Rick Zamperin: No big stage or bright lights, but virtual NFL draft will be the most-watched ever

The biggest night of the National Football League‘s offseason has finally arrived and sports-starved fans in North America and around the world are waiting with bated breath.

The NFL Draft is a spectacle, and perhaps the greatest non-athletic sports event on the planet, and Thursday night’s opening round may very well be the most-watched draft ever considering how it is going to be delivered to viewers by ESPN and The NFL Network.

As we know, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the NFL and all other sports leagues to not only press pause on their seasons, but as team and league officials adhere to physical distancing guidelines, the draft will be held virtually.

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So we won’t see all the glitz and glamour and bright lights of the big stage, a large gathering of fans, or commissioner Roger Goodell greeting each newly drafted player to the league with a handshake or big hug.

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For his part, Goodell will announce each first-round draft pick — and any trades that may happen Thursday night — from the comfort of the basement at his home in Bronxville, New York.

The NFL held a mock virtual draft earlier this week to try and identify and iron out any curveballs that may arise during the proceedings, and it reportedly suffered a technical glitch with the first pick from the Cincinnati Bengals but it was smooth sailing from then on.

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I’m sure there are some people who want to see a technical train wreck with the draft, especially during the highly publicized opening round.

I certainly think it would be amusing to watch Goodell tap dance around a snafu of epic proportions from his basement because we can all use some comic relief in our lives right now, but I’m more interested in being immersed in the drama that the draft brings and the hope it creates for fans around the league.

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