NFL Draft was a moment of clarity, lesson in hypocrisy

Cedric Benson’s tears taught me something about myself Saturday.

by Aaron Blake

Anybody who knows me is aware of how much I despise the degeneration of ESPN into the catchphrase-laced “Crossfire” of sports with the occasional tidbit of actual news.

But, like the hypocrite I am, I sat glued to my recliner Saturday, patiently waiting through 15 minutes of Mel Kiper Jr. and the all-too-occasional Merril Hoge for each and every pick in the first round of the NFL Draft.

This must be what crack cocaine is like.

The draft was, as usual, of mild interest to Gophers football fans. Marion Barber III made his Tellis Redmon-like ascent into the professional ranks, and his career should be good for the occasional, “Hey, look what Barber’s doing with the (fill in NFL or NFL Europe team here).”

But the real reason I was hooked on this draft was the fourth overall pick of the Chicago Bears, Texas running back Cedric Benson.

For those who are unfamiliar, Benson’s days with the Longhorns, combined with the dreadlocks he used to sport and a marijuana arrest, have drawn comparisons to Ricky “The Rushin’ Rastafarian” Williams – a former Texas back who quit football last year to pursue Ö ahem Ö other interests. This was completely unavoidable.

So when the Bears selected Benson on Saturday, the tears started flowing like he had a freshly chopped onion in his Armani breast pocket.

The comparisons and character questions had worn on him, and he made no secret of this in his postselection interview with the draft’s token female sideline reporter. You could tell he wasn’t a fan of the whole process, and I can’t say I blame him.

That’s right, I felt sorry for a multimillionaire.

The truth is I don’t know Benson, just like Kiper and Hoge don’t know Benson (though, they might claim otherwise). But I do have a certain respect for a guy who plays four years of college and goes through what he went through before getting drafted.

I don’t know if Benson will ever amount to anything in the NFL, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s more like failed Bears draftee Curtis Enis than Williams. But call me a softy – seeing a 5-foot-10-inch, 220-pound physical specimen get misty in front of the whole sports world was gratifying on several levels.

There is, indeed, crying in football.

Then, it struck me: I was getting sucked into this thing because of the made-for-TV drama.

I wasn’t watching the NFL Draft for the sport of it. I was watching it for the subplots of the mighty Benson triumphing over evil and Aaron Rodgers suffering through 24 picks only to find out he’d be spending the prime of his career where the cheese flows like milk.

Don’t tell me those ESPN people don’t know what they’re doing.

Whoops. I’ve got to go. “Jim Rome is Burning” is on.