[From the FanPosts. Thanks for sharing, kswanson! -Ed.]
For the second straight year, I got to attend the NFL Draft. If you haven't before, it is well worth the investment to attend. The NFL does an excellent job of making it a fan-friendly experience. To summarize my 2013 experience, I lucked into a Manhattan hotel for $140, was interviewed by Time, USA Today and SiriusXM (presumably because the Chiefs held the first pick), met The Commish, Barry Sanders, Mel Kiper and Les Miles among others, and spent the last two days of the draft at a VIP party at Bleacher Report. My friends saw how much fun me and our group had the year before, so we brought 7 fans back to Radio City this year. Here's some of the things to expect.
One of the more underrated things about the draft experience is the wait in line to get your tickets. If you're not familiar, fans wait 4-5 hours in line on the day before Day 1 to get their tickets. What they don't tell you is that you'll run into some interesting fellow football nerds from all over the country. There's plenty of Jets fans to make fun of, and the overall experience makes time fly.
One of the perks coming the year before provided was the chance to forgo the wait and pre-register for your ticket. Me and another friend considered just standing in line anyway because of the fun you can have there. We made the right decision. While our friends waited, we stopped to get them a pizza for lunch. While we were there, we got stopped by a producer for Jimmy Fallon to participate in a skit called "Questions and Danswers." We obviously agreed.
Another two hours in line before you get in to Radio City Music Hall. The crowd is extra rowdy to be there, and media outlets are all looking for people to talk to. If you go as a Chiefs fan, chances are you will get interviewed for something. The media wants to get diverse groups of fan bases, and you'll be 1 of 10 Chiefs fans in attendance. Another benefit of being a rarity in line is that the TV production team wants to have several teams sitting lower level to get fan reactions from every team. The tickets are given out "at random" but they single out fans in jerseys of different teams to sit downstairs.
You are stuck behind the TV stages for NFLN and ESPN, but it's also prime spot to meet several media members and coaches. I met Jon Gruden this year and in the past have met several others just for being lower level. When you first walk into Radio City, they give you a backpack (another underrated element of the draft experience) that has all kind of NFL trinkets and memorabilia, snacks and a radio to listen to the TV feeds.
Being in the building to get live reactions from 4,000 people over picks, trades and Johnny Football is the big difference between watching it at home and watching it on TV. It's worth it. Towards the end of the first, we were given the opportunity to move up to about 10 rows back. It was a cool way to watch the rest of Day 1.
Sooooo....they moved us up a few seats. pic.twitter.com/4o6Ux3QyDi— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) May 9, 2014
We were lucky enough to have met some people from Bleacher Report at their part the year before. Unfortunately, they were not throwing the same kind of bash as they did the year before. They did invite us to see their new office. We got to talk with draft expert Matt Miller about the draft. Very cool and very nice of him to take some time.
If you attend Friday, it's a lot less crazy than the media hyped first day of the draft, but just as fun. We were placed close to the front of the stage for Day 2. Right next to us was media row. John Clayton and Louis Riddick were right next to our seats. I got a chance to talk to Clayton, and he was nice enough to give us a picture -- although he did kind of nestle into my shoulder. Media row netted us right next to the picks doing rounds after they were selected. Players like Marqise Lee and Ra'Shede Hageman were right next to us.
John Clayton. Super nice guy. pic.twitter.com/6kbTKRBuks— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) May 9, 2014
Ra'Shede Hageman. pic.twitter.com/9dgGlAx7zR— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) May 9, 2014
Day 3 can be a grind. If you're not a die hard, and you're in the city, you'll likely go off and do something else. Me and one member of our group weren't going to let that get in the way of our usual routine of mindlessly watching the draft on Saturday until our eyes hurt (like we've been doing our whole lives). Luckily, we were able to secure to VIP tickets for Day 3 through 1iota.com. All you can eat and seating on the first mezzanine. A cool view, even if not much is going on.
From the first to the last pick, I endured a weekend in Radio City. If you find the right deals, you can get there for a relatively reasonable price for hotel and flight. I highly recommend the experience to any draft nerd or NFL fan.