In the grand tradition of being embarrassingly out of the cultural loop, I bring you this.
A three-day event kicked off this afternoon in Grant Park, a.k.a., “my backyard.” The event is called “Draft Town” and I’ve been seeing signs up for this thing for at least a month. The blue banners all say, “Welcome to Draft Town!” and feature a small NFL logo near the bottom; the bus stop ads feature smiling families and smiling football players and the NFL logo near the bottom, but no other information. So I walked around for weeks with no idea what all this meant. Other thoughts and tasks claimed my attention so I never got around to figuring it out.
Then my neighborhood erupted. A monstrous — we’re talking five, six story-high — concert stage went up overnight. Claus and I were biking on the bike path when we saw it; I almost skidded out. Many people had pulled over to the side of the path to gape; it was like an alien ship had landed in the park and we were waiting for little green men to come out. For two weeks, circus tents have been popping up like mushrooms; construction guys have been snapping chalk lines; fence companies have been fencing everything off.
Turns out Draft Town is a free festival centered around Chicago’s hosting of the 81st NFL draft. The draft is where the teams pick players. (I looked up how it works but my eyes glazed over and I couldn’t see to type, so if you want to know more about the system, that’s all you.) All the stages, the tents, the structures, the fences, the every blinkin’ street for ten miles around blocked off and detoured, the hordes of people on the street — this is Draft Town. It is not a town in which I would like to live, but I haven’t gone to the video game bonanza tent, the make-a-jersey attraction, or the corn doggerie, so you never know.
Here’s the funny thing, though: this is not new. This happened last year, too. Draft Town didn’t tell me what it was on the banners and bus stops because everyone on the planet already knows what Draft Town is. It would be like Nike ads saying, “Just Do It. These Are Shoes.” Or a rock concert advertising that rock music will be played for your listening enjoyment, live, by musicians who know songs by heart. Draft Town, man. It just is.
I’m on a plane right now, speeding at high speeds far, far away from Draft Town. I’m sure the masses of people flooding into the park are having a blast; some people like that sort of thing and I’m all for it, really. Me, I get claustrophobic in big crowds and I do not understand football, much less follow it, much less paint my face and torso for it. I like where I am just fine, 35,000 in the air with no way to survive a firey, firey plane crash.