ACCORDING to rumor, Philadelphia might not host the 2018 NFL Draft. Chances are you’ve either read or heard of, a number of articles that are all based on one reporter’s gut feeling. It’s a gut feeling that’s entirely based on what he could ear-hustle, through his cup against the wall.
Look, it’s early in the process, and other cities are still making proposals of their own. So it’s way too early for anyone to have any real clue regarding which way the NFL is leaning. Besides, while I would love the Draft to come back for 2018 (so we can show off at full strength), it wouldn’t pain me if it didn’t, and for damned good reason.
We set an all-time Draft attendance record with over 250,000 people. That’s a quarter million people showing up to celebrate their love for the NFL’s brand of football. Put in visual perspective, the Linc has a seating capacity of 69,176. The Ben Franklin Parkway handled nearly 4 times that (3.6), with no arrests, no incidents, and not so much as a ticket being written. For those who are new to the subject of the NFL Draft, every prior sentence in this paragraph, isn’t merely impressive, it’s historical.
The NFL by now, has taken note of that fact that outdoor Drafts pack in the most people. Chicago rung the 200,000 bell, and Philly of course cracked 250,000. (And this lucky bastard was there for BOTH.)
Given the history of the Draft, the next place to host will likely see a fall-off in attendance. This is why 2018’s most ardent suitor, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, has made a pitch to use two locations, in two different counties (Denton and Tarrant), nearly 40 miles apart. So 40 miles is about the size of the shadow Philadelphia casts today. (Point of comparison: Broad Street is 12.4 miles, stem to stern.)
Splitting the Draft? Just to chase Philadelphia’s numbers? Can you imagine that? That would be less about the fan’s experience, and more about the wish fulfillment of one man. Since the Draft left New York, it has truly become as much about the fans as it is about the picks. The Drafts in Chicago and Philly showed fans that they matter.
More pointedly, when we celebrated the Draft this year, we ALL (Eagles, giants, Redskins, Raiders, Chief, Steelers, Niners, Broncos, etc.) were together. Brought together in one place for something bigger than all of us. Something which, even in a time of such polarization, still has the power to unite us all. Not in grief like 9/11 did, but in joy as nothing else ever has. At least not in my 41 year lifespan. It was the NFL Draft at it’s most American. It was America at it’s most ideal.
I would love to see the Draft come back for 2018, before moving on to another NFL city. Preferably someplace that won’t split it, and take the event backwards in terms of fan unification. However, as a Philadelphian, I can live with being the home of the Draft’s ultimate expression. Even if it means that we never get to host another one.