By Frank Deford
April 23, 2008

Possibly because I'm scared of technology, I'm not always pleased by what are called "advances" in our society. Sometimes I think we were better off in more innocent times -- which is, to say, back when I could understand stuff better.

Actually, I consider myself secular Amish.

Synthetic rackets pretty much ruined the beauty of tennis. Children have no business swinging lethal aluminum baseball bats. Now there's even talk that a new bathing suit made by Speedo, in which all sorts of swimmers are setting world records, constitutes "technological doping."

You know what's even worse? Technology has made it so there are so few surprises left in the world. Is that really an advance? Parents know whether their baby is a boy or girl long before it's born. You can tell who's calling you on the phone before you answer. The real joy in taking photographs was that you didn't know how they turned out 'til you got them back from the Photo Zip a few days later. Of course, some of the pictures were awful, but what's the fun of taking only safe shots instead of snap shots?

Maybe that's why sport gets more popular all the time. It's about the last thing we have that still has some suspense to it. And that's why I can't stand the National Football League and National Basketball Association drafts. What disappoints me so about these protracted selections is that fans don't want surprises in the draft. Really, they don't. They want to look into the camera and see the picture before it's taken.

For weeks now, leading up to the real NFL draft this weekend, all sorts of self-appointed experts have been creating so-called mock drafts, and basically, they're all the same. Oh, some bloviator might have this linebacker going third and that one pegs him fourth, but it's pretty much the same names at the top. The fans get brainwashed, and so if their team should dare take somebody who wasn't touted by the echo chorus, they have a fit. Mock drafts become the reality that reality must accommodate itself to. It's like in school now, where children study how to take tests rather than study how to learn something.

It's also terribly ironic. Football fans always want their team to go for it on fourth down instead of punting, to take risks on the field, but when draft day comes they're all conditioned by now to be completely conservative ... lemmings.

And, of course, draft mistakes are legion. But draft-guessing has become a cottage industry, and essentially these seers are graded on how they assess the draft, not how their top selections actually play football after they are drafted. It would be as if you judged your stock broker on how well he picked the most popular stocks, not how well he chose stocks that actually went up in value.

I sometimes have the feeling that the more film we have of these players, the more sophisticated technology to study them, the less we know, both about the players being chosen and the professionals who choose them. Football people have guts. I think, though, that too few of them any longer dare possess gut instinct.

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