"I had the grandmaster-plan of lighting Spongebob on fire in the middle of the street; it was the middle of Astoria, Queens, though, with couples walking to and fro. I was talked out of the endeavor by a friend and, thus, ended up with a battered Spongebob next to my building that reeked of rubbing alcohol. My neighbors are used to this kind of thing..."

observations from a draft day party
essay by matt waterman


The NFL Draft is that leftover Roman Candle you find that everyone forgot about, that last one you sneak off into the backyard with, hoping and praying you get don’t get caught by your family or friends when you light it. The fact that one is twenty-seven years old does little to diminish the shame of either scenario, however, as if being caught were the admission of one’s masturbatorial love for football or pyrotechnics, as the case may be. Well, I say, "enough!" This year, I invited everyone over. I had a party for the NFL Draft, a beer guzzling, mind-deadening re-creation of Roman disintegration, starting at 11:00 AM and concluding at 4:00 AM (…or so I’ve been told). I wanted everyone to share this last Roman Candle with me, this morsel of NFL goodness in the dead, dreary Spring. In various movements, the chronicle is as follows:

Part I: Lighting the Fuse
To begin with, I was wearing an unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt over a T-shirt with some minor "flaws". I had nothing on my feet. But lest anyone think me swarthy, I had gathered up all the various notebooks, mail, and papers that normally clutter my place and put them in a neat stack. I knew the need for surface area was paramount, as leftover beers among eight to twelve guys without a woman in sight tend to pile up quicker than volcanic ash. I open my first beer at 10:30 AM.

Part II: Debauchery Rising
Cronies and fellow hooligans, Dan and TJ show up. For us, it is like waiting for that first big wave in the ocean while the top of one’s body is still dry. The wave is going to come, it’s going to be bad, but is has to be done. We all have beers open at this point, feeling slightly awkward with the birds singing outside and little to no music playing. Dan sees a large bowl in the corner, takes a look at the bathroom, and asks, "What happens if more than two people are throwing up at once." No one answers. It’s better that way.

Part III: A Morsel to the Starved
The draft begins and the first curveball is thrown: Joey Harrington at number three to Detroit. My Draft Board is shot to hell by the third pick. Clearly there is more to this story behind the scenes and methinks Mr. Millen isn’t exactly a happy-camper. Mornhinweg gets extra job security because no one will expect him to win with a rookie QB but former-linebacker Millen loses out on physical corner, Quentin Jammer, who could play the run and the pass. The ever-oboisterous Victor shows up and, being a Tampa Bay fan, asks whom they’ve selected. I tell him they don’t have a first or second round pick because of the Jon Gruden trade as Dan and I sit glued to the TV awaiting the picks. It is clear already my plan to watch the draft all day long may be in jeopardy due to lack of interest.

Part IV: Shock! Horror! Despair!
They did it. They actually did it. After weeks of obsession, trying to figure out every possible scenario the ‘Boys could encounter…they let time expire. They have just lost their pick. For a moment, someone tried to say something to me. I don’t know what noises I made in response but it wasn’t the beer’s fault. Finally, when Scully and Mulder unearth what happened, it appears the ever-crafty Cowboys have traded down with the Chiefs, a move that would give them extra picks while still allowing Dallas to get the man they wanted. For a few tense moments, all I could do was sip my beer, knowing the battle was not over yet. But when the Vik's scampered to grab "Mount" McKinnie, I knew my ‘Boys were home free. The next Ronnie Lott is in Dallas and I’m free to whoop it up unconscionably with more beer than Lott could shake a pinkie finger at.

Part V: The Fog Rolls In
As revelers show up, the draft takes on less and less meaning. Sad really…Roman Candles don’t come around every day. I end up giving Mike a long harangue about the "pushing" and "pulling" muscles involved in working out; I can only hope I made sense to the poor guy. TJ’s busy making my PC "better" once again, an affair that will take me another week to recover from. We order sushi because it has the best carbo-protein ratio so as to allow us to keep drinking without getting too filled up. Eric, the baseball true believer in the crowd, shakes his head in disgust.

Part VI: The Rage
A Spongebob Squarepants costume becomes the center of attention momentarily and we deliver it many chair-shots and elbow drops. I am not exactly sure why but after nine hours of unending draft coverage, albeit barely watched, the guys need to blow off some steam. Chair-shots, for obvious reasons, are the most expedient solution. Of course, the fact that it was made of cardboard meant that the chairs didn’t exactly have the thudding impact as they would have had they landed on Mick Foley’s cranium…but you take what you can get. Afterward, I had the grandmaster-plan of lighting Spongebob on fire in the middle of the street; it was the middle of Astoria, Queens, though, with couples walking to and fro. I was talked out of the endeavor by a friend and, thus, ended up with a battered Spongebob next to my building that reeked of rubbing alcohol. My neighbors are used to this kind of thing.

Part VII: Succumbing
Someone realizes I have the videotape of "Heat" and we throw it in, immediately forwarding it to the gun scene. The problem, though, is that when the gun scene was over, no one stopped the tape. Thus, the party came to screeching halt. By 3:00 AM many of us were incoherent or, at least, generally confused. Conversations had become work and a faction decided to turn in immediately after heading to the diner to grab something to eat and one last beer.

As for myself, I hopped on the net. Diligent soldier that I was, I realized I had only seen up to the middle of the first round of the draft and knew I had to catch up. It was like lighting the Roman Candle, turning to smile at your friends, and realizing it had fired it’s last ball o’ fire. All was not lost though, as some memories were created from the day. Unfortunately, others were lost. But at least we had fun with the last Roman Candle. That is, until the exhibition games come and we stumble upon a gaggle of bottle rockets!


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©2003 Matthew Waterman / Smokebox
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