You’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it twice, and now I am going to tell you for a third time: The 2017 NFL draft in Philadelphia was absolutely insane. But please, do not take my word for it, I was attending the draft as a first time ever credentialed media member, and a lifelong Philadelphia resident/sports fan. Take it from twitter accounts of people who have more than 52 followers (I actually gained 6 over the weekend by covering the draft), people who are not from Philadelphia, and people who have spent lifelong careers covering NFL drafts.
— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) April 28, 2017
Props to the people of Philadelphia. That's how to host a draft. No city has injected that much energy, electricity, excitement into draft.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 30, 2017
Philly: You absolutely KILLED it. Best draft experience ever. The standard has been set for every future draft city to try and match 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼
— trey wingo (@wingoz) April 29, 2017
So what exactly made the 2017 NFL draft such a raucous experience? For starters, it was the first ever NFL draft held outside. Although the weather made me sweat in places I did not know existed, Philadelphia truly lucked out with the clear skies. Having a draft outdoors is obviously an enormous risk, especially this time of year when thunderstorms are in peak affect. The risk certainly paid off as the sunny skies provided a sweaty yet safe environment for those in attendance.
One of several reasons fans were equal parts vibrant and perspiring were due to all the personal interactive experiences the draft provided. The overall venue felt like a love child between the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Six Flags. Everywhere I turned there was a line for one fan experience or another that stretched longer than the eye could see. There was zip lining, an official 40- yard dash set up, a field goal kicking station, a hail marry throwing station, a makeshift uniform for all 32 respective teams where fans could put their heads atop the jerseys (one Eagles fan infamously defiled the Cowboys station with his rear end), endless radio shows, virtual reality experiences, and much more.
The lines for each experience were equally packed with the 200,000 dispersed fans in attendance. However, there was no longer line than the one at the Lombardi Trophy station. Using my media credential to hop to the front of the line like a Flash Pass at Six Flags (I felt equal parts cool and guilty for doing this), I was able to overlook the gigantic cluster of green jerseys waiting to see the coveted Super Bowl Trophy.
It was by far the longest line I have ever seen. I can’t say I blame Eagles fans for waiting hours in line to see a trophy, especially the older fans, as it is quite possibly the closest Philadelphia may ever come to having that trophy in our city.
When it was finally time for the draft to begin, the fans were so loud I was having trouble concentrating on the tweets I was sending out for WBCB. There was a medley of “Dallas Sucks” chants, “Let’s go Eagles” and the Eagles’ infamous fight song. All were sung, chanted, and shouted a decibel level I did not know existed. However there was no louder moment throughout the entire weekend, maybe no louder moment since the Phillies won the world series in 2008, than when Roger Goodell first took the podium.
This had been the first time the City of Brotherly Love hosted the NFL draft since 1960, and Philadelphians sure made up for lost time. I was sitting about 15 rows away from the stage (have I mentioned I was credentialed?), and I legitimately could not hear the commissioner speak. The boos were that loud. Goodell tried to pursue onward with his opening remarks, but it was clear the boos were affecting him. Goodell getting visibly flustered and rattled felt like a much-deserved win for the Philadelphia fans who have suffered through 5 straight years of mediocre sports teams.
I’m unsure if I have failed to mention this or not, but I was in fact credentialed for this legendary event. Before I departed for the draft, I humbly requested advice from the far more experienced media members at WBCB. A consistent theme from all those I asked was to act like I belong. I heard it dozens of times, and was sure to implement their advice upon arriving at the media center. The second I walked through the refreshingly air conditioned doors of the media pavilion and spotted four different flavors of endless free cheesecake, the advice my experienced co-workers installed upon me was no where to be found. I instantly took out my phone and snapped various pictures of the dessert table, ate two pieces of the cake faster than Derek Barnett ran his 40-yard dash, and had to resist the urge to pack a couple pieces of the free cake in my backpack.
I quickly realized I had lost my wits, and vowed to remain cool from that point on. I also learned to charge my phone before showing up to an event where I was required to primarily be on my phone, and learned to wear more comfortable shoes. My dress shoes did not impress anyone, and certainly did not impress my blister ridden feet.
The 2017 NFL draft has set the bar for all future drafts to come. It perfectly embodied the passionate and festive nature of the city of Philadelphia. If my credential is not revoked due to the cheesecake love affair incident, I will be eager to see how next year’s city will even begin attempting to match Philadelphia’s successful hosting efforts.