Draft Day Special: An ESPN web gem… before Web Gems

On April 28, 1981, the NFL Draft kicked off in dubious fashion.

Commissioner Pete Rozelle was stuck in an elevator trying to get to the grand ballroom of a  New York City Sheraton hotel.

(“Grand” appears to me to be stretching it a bit.  The ceilings were low, the lighting terrible and the fans they had in attendance looked like they were penned in on some rickety bleachers against the wall.)

Then Rozelle, perched on a small platform in front of a rather shabby-looking NFL banner, needed help getting his microphone to work trying to announce the first pick.  That was George Rogers going to the Saints.

L.T. was the second choice.

ESPN was not even two years old, and with very few on-screen graphics tried to tell the tale (videos below).

If you scroll to about seven minutes into part one, I think Chris Berman is trying to cue himself off a television in that bar.

Television has come a long way in the last 21 years.  That is, of course, the understatement of the year.

By the way, the 1981 Draft is notable for producing, in addition to Lawrence Taylor, Hall of Famers Ronnie Lott, Mike Singletary, Howie Long, among others.

(Tip of my Dallas Cowboys hat to Ed Sherman of The Sherman Report for his post.)

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What I’m Reading This Week (to 1/28)

(A catchup to a series I started late last year.  It’s been an extraordinarily busy few weeks, as you might imagine, but here are some links you might like.  There are others I’ve found, but will mention them in some posts this week.)

1. Lord Grantham barks, “Be ashamed!”

My colleague Paul Balcerak posted an article from Salon.com which delves into the seedy underworld of purveyors and traffickers of illegally distributed episodes of…

“Downton Abbey”.

The article explains the international dilemma as “Downton” runs on British broadcaster ITV many weeks before it airs on PBS.

Some of those who just can’t wait are taking to the Internet, apparently easily finding the most recent episodes and getting way ahead of their fellow Americans.

The downloaders are completely in the wrong.  Legally and morally.

Though, as a fan of the series, I understand the temptation.  It’s a great work, and I’m glad I don’t work Mondays as I work on Sunday nights when it airs here.

It’s waiting for me on my DVR when I get home.  And Hugh Bonneville — aka Lord Grantham — says that’s exactly where it should be.

Now, those of you who are getting your “torrent” of “Downton” ahead of the rest of us, I ask you:

As a kid, did you also sneak a peek under the wrapping paper on your Christmas presents?

All right, maybe that’s an unfair question.  I did once or twice too.

Read: “Is it OK to steal ‘Downton Abbey”?’ on Salon.com

2. How to cheat on your just-for-fun-and-absolutely-legal Super Bowl squares game

If your co-workers see this article printed out on your desk, you probably aren’t going to weasel your way out of their death-ray stares.

But perhaps by then, you’ll already have locked down your squares!

The Saturday Wall Street Journal did some number-crunching and came up with something that’s pretty obvious to any football fan:

Zero and zero is a really good choice in a squares game (also interestingly called a “box pool.”)

Threes and sevens are also good.  But if those are taken, you have some more obscure choices that are better than others.

And the WSJ admonishes you: “Stay away from the fives”.

Read “How to cheat in the Super Bowl office pool*” on WSJ.com

Mr. Brady looks like he approves.

3. I’ll take an aisle seat, please.

A spot between two 18,000 foot mountains in the Himalayas sounds like an incredible place to visit.

However, I suggest the travel agent not use the saying: “Getting there is half the fun.”

Business Insider mentions the Paro Airport in Bhutan has such a challenging approach that it’s one of the “most dangerous airports in the world.”

Read: “There are only 8 pilots in the world that are qualified to fly to this airport” on Business Insider

And the YouTube video of the approach:

What I’ve Been Reading (Dec. 5-Dec. 11)

Football once again tops my list with an incredibly useful website for folks who get mad at US (television stations) for the “choice” of NFL game every Sunday.

(Hint: It’s not OUR choice.)

Started last week, this is the second installment of some of my “best reads” for the week gone by, as seen through my blogroll.

(I’ll try to get the blogroll up on this site soon, so you can see what I’m reading.  It’s not an easy task as my blog count right now stands at 205.) -MP

1. “So why isn’t my football game on your channel?”

Ask anyone who has ever worked a newsroom assignment desk on a Sunday (at least a network affiliate carrying NFL) and you’ll have a person who’s taken angry calls about football.

Understandably, it’s frustrating when you can’t see the game you want or you’re switched to another contest before the one you were watching concluded.

Those choices are all dictated by the individual networks (CBS and Fox) in concert with the NFL.

Individual stations don’t have control over game schedules.

While not an official NFL or network site, this is fantastic information by someone who clearly knows what they’re talking about.  You’ll see a nationwide mapping-out of which games are going to each market.

If you really want to see how complicated this all is, check out the “NFL TV Rules at a Glance.” from The 506.

2. That silo is a real “fixer-upper”

Surviving nuclear war will set you back only $1.75 million.  Deep within Adirondack State Park is a fairly modest-looking house (from the outside, considering the house has its own runway and airplane parking) built above a defunct missile silo.

Take a photo tour of the property and the “amenities” via Buzzfeed.

My thought is that if a “honey-do” list doesn’t get finished, there’s always something slightly more menacing than a doghouse to be sent down to.

Way, way down.

3. Another Hitchcock New Year’s in Beebe, Arkansas?

If that wasn’t ominous enough, the birds are back.

You may recall at the stroke of midnight (or around that time) last year, hundreds of blackbirds fell from the sky.  The theories ranged from some radio death-ray to being startled to death by fireworks.

The birds are back in incredible number, as this video spot from Accuweather demonstrates.

We’ll see if there’s another bird debacle on Jan. 1.

4. Incredible images of 2011, and an equally incredible video of the Japan tsunami

Buzzfeed has put together some of the most powerful images of the year and ITN has never-before seen video from inside a car as the great tsunami rolled in along the Japanese coast.

5. A weather geek’s Christmas carol

The great folks at NOAA used the voice of NOAA Weather Radio to produce an electronic “Deck the Halls.”   It’s clever, and the voice’s “Fa la la la la” (video)….

sounds strangely to me like the Count’s “A ha ha ha ha ha.”  

Have a good week.