by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

Well now, wasn’t that a fun little NFL draft? The No. 1 pick bolted to Canada, the No. 6 pick never went to college, and Todd Marinovich went in the first round to the LA Raiders, where his cocaine possession charge will be laughed at as kid stuff.

Wait. Did I mention the Lions? Amazing. They went into Sunday with one first-round pick and came out with two. They needed a receiver and a defensive

lineman — and they got a receiver and a defensive lineman. I am not prepared for this. I must take a Maalox and sit down.

While I recover, let’s talk for a moment about the big story of the day: How about that Rocket, eh? Gone Canadian. Took the money and ran. Actually, since it was at least $18 million, he probably didn’t run. He probably took a limo. Maybe a jet. Maybe he just bought the Canadian Mounties and had them come down and get him. Rocket Ismail’s contract makes him the highest-paid team sports player on the planet — more than Joe Montana, more than Michael Jordan, more than Darryl Strawberry, more than Wayne Gretzky.

And Gretzky is his boss.

It’s true. Gretzky, along with comedian John Candy and majority owner Bruce McNall, used their money to woo Ismail to their team, the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League. They feel he will “enhance the league’s image.” Of course, McNall and Gretzky recently paid nearly $400,000 for a baseball card. So we must wonder whether they are really from this planet.

As for the Rocket, whose new contract includes condominiums in Toronto and Los Angeles — and I don’t think they’re the kind with a carport and a wading pool, do you? — well, he clearly wasn’t affected by his new wealth. When someone asked why he chose Canada over the United States, Rocket answered this way:

“The cultural diversity. . . . Also, the people there weren’t impressed with (my face). They looked into the fiber of my being.”

Personally, I don’t want anyone looking into my fibers. Or my being. But when they pay you $18 million, I guess they can look where they want. Lions haven’t caught a good receiver But let’s get back to the Lions for a moment, shall we? With their first pick, No. 10 overall, they chose wide receiver Herman Moore — or as ESPN’s Chris Berman, who talked for six straight hours Sunday, might say — Herman (I Don’t Want Much, I Just Want) Moore. The Lions were very excited with the pick. So were their fans, seeing as, last year, many Detroit receivers played as if the football was dipped in nuclear waste.

“Moore’s the guy I wanted,” coach Wayne Fontes said. “I like everything about him.”

Not that the Lions have a great draft record with men who catch the ball. Ten years ago, they used their No. 1 pick on receiver Mark (Not Worth A Dime) Nichols. In 1984, it was tight end David (Don’t Call Me Jerry) Lewis. In 1988, a No. 2 on tight end Pat (Might As Well Be Billy) Carter. All of them were, to use a Spanish term, el busto.

And in 1989, they did it again: John Ford, a receiver from (yes) Virginia, same school as Herman Moore.

Ford, a complete waste, is already gone. These days, you say the name
“John Ford” around the Lions’ offices and they chuckle, the way middle-aged men chuckle about the time they got drunk in high school and woke up naked in the middle of the football field. “Just a stupid act of youth,” they sigh. Of course, it was only two years ago. And when I fetched the newspapers from that day — and compared the quotes about Ford to the quotes Sunday about Moore — well, it’s a little embarrassing.

FONTES (on Ford in 1989): “We’ve got a guy who can get it all now. . . . He reminds you of Willie Gault. . . . He’s a big guy with speed. Speed kills.
. . .”

FONTES (on Moore in 1991): “This guy can do it all. . . . He reminds you of Al Toon. . . . He’s a big guy with speed. Speed kills. . . .”

Well. Hey. At least Wayne gets good use out of his material. Besides, Moore will be better than Ford. No one could be that bad. And how about that other No. 1 pick? Kelvin Pritchett, defensive tackle from Mississippi, 6-feet-3, 285 pounds? Good move. Get some beef.

Overall, the Lions get a B+ for this draft. I take a few points off for the broccoli they served in the press room — broccoli? — and for when Fontes said Moore would help the defense “by keeping the offense on the field.” Oh, those classic comments

Still, that is a brilliant comment compared to some of the gems heard on ESPN, which was blasting in the draft room at the Silverdome Sunday. How about that probing interview between Marinovich and Joe Theismann?

THEISMANN: I hope your problems are behind you.

MARINOVICH: All I wanted was a chance.

THEISMANN: You got it!

Way to dig at those tough issues, Joe.

Also, I enjoyed the comment by Eric Swann, the massive defensive lineman who skipped college, played semipro ball, and was taken No. 6 by the Phoenix Cardinals. When asked how he felt about going to the NFL, he said: “This makes

me very happy much.”

And they say there’s no value to a college education.

Ah well. It’s all part of the scene on draft day. And I would like to stay and tell you about the Lions’ other picks, and how a Miami receiver wants to be called “Thrill Hill,” but I must go home now and look into the fiber of my being. Maybe I’ll find a condominium.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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