Philly welcomes the NFL: Cliché it ain't so | Bob Ford
Get ready for the tired references in TV coverage to Rocky. And Santa Claus and snowballs ...
It is considered churlish to complain about the minor inconvenience of having the Ben Franklin Parkway and surrounding streets closed to make room for what the league promises to be the greatest street festival in history, even if there isn't any funnel cake.
So, no more complaints about that. May everyone who comes to town have a great time, thrill to the draft selections, eat a cheesesteak, take a zip-line, deposit your cheesesteak on the revelers beneath you, visit Independence Hall, squeeze through Elfreth's Alley, buy a jersey of your favorite team, park where you like, leave the keys, we're very friendly here. Then, when it's all over and the last hero has been drafted and Mel Kiper is nothing more than a pompadoured puddle on the studio floor, please go home.
Truthfully, however, the worst part for Philadelphians, who will have enough sense to go nowhere near Center City, will be watching the coverage. That's because television likes nothing better than easy material, and, boy, there is no city in the world that provides as brimming a satchel of handy clichés, memes, tropes, and banalities for the grinning, glib idiots of the airwaves as our very own City of Brotherly Love. (And get ready to hear that about a thousand times, too.)
>> Click here for more coverage of the 2017 NFL draft in Philadelphia
To get you ready for what's coming - and perhaps to inspire a drinking game for each mention of the following - let's take a run through the civic themes that will serve as the local backdrop for the NFL draft broadcasts. You know where this has to start, right? Of course, it starts with:
It's been 41 years since the movie was released, but the main reason the draft is centered on the steps of the Art Museum is because Sly Stallone charged up them to finish his morning roadwork, thus encouraging hundred of thousands to do the same dumb thing and, regrettably, most of them make it safely. The NFL is piggybacking on this shamelessly, making the steps into a hero's walk for the players who will trod them to reach their moment of glory and stand next to Roger Goodell, who I'm told will be costumed as Burgess Meredith for the occasion.
Oh, you'll be very tired of Rocky when the weekend is finally finished, but there will be much more to delight you and leave you as warm and softhearted as a on-ramp pretzel. For instance, there will be:
Yes, we'll be transported back to Franklin Field for that delightful December day in 1968 when the Eagles finished the season at 2-12 with a loss to the Vikings and the team decided that putting a substitute Santa in a wretched, ill-fitting suit on a flatbed truck to circle the track at halftime, with the remains of an overnight snowstorm covering the stands, was a good idea. Let me tell you something. If the game had been in Lourdes and there were nothing but nuns in the stands, Santa would have gotten a hatful that day. But it's a story that will have to get told again, and that will lead to more mention of:
Look out, Governor, it will be impossible to avoid that time you bet the guy next to you $20 he couldn't hit the field with a snowball and, son of a gun, it turned out he had quite the arm. This will lead to a discussion of Bounty Bowl and Bounty Bowl II, the latter of which is where everyone from Jimmy Johnson to Verne Lundquist was pelted, and will provide a handy segue to other memorable Eagles moments, like the time Chuck Bednarik broke Frank Gifford, and the time fans cheered when Michael Irvin got hurt, and, well, if you think Donovan isn't going to throw up at the Super Bowl again, you don't know anything about quality programming.
On the positive side, what do we have going for us that will be beaten relentlessly into the ground. That's right. We've got all this stinking:
The NFL draft started here and, for the purposes of this week, that 1936 meeting in a suite of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel is bigger than the Constitutional Convention any time. But, sure, we'll see the Liberty Bell, and Franklin's print shop, and Billy Penn up on City Hall, and someone cue the scullers on the Schuylkill and the horse-drawn carriages in Old City. Blend in Bert Bell, the co-owner who invented the draft as a ploy to make the Eagles competitive (and then didn't sign a single one of his 1936 draft picks) and trace the historical draft timeline all the way from the Ritz to the steps of the Art Museum, with a brief stop at:
That time Philly fans booed drafting McNabb
I mean, what would draft coverage in Philadelphia be without that? It's perfect. Booing a guy who would become the greatest quarterback in franchise history because the team passed over a running back who would rather hit a spliff than a gaping off-tackle hole. That's a day one story line.
Fortunately for all of us, the days will pass, the draft will end, and the stage will be taken down from the steps so that lunkheads from Iowa can charge up them once more. The streets will reopen, the traffic will subside, and there will be other things on television.
If we're really lucky, we can even get them all out of here without seeing T.O. doing sit-ups in the driveway again. Probably not, though. That was a good one.