What we seek, what we crave, are those slivers of everyday that approximate normalcy. Sometimes, it’s the first few seconds of consciousness after the alarm clock shatters the still of morning, and for a couple of stolen moments it feels like a regular work day, the shower-shave-dress-coffee-muffin-train-subway routine about to kick in.
Sometimes, it is a meal arriving from a favored local restaurant, and the familiar taste of the veal parmesan/fajitas/spicy tuna rolls that take you inside those shuttered places, at least for as long as you close your eyes. Sometimes it is an all-too-rare sunny day, sharing a beer with neighbors on patios flanking either side of the backyard fence.
The NFL draft begins Thursday night, and will last for three days, and there has been good, healthy debate on either side of the issue whether this is appropriate or not, whether the NFL’s insistence on proceeding as business-as-usual isn’t in truth just a grotesque example of a tone-deaf league having little regard for the larger world around it.
I say: Thank goodness for the NFL draft.
I say: Thank goodness that NFL draft experts continue to yammer on — on the radio, on television, on social media, sometimes in our dreams if we listen/watch/read too much. Thank goodness for my colleagues who have stuffed the pages of this newspaper for weeks with draft stories, page after page of them; reading mock drafts and team analyses and historical look-backs of the good/bad/ugly of past Jets and Giants seasons provide those very moments of normalcy we were talking about earlier.
It’s only later, when out of habit you seek out a Yankees game story, or a column killing the Knicks, or the NHL box scores, when you have the same reaction you have a minute or two after the alarm bell sounds, after “I Got You, Babe” comes tumbling out of your clock radio:
But these three days and three nights of the draft will be an extended buffer for many of us. In a world where nothing is as it was, or as we want it to be — TV series were forced to end without real-life cliffhanger finales, weddings/proms/graduations and have all been postponed, nobody quite knows when they’ll feel right going to a concert again — this is as it always was, and as it always is.
There will be no crazed Vegas audience cheering on the picks. There will be no glory walks to the stage to shake Roger Goodell’s hand and display team jerseys. There will be no green-room anxiety shots. There will be no home-team watch parties. Goodell will make the announcements in the basement of his Bronxville home, and hope for the best, hope the feeds from the various team outposts won’t break down so he won’t have to summon the neighbor’s kid to the phone, to talk him through reconnecting, the way we do when our Netflix or Hulu or WiFi goes on the fritz.
But it will still feel awfully normal. The good picks. The bad picks. The wall-to-wall analysis. The four no-names the Patriots pick who we’ll forget about until they line up in the AFC Championship next January. All of it.
There are no relief pitchers to boo, no hockey playoff games to elevate our blood pressure. We cannot rise as one to root against the Lakers, as we would surely do in other years. We have not seen Gerrit Cole or Jacob deGrom throw a baseball in a long, long time. We may never know if the Rangers would finally have passed the Islanders in the standings. Neither Aaron Boone nor Luis Rojas have been fired yet by the talk-radio jury.
What we do have is the draft. We have football talk. We have Jamal Adams holding the souls of Jets fans hostage, and those same fans bracing for another draft-day adventure. We have Giants fans holding their breath as they ponder the fertile imagination of Dave Gettleman, who always delivers a few draft-day nuggets to ponder and marinate.
It is not everything. Maybe it’s not enough. Maybe it’s not even close. But it’s something.
And we have surely earned moments like these, when we are all Andy Dufresne in “Shawshank Redemption,” allowing ourselves a sly smile of satisfaction after securing his fellow inmates a bucket of icy cold Bohemian-style beer on the second-to-last day of their job tarring the plate factory roof in the spring of ’49.
For a second, we can sit with the sun on our shoulders and feel free.
As Andy’s friend, Red, says, “I think he did it just to feel normal again. If only for a short while.”