The NFL Combine is almost upon us, fans of football and fans of the San Francisco 49ers. With the Super Bowl and Pro Bowl over, fans and pundits across the country and world will begin to delve way too deeply into players’ body sizes, stats, attributes, and measurements. It would almost look unethical to subject humans to such cynical evaluations of their physiques if they were not about to get paid the money that comes with the job.
Nevertheless, for some reason our minds will be enraptured in events that will end up having very little to do with the season. Pundits and fans hardly know what goes on inside teams’ debate rooms. The vast majority of draftees–even high ones–do not make an immediate impact for their team. So how is it that the NFL has turned offseason number crunching into must-see TV for months on end, and, in particular, the Combine?
First, the Combine. Typically February is an extremely slow sports month. The Super Bowl just finished the NFL season, the NBA and NHL are nowhere near the end of theirs, Major League Baseball has a ways to go for Opening Day, College Basketball is not quite to March Madness, and fans crave something, anything, to fill their minds. Thus, the infamous SI Swimsuit Issue came into being. This year, however, the Sochi Olympics will fill up February, though it conveniently ends right as the NFL Combine begins.(The closing ceremony is February 23rd, while the Combine begins the 22nd.)
Speaking of the Olympics, does the summer version not explain why we like the combine? “Athletics,” which includes events such as the long jump, high jump, running events, etc., are by far the most popular Olympic events. This is precisely what the NFL Combine is: 40 yard dash, cone drill, and so on and so forth, but with footballs involved and the excitement of seeing where these players will go in the coming years. If you need more proof of their similarity, check out Lawrence Okoye, the British Olympian who put on a stud performance in a regional combine before joining the 49ers this past season–albeit on IR.
The NFL has found an excellent way to make the Combine mirror the Olympics in some regards, with the tests of speed, endurance, athleticism, and talent. It differs, however, in that it evokes longing, desire, and a thirst for more–rather than the Olympics’ glory of the finale. We watch the Combine because these young men have incredible talents. We pay attention throughout the rest of the offseason and draft buildup because they may someday wear the same colors us coach potatoes do.