12 Hours He Won't See Again

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By Norman Chad
Monday, March 6, 2006

Warning: The following column is about the NFL scouting combine -- more particularly, live telecasts of the combine. We apologize to any readers who find this topic, well, unworthy of your reading time.

Why wouldn't I watch the NFL scouting combine? I just finished viewing 417 1/2 of a possible 418 hours of Winter Olympics coverage -- I missed 30 minutes of biathlon for a shower, a shave and to rearrange my upcoming schedule around the World Baseball Classic -- and I needed to return to grass-roots, gridiron basics.

Thus, I turned to the NFL scouting combine, aka "Mel Kiper Jr.: The Prequel."

(Don't cry for Couch Slouch: It's not like I was sitting there watching NFL owners and players negotiate revenue issues.)

The NFL network offered 12 hours of live coverage of the scouting combine, which, I must tell you, folks, is an awful lot of 40-yard dashes, five seconds at a time.

Presiding amiably over the festivities were Paul Burmeister and Mike Mayock. Burmeister was the host and Mayock -- sort of a kinder, gentler, blander Kiper -- was the expert. I would invite either one of them into my home if they promised not to discuss quickness, leverage, agility, speed, arm strength or mobility.

The scouting combine -- for those of you who tested "normal" in secondary school mental-health examinations -- is an annual collection of NFL hopefuls that player personnel types observe running, stretching and grunting to evaluate for the NFL player draft.

It's "American Idol" with a stopwatch.

Granted, the excitement level is closer to an autopsy than an audition.

(I thought "Yes, Dear" was the nadir of post-modern American television entertainment. Then I saw the bench-press reps at the scouting combine.)

Have you ever sat and witnessed 16 consecutive large men line up for a broad jump? It's like watching water trickle down a windowpane. That was followed by linebackers completing the pass-rush drill. They ran around a lot of red cones; it was strikingly similar to driving in Las Vegas, only without a car.

On the other hand, I must admit that when I saw Tennessee defensive back Jason Allen, coming off a hip injury, run a 4.42 40 live , I got chills.


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