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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

12 Years Later It's Still Hilarious

Watching the NFL Draft on television, as I have done several times, is really inexcusable.

It takes place in the middle of Spring, so the weather is usually pretty good. There is almost never any real drama, with the relentless stream of mock drafts leading up to the event usually accurately predicting the genreal order of selctions. There is also the drudgery of the 15 minute span between each pick. Can't these NFL execs wuss out on potential trades in five or ten minutes? Do they really need a quarter of an hour to pick a player whom they have literally spent months scouting, intetrviewing, working out, and projecting in their own mocks?

And of course, worst of all, there is the insufferable blowholeitude of broadcast host Chris Berman, whose status as America's Most Intolerable Person really deserves its own post. Or even its own blog.

But there was a brief moment of television gold supplied by the NFL Draft. It happened in 1994 and it has become football's equivalent to Lloyd Bentsen slamming Vice President Dan Quayle with the "You're no Jack Kennedy" line.

It began following the Indianpolis Colts' selection of Nebraska linebacker Trev Alberts with the fifth overall pick. Young draft guru upstart Mel Kiper, Jr. criticized the selection, explaining, "To me, this was a mistake. You cannot go with Jim Harbaugh and pass up Trent Dilfer. Forget it. That's why the Colts are the laughingstock of the league year-in and year-out" (20 monthls later, Harbaugh led the Colts to within one tipped pass of the Super Bowl.)

That comment didn't sit well with Colts executive Bill Tobin, who appeared shortly after Kiper and, while holding a glass of either water, 7-Up, or Tanqueray, derisively snapped,"Who in the hell is Mel Kiper, anyway? He didn't play college or pro football. I don't know about high school, and to my knowledge he's never put on a jock strap, so all of a sudden he's an expert? Mel Kiper has no more credentials to do what he's doing than my neighbor, and my neighbor's a postman."

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

The difference is Bentsen turned out to be a loser while Tobin got complete revenge over that fool.

Bruce Ciskie said...

I don't know that I'd say that Tobin got any semblance of revenge.

After all, Trev Alberts has already worked for two different TV networks, and Trent Dilfer is still playing.

Just sayin'.

IC said...

I don't think Tobin needed to get revenge.

He zinged Kiper pretty thoroughly in his initial response, resulting in the draft guru's on-air expression, which was part Dan Quayle '88 debate and part Sissy Spacek's Carrie at the end of prom.

Re. Alberts vs. Dilfer: Alberts' NFL career was over almost as soon as it began due to injuries. Dilfer has hung around a long time and did QB a Super Bowl winner, but could anyone credibly claim that his play has warranted a fifth overall pick in the draft?

Kyle King said...

Ordinarily, I'm with you fellows, but, on this one, we will have to agree to disagree.

While I generally agree with most of the blogosphere's criticisms of E.S.P.N. (particularly L.D.'s), I enjoy Chris Berman's schtick. Boomer is one of those guys like Rush Limbaugh, Howard Stern, or Lee Corso . . . as soon as you stop taking him seriously and realize he's a character playing the part of an on-air persona, he's actually quite entertaining.

As a Georgia fan, I belong to one of the two groups of people who actually like Trev Alberts (Nebraska fans being the other group), but I tend to think Mel Kiper got the better of the argument in the end.

If the Colts get credit for the fact that Jim Harbaugh got them one tipped pass away from the Super Bowl, surely Kiper deserves credit for the fact that Trent Dilfer won a Super Bowl.

That is the goal of an N.F.L. franchise, right? If I say, "I'd draft Player A" and you say, "I'd draft Player B" and, ten years later, we look back and see that Player B won a Super Bowl and Player A didn't, then you won the argument, regardless of how many zingers I managed to sling at you in the interim.

Your comparison to the 1988 vice presidential debate was right on the mark. Everyone remembers Lloyd Bentsen's comment because it was the snappy one-liner.

What folks forget is that Dan Quayle's point---that he had more extensive legislative experience than John F. Kennedy had when running for president in 1960---was precisely correct. Jack Kennedy never got a piece of legislation passed into law while in Congress (as compared to Quayle, who co-authored the bipartisan Job Partnership Training Act with J.F.K.'s brother, Ted) and, for all the romanticism surrounding Jack Kennedy since (and because of) his death, the fact is that his presidency was remarkably bereft of accomplishment.

Accordingly, the comparison of Kiper and the Colts to Bentsen and Quayle hit the nail on the head. In each case, one guy made a memorable put-down . . . and the other guy had an actual point.

IC said...

Kyle:

I'm glad you chimed in on this one, as I always enjoy reading your thoughts.

However...

Re. Berman:
I used to like him and I've tried--lord how I have tried--to not take him seriously as you suggest. This strategy has worked for me with Corso and Stern, but not Berman. I think the main reason for this is that he takes himself seriously. Whenever something "serious" happens (death, injury, arrest, Randy Moss pretending to wipe his ass on a Lambeau Field goalpost) Berman always has this obnoxious delivery, as if all of us sports fans are just waiting to be comforted by his Cronkite-like wisdom.

Another reason to loathe Berman is his insistence on repeatedly showing that clip of him catching a pass at a Tampa practice in the late 80s. We get it, Chris. You had more hair then. And you were thinner. And Tampa's jerseys were funny looking.

Finally, my wife never complains about me watching sports or highlights with the sole exception of when Berman is announcing or narrating. I don't even think she knows who he is, but rather she has a visceral reaction to his self-absorbed and increasingly loud bluster.

Whooo. I feel much better.

Re. Kiper-Dilfer/Tobin-Alberts:
I don't necessarily think Tobin "wins" this one, but I disagree that Kiper did in any meaningful way either.

It's impossible to really evaluate Alberts' pro career because of how it was cut so short by injuries. I don't think Alberts was injury-prone before coming to the Colts so Tobin can't be criticized for that. The ultimate failure of the pick is the result of bad luck.

Dilfer on the other hand has had a very long career, and, overall a good one. But he has been a journeyman--not what one would expect from a top 10 draft pick. He was pretty much a bust in Tampa, which did draft him in '94. True he did win a Super Bowl. But while it would be unfair to say that Baltimore won that championship in spite of Dilfer, it would also be inaccurate to say that the Ravens won it because of him.

I also disagree with the "Player A/Player B" logic from your comment. Would I be wrong to conclude that based on this thinking, Dilfer is somehow better than Dan Marino or Peyton Manning because he has a championship? Of course the latter two QBs would have also won titles with that Ravens team but Dilfer would have done little/nothing with the Marino-era Dolphins or the recent Colts teams.

Re. Kennedy-Quayle:
Quayle probably did take more of a beating than he deserved (if anyone warrants criticism for his real or percieved failings it's Bush 41, who picked him for veep) and technically he did have similar legislative experience to JFK.

However, JFK's presidency was not "remarkably bereft of accomplishment." In the less than three years he had in office, JFK led America's greatest Cold War victory with his successful handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis. He also was--despite serious reluctance borne of political calculation-- a powerful catalyst for the civil rights movement by most notably forcing Alabama Governor George Wallace to step away from the schoolhouse door and admit two qualified students to the University of Alabama. Listen to Kennedy's speech following this incident found at americanrhetoric.com, remember that it was 1963 when it was made, and JFK's influence on civil rights becomes a lot clearer.

"No one has been barred on account of his race from fighting or dying for America--there are not 'white' or 'colored' signs on the foxholes or graveyards of battle." JFK-1963

Kyle King said...

Where the Cuban Missile Crisis is concerned, we shall have to agree to disagree.

I consider that resolution one of the most shameful acts of capitulation in American history, one which left (and still leaves) this country without a civil defense system.

Even if we give John Kennedy credit for it, though, his failure to provide air support at the Bay of Pigs is what got us into that mess in the first place, so, at best, he recovered his own fumble.

By the way, does anyone seriously doubt that Fidel Castro has had missiles pointed at Florida for the last 40 years?

Leaving aside the issue of the proper sphere of the authority of the federal courts (which is a much more open question than we now suppose), I will give partial credit on the integration of the University of Alabama. Racial segregation was an ugly expression of prejudice and a wrongheaded public policy that should have been ended and I am glad it was cast by the wayside.

However, Kennedy was merely continuing the policy adopted by Dwight Eisenhower at Little Rock; it is highly doubtful that as pragmatic a political coward as J.F.K.---who was, in every respect, the Bill Clinton of his day---would have had the guts to have been the one to set, rather than follow, such a precedent.

Even if we give him full credit for Alabama, though, the fact is that he was unable to get a civil rights bill through Congress; it took the political skill of Lyndon Johnson---the man Kennedy beat for the 1960 Democratic nomination, thereby probably delaying the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts---to do that.

We can pine away for Camelot all we like, but, where the rubber meets the road, Kennedy is all style and little substance.

Kyle King said...

Sorry . . . didn't mean to go on like that, but the cult of personality surrounding J.F.K. (whose brother, Bobby, I have considerable respect for) is one of my pet peeves and, as someone who made the mistake of getting his undergraduate degree in political science, I know too much American political history for my own good.

Anyway, the immediate point was that Dan Quayle had accomplished a lot more when he was running for vice president in 1988 than Jack Kennedy had when he was running for president in 1960 and the larger point was that the evidence doesn't support the contention that Mel Kiper, Jr., lost that argument, even if you're right that the evidence doesn't support the contention that he won it, either. It's a memorable piece of footage, but it's meaningless with respect to football.

Beyond that, hey, it's just the N.F.L. It's hardly worth arguing about, right?

Kyle King said...

F.Y.I., here's my final word upon the subject. Enjoy.