Thursday, April 16, 2020

Five rounds to fix your favorite sport. Welcome to the Inter-League Envy Draft.

Every sports fan has their favorite league. We watch them, debate them, and defend them from those misguided fans of other sports who don’t seem to get it. These days, with just about the entire sports world shut down, we have plenty of time to sit around and miss the leagues that have become such a big part of our lives.

We also know they could be better. Way better.

That’s a universal trait of sports fans. We have the sport and the league that we love. But we also know what the other leagues are doing, and how those sports work. And we’ve all got at least a few ideas that we wish our favorite league could “borrow” from the competition.

So that’s what we’re going to do. Welcome to The Athletic’s Inter-League Envy Draft.

The concept is simple. Each of the big four North American pro sports leagues will be represented by one of The Athletic’s writers that covers it. They’ll take turns stepping up to the podium and picking one quality or characteristic from another league that they’d like to adopt for their own. It’s a five-round draft, with no limits on how many (or few) traits can be chosen from each sport.

By the end, each league should be far better than it was before. Of course, that’s up to the GMs. Let’s meet them, and find out what they’re hoping to do.

Pre-draft strategy

We asked each of the four GMs to share a few pre-draft thoughts on what they were hoping to accomplish.

Seth Partnow, NBA (@SethPartnow)

My goal here is simple. I think the on-floor product of the NBA is as good as it has been since at least the early-90s, so I went into the draft looking for ways to accentuate that quality of play and remove obstacles for the fanbase to fully enjoy and appreciate it. If it seems like a wish list of all the things I tend to complain about and/or advocate for in general, well, that’s intentional!

Jayson Stark, MLB (@jaysonst)

Anyone who has read me knows I love baseball. I just want the rest of the world to love it as much as I love it. So that means I need to build a shrewd draft strategy around elevating the stars in my sport and finding ways to create more must-watch Big Events. I’ll be all over the best of the NBA and NFL in this draft… because of course I will.

Jayson Jenks, NFL (@JaysonJenks)

I have but one goal: I want to get a little weird. That’s what I’ve told my scouting department and front office personnel to focus on: the weird and exotic (just not the Joe Exotic).

Sean McIndoe, NHL: (@DownGoesBrown)

I’ve been a diehard hockey fan for pretty much my entire life, but longtime readers may have caught me criticizing the NHL product once or twice. Or pretty much constantly. My jealousy of the other leagues has been on display, so here’s my chance to act on it. I’ll be working from a draft list that has roughly three dozen ideas on it, so I don’t think I’ll run out of picks. But I’ll admit I’m also kind of fascinated to see what, if anything, the guys from the other sports feel is worth drafting from the NHL. I’m assuming that the Stanley Cup and handshake lines have been heavily scouted, but it’s a deep draft, so there are no guarantees.

Round 1:

1.1 The NBA drafts the Stanley Cup from the NHL.

Partnow: While I think modern “RINGZ!” culture loses sight of the value of the journey, that shouldn’t obscure that it’s important to have a worthy prize at the end of that journey. While the notion of being crowned champion is the most important part, the physical object representing that championship should measure up to the moment. With the possible exception of an Olympic gold medal, there is nothing in sports that compares to Lord Stanley’s Cup. From its size to its classically pleasing appearance; to the pomp and circumstance of the awarding of the Cup (including de rigueur and vociferous booing of the commissioner!) to the engraving of the names of players who have lifted it, I love everything about it. Plus, who doesn’t want to see a seven-foot dude military press a huge hunk of metal in celebration?

1.2 MLB drafts the grip the Super Bowl has on everyone in America from the NFL.

Stark: I love the World Series, so don’t take this wrong. But it’s no longer an event that causes all of civilization to stop what it’s doing and not just watch the games, but actually hang on every second of a Doritos commercial. So I admit it. I’m jealous. There. I said it.

1.3 The NFL drafts unique parks/dimensions from MLB.

Jenks: Let’s get crazy. What if teams could change the dimensions of the field in their stadium? Maybe the Ravens would opt for a field with a severe crown, like the old Nebraska teams, to get Lamar Jackson and Co. roaring downhill. Maybe the Legion-of-Boom Seahawks would have shrunk the width of the field and dared you to beat them in a boxing ring.

Maybe this is all a terrible idea. But it would be interesting.

Oh, and I want retro stadiums, too.

1.4 The NHL drafts players with personalities from the NBA.

McIndoe: Death to “pucks in deep.” Give me players that will actually say or do something interesting every now and then, whether it’s to reporters, on social media, on a talk show, in a recording studio, or any of the long list of other places that NBA stars feel comfortable showing off who they are. Hockey has made being boring part of the culture – you can’t seem like you think you’re bigger than the team, after all. But some stars are bigger than the team, and those are the guys who make your league fun to watch.

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