Mel's Meat Market


Sports fans had some national choices Saturday afternoon and evening.

TNT tipped off game Game 4 action in the Toronto-Orlando opening-round playoff series, while the Los Angeles Lakers looked to go three up on Allen Iverson, Carmello Anthony and the rest of George Karl’s (for how long) Denver Nuggets.

Over on Fox, Joe Buck and Tim McCarver were weighing in on young right-hander Ian Kennedy’s continuing struggles for the New York Yankees in what ultimately became a 4-3 loss to the Cleveland Indians.

The big elephant in the living room, though, was ESPN’s coverage of the NFL draft (sorry, NFL Network, no Cablevision carriage, no other mention).

The annual pro pigskin pick-em party, also known as “Mel Kiper’s Meat Market,” was moved back three hours from its usual noon start, kicking off instead from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.– much to the dismay no doubt to TNT’s David Levy and Fox Sports’ Ed Goren.

This year, the festivities were brightened by shaving five minutes between picks, leaving teams with a paltry 10 minutes “on the clock.”

Now, I know pro football is the No. 1 sport, particularly on TV, in this country. Don’t get me wrong, I was certainly interested in finding out who the G-men and the Jets selected, and where New Rochelle High School and Rutgers RB Ray Rice wound up (a disappointing 55th, but he may get to play some with the Baltimore Ravens). And I know that calls made on draft day impact teams’ futures for years to come.

But locking yourself in front of the box non-stop on a Saturday — unless you’re have the under on the offensive tackle from the Pac 10 conference being selected in the next six picks — to find out how the "entire" first two rounds unfolded is grounds for extensive session work with Dr. Melfi. Catch up online, or God forbid, read the Sunday newspaper.

After all, how many times can you watch the same looped highlights. Or hear ESPN’s crew weigh in on such considerations as teams picking for need, versus selecting the best available player. Or, contemplate the size, strength, stamina, versatility, football IQ and value afforded by the prospects. There’s so much drooling, it seems like each candidate is being readied for a bust in Canton. 

Better still, witness the ESPN squad’s attempts to facilely wipe away any trace of a botched call. With the Tennessee Titans on the clock with the No. 24 pick, Kiper, Keyshawn Johnson and the rest of the cast voiced over the virtues of Michigan State wideout Devin Thomas, as we watched the player’s mug on the screen. They went on to talk about how the Titans needed to put more weapons around Vince Young, the USC star who had a very disappointing sophomore season, despite riding Jeff Fisher’s improved defense to a playoff berth.

But Tennessee took Chris Johnson, a speedy and versatile running back from ECU. All of a sudden, Thomas disappeared from most of their short-term memories. Kiper prattled on about how he ran a 4.2-something 40 and would also be a big-time kick returner. There was talk of Johnson’s "lightning" to Lendell White’s "thunder." Only Steve Young stuck to his guns, noting that he didn’t think the Titans could take the next step forward in the AFC South, where Peyton Manning leads the high-flying Indianapolis Colts offense and the Jacksonville Jaguars are on the march, unless Tennessee upgraded significantly at wideout.

Nevertheless, I’m more than willing to bet the over that ESPN was the runaway Nielsen winner on Saturday.

And for those of you who need more, there’s much more today. If as Dick Enberg calls it “Breakfast at Wimbledon” and “café and croissant” from the French Open for NBC’s  9 a.m. (ET) and 6 a.m. (PT) presentations of the Grand Slam tennis championships, then ESPN is serving what, “mochachinos and muffins with Mel,” at 10 a.m. Sunday. 

Think about it: the NFL has allotted only five minutes between picks on day two. That’s the limit the NBA enforces for its entire cattle call.

Enjoy all of your eight hours today!