To anyone who has felt or will feel slighted by my priorities at this time of year, I apologize.
I’ve skipped parties and burned vacation days. I’ve flat-out told people that I will never be able to make other plans with them the last Thursday, Friday and Saturday of each April.
The NFL draft comes first.
See, I’ve been attending the draft since I was in college. That first year, my good friend and I waited in a line that stretched for blocks by the time we arrived at just after 4:30 a.m. on a Saturday — back when the NFL draft was still a two-day affair.
I’m not a morning person by any stretch, and to wait roughly six hours in an increasingly cramped line that by the end most closely resembled a cattle car wasn’t my ideal Saturday morning.
But it was totally worth it for me to sit with fans of all teams who flock to New York and catch a glimpse of the future.
The draft is the single-most hopeful time of year for NFL fans. There’s no way to truly lose. Even a pick perceived to be a bad selection can surprise you.
I remember a few years back when my favorite team — and I’ll keep my affiliation to myself — used its top pick on a player I thought would be a total bust. I was convinced he would fail and the team would be set back years. I booed mercilessly. I customized a T-shirt mocking the pick.
But I was wrong about him. He’s a star now, and all I did was lose my voice for my favorite weekend of the year. I’ll be wearing his jersey at Radio City Music Hall Thursday night.
But even on the “bad” days, the draft is a blast. I get to see my old friends that are, like me, the last of the Day 2 Die Hards, a program the NFL ended years ago that enabled fans who stuck around for the entire final day of the draft to have tickets to the next year’s draft mailed to them in advance. The remaining Die Hards were grandfathered in. No more cattle cars for us.
The only stipulation is that we must stay for the entire final day of the draft, a marathon day that will see 157 names announced, to stay in the program. I intend to be there for all of them this year and beyond.
Sorry if that makes me miss your birthday.
Scott Fontana, amNY’s sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com