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The NFL Draft began Thursday night with QBs Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III going first and second overall, as expected, but the "theme of the evening was wheeling and dealing," according to Bryan Burwell of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. Within an hour of the first round, "eight picks among the first 15 selections traded hands" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 4/27). In S.F., Vittorio Tafur writes the night featured a "dizzying sequence of trades," and teams "appeared to be in a rush all night." Even with eight trades and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's "long hugs with players, picks were fired off every six minutes" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 4/27). The draft "started with Andrew Luck and the theme continued," as it "seemed every team was lucky in getting what it wanted ... even if it meant moving up or down to get it" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/27). In L.A., Sam Farmer writes it was a “no-huddle draft.” The picks were coming "so fast and furious," at one point Goodell "had a backlog of three picks in his suit pocket." The first round ended in three hours, "a tidy made-for-prime-time span." Farmer: "Amazingly, that was an hour slower than the fastest opening round on record, in 1972, when there were six fewer franchises" (L.A. TIMES, 4/27). CBSSPORTS.com’s Mike Freeman wrote, “If you predicted the craziest draft in NFL history, you should be constructing spaceships, not talking defensive tackles.” The NFL in primetime “is as entertaining as any sitcom” as this year’s draft featured "the most top-10 trades in NFL history." The night "got so insane" that Seahawks Owner Paul Allen "was breaking news on Twitter, directly contradicting the NFL's efforts to keep picks secret until they were made." Before Goodell announced the Eagles' pick of DT Fletcher Cox, Allen tweeted, "#12 pick is Cox," and he also "later predicted the Rams' pick." It was, "in effect, a middle finger to his own league." Freeman noted the overall first round "trading craziness was spurred on by the rookie wage scale” (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/27).
BEST. DRAFT. EVER.: ESPN's Mike Greenberg said, "The rookie wage scale ... is the best thing that ever happened to the history of mankind, ever. Last night's NFL Draft -- I don't care what anybody says about it, 'How can you just sit there and watch the draft? There's no game going on,' -- that is the most entertaining night of television of the entire sports year. Trades are coming fast and furious, the picks are coming faster than Goodell can actually get out onto stage to announce them in the early going. Surprises galore, trades galore. It was a remarkable, fabulous night" ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN Radio, 4/27). NFL Network’s Mike Mayock, on the NFL Draft: “It’s really a reality show is what it’s become” (“NFL Draft,” NFL Network, 4/26).
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sat down with ESPN’s Chris Berman prior to the start of the NFL Draft and said the league “hasn’t said we would do anything” in terms of cancelling or suspending the Pro Bowl. Goodell: “What we’ve said is that we’re going thru the process of evaluating the Pro Bowl. We owe our fans more. The quality of that game is not up to NFL standards and we want to make it exciting, we want to make it something the fans love, and we believe that we can do better. We’ve been working with the players and the Players’ Association. We had a meeting recently. Some ideas came out of that that I think are intriguing and we’re going to pursue and work with the players on. But we have to work together to make it better and it has to improve or else we shouldn’t do it.” The “issue is: how fast can we implement the changes that we all believe can improve the quality of the game and if we can do it by next year that’s one objective. If we think we need an extra year to make whatever changes are necessary, we should do that, and if we can’t get to a reasonable conclusion that makes the game better than we should just discontinue the game” ("'12 NFL Draft," ESPN, 4/26).
UP TO THE PLAYERS? ESPN.com's John Clayton wrote the future of the Pro Bowl beyond ’13 “looks bleak” and part of the league’s position on the matter “is bargaining.” Owners and league officials know most players selected to the Pro Bowl “enjoy using the game as a chance to vacation in Hawaii with family and friends.” But the game itself “has become a vacation from real football.” Clayton: “Only the players can save the Pro Bowl. If they do, it will continue.” But for it to continue, the NFLPA “must give the league assurances that fewer players will pull out of the game and provide a plan to improve the quality of play.” For their part, players “will probably ask that Hawaii be a permanent site.” But establishing Hawaii as a permanent site “may not be that easy.” Clayton: “Attendance has been poor. Revenues are down. Costs are higher.” And some government officials in Hawaii “seem unwilling to make the concessions the NFL is seeking.” Clayton wrote he thinks the league “will come up with a deal, but only if the players step up to save the game.” TV networks “still want it” and if the players "feel the same way, they can save it” (ESPN.com, 4/26). In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel wrote despite “decent TV ratings -- the NFL could hold a team breakfast and people would watch -- the game is a total dog and apparently the league is tired of trotting out a bad product.” It is “an impossible equation,” as players “simply don't want to risk getting hurt for a game that means zero, not even for a free trip to Hawaii” (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 4/26).
DON'T GO JUST YET: Bengals QB Andy Dalton said, “It’s something as a kid you watch and think you want to play in. Getting an opportunity this year it was a lot of fun. It kind of gives you a chance to relax and enjoy yourself and you get to be around other guys that you aren’t around all the time” (CINCINNATI.com, 4/26).
NASCAR "needs [Travis] Pastrana to succeed" as he "attracts that 18- to 34-year-old demographic that the sport struggles to reach," according to David Newton of ESPN.com. The action sports star will make his NASCAR debut Friday at the Nationwide Series Virginia 529 College Savings 250 at Richmond Int'l Raceway after "his initial debut was delayed in July when he suffered a broken ankle in a motorcycle fall at the X Games." Newton noted the driver "is as serious about this as anything he has done before." Pastrana said, "Anyone that has been at the top of any sport knows what it takes to get there. I'm willing to put in that work." Pastrana is "the guy who could get the middle-aged father and 16-year-old skateboard son in front of the television to watch a race together." He could be "bigger than Danica Patrick," or he could "be a complete flop." Newton: "But one thing is for sure, Pastrana knows how to sell the sport." Adding Pastrana to the mix in a Nationwide Series that "already has a boost from Patrick and fewer full-time Cup drivers can't help but be a plus for the entire sport." NASCAR Senior VP & CMO Steve Phelps said, "His presence brings his legions of action sports fans to us, helping us grow our fan base now and in the future." Driver Denny Hamlin said Pastrana is "a 'breath of fresh air' type of guy." Hamlin: "He's outgoing. He's obviously not afraid to take chances. Whether it's going to be the big media buzz that Danica brought to the sport, I doubt, but it's overall good for our sport to have someone like him in it" (ESPN.com, 4/26).
START LOW, AIM HIGH: The AP's Hank Kurz Jr. noted while Pastrana is "the winner of 11 X Games gold medals, he has no illusions of instant success in NASCAR." Pastrana's schedule "includes seven races," and his next scheduled race is the May 11 VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway. Driver Jimmie Johnson said, "He's an amazing guy with a huge fan base, and it's going to be good for NASCAR" (AP, 4/26). SPORTING NEWS' Bob Pockrass wrote, "With six NASCAR regional races under his belt, Pastrana has had a tough start to his stock-car career." Pastrana said, "It's just a matter of getting out there, not getting in trouble, but still trying to be aggressive." Pockrass noted with Pastrana's injury, his sponsors "didn't want to commit to 20 races" in '12 and they "opted for seven with the idea of possibly backing Pastrana for more races if he is healthy" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 4/26).
Although Thunder G and NBPA President Derek Fisher is pushing for a review of NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter and the union's business practices, it is the NBPA's lockout strategy that "should concern players the most," according to Dan Wetzel of YAHOO SPORTS. Wetzel wrote if Hunter is "showing favoritism to his kids, well, that may not be an ideal practice, but I think LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and the rest of the players will survive." Wetzel: "There are too many broke former players for the current ones not to realize they deserve and should demand the best from union leaders. ... They deserved to get their clocks cleaned in the lockout" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/26). FOX SPORTS' Jason Whitlock writes as the active NBAers "have become more wealthy, they’ve grown in their belief that their business acumen matches their athletic acumen and they should exercise more control over the union than the executive directors do." Whitlock: "While Hunter's nepotism might not have damaged the union’s bargaining against the owners, I find the practice grossly immature, embarrassingly greedy, indefensible and -- as the son of a former union leader -- sadly predictable." The Hunter-Fisher "feud is a symptom of a much larger problem for the NBA." Whitlock writes with "all due respect" to NBA Commissioner David Stern, the league "lacks viable leadership." Whitlock: "Stern, like Hunter, has stayed in power way too long" (FOXSPORTS.com, 4/27).
F1 is “racing ahead with a planned $2.5 billion initial public offering in Singapore,” according to Steger & Venkat of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Sources on Wednesday said that private-equity firm CVC Capital Partners, which owns 63% of F1, has "hired UBS and Morgan Stanley to join Goldman Sachs Group Inc. as the top banks on the share sale, slated for sometime this quarter.” The F1 offering “could be the biggest listing since Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing raised" $5.5B from "listing his port operator Hutchison Port Holdings Trust in March 2011." Two local banks "with junior roles on the deal, Singapore’s DBS Group Holdings Ltd. and Malaysia’s CIMB Group Holdings Bhd, will help market the deal to the region’s wealthy, sports-mad investors” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/26). Meanwhile, in London, David Tremayne wondered what F1 gained from going to Bahrain for last weekend’s Grand Prix. In public relations terms it was “a spectacular own goal, with global media coverage slamming the perceived greed of those who run the sport ... and reinforcing the view of it as an elitist sport run by and for multi-millionaires who are unconcerned for humanity.” Tremayne noted descriptions "such as 'vile', 'amoral' and 'lacking any moral compass' have been applied to F1 in recent days” (London INDEPENDENT, 4/24).
All-American Heavyweights CEO Michael King is "attempting to convert highly skilled athletes into heavyweight boxers” for his new “development program based in Carson, Calif.," according to Kevin Iole of YAHOO SPORTS. King "envisions reviving the sport and believes the best way to begin is by invigorating the heavyweight division.” He eventually “wants to mine talent in all weight classes, help them to win medals in the Olympics and then see them turn professional.” King has “already invested upwards" of $20M in the project, which he "considers a much better investment" than the one made by Guggenheim Partners which paid $2.15B to purchase the Dodgers. King said that he is “intimately aware of the finances of the major sports" and that the "development costs he's borne will be well worth it if he only develops one top-flight professional, let alone a series of them, as he envisions he will.” King: "At one point, the heavyweight championship was bigger than the Super Bowl. There is opportunity there. When you look at what it would cost me to get in any other investment (in sports) and what kind of an upside I'd have, I don't care what sport you're in, including the NFL, you can't do in one night what you could do with (a major boxing pay-per-view show)." All-American Heavyweights “picks its athletes now from among men who are between 18 and 24, who are at least 6-feet-3 inches and who weigh more than 230 pounds.” They pay the fighters “a stipend and try to develop them.” Iole wrote it is “not all altruistic -- he plans to make money by promoting their big fights -- but he also knows if he can revive the sport, he'll be remembered forever” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/25).