy Kolber and a host of others.
Trey Wingo and Todd McShay join Kiper, Riddick and Schefter for coverage of rounds two and three (Friday at 4 p.m.) and rounds four to seven (Saturday, 9 a.m.)
The Culver City-based NFL Network boasts of more than 70 hours of live coverage during the week that started last Sunday. Rich Eisen and Mike Mayock are the point men, with Charles Davis, Daniel Jeremiah, Michael Irvin, Deion Sanders, Kurt Warner, Michael Robinson, Steve Mariucci, Brian Billick, Ian Rapoport, Melissa Stark and Rhett Lewis. Their “red carpet” special starts Thursday at 3 p.m.
At NFL.com, Matt “Money” Smith anchors the coverage starting at 5 p.m. Steve Wyche is the NFL Network reporter covering the Rams’ draft party at LA Live.
== As for Chris Mortensen, continuing a second round of intense treatment in Houston for Stage IV throat cancer since January, and about to miss ESPN’s coverage of the NFL Draft this weekend for the first time in 25 years.
The 64-year-old told us in a recent email that speaking right now “is somewhat painful, although I have numbing med for it. Radiation.”
He said he has at least another month of treatment to go.
“The draft was always my top calendar date,” he wrote. “It’s the first time I appeared (thank you, Fred Gaudelli) on ESPN in 1991. Can’t believe I’m going to miss it, though I am pretty wired through the magic of text messaging.”
Mortensen, a North Torrance High grad and El Camino College alum, covered high school sports and the Dodgers for the Daily Breeze before leaving to the Atlanta Journal and Constitution in 1983. We tried several times this week to tackle a Q-and-A about the draft and how he might be participating, but additional treatments precluded him from being up for it.
Prayers continued as we keep him, as well as TNT side reporter and SI cover story subject Craig Sager, in our thoughts. Continue reading