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James Gandolfini: 1961-2013

LOS ANGELES — The first time I ever saw “The Sopranos” was in the Spring of 2001. The show was leading into its third season, and as customary, HBO was replaying Season 2 every Sunday night as a buildup. I got hooked by my dorm neighbor and great friend, Rich Kiss, who like the Sopranos themselves, hailed from New Jersey. He was a junkie for the mobster hit and I figured, if he liked it, then I would, too. One of the first episodes I remember seeing was the one where Janice kills Richie Aprile. Blown away a semi-main character would just be offed like that, I turned to Rich in disbelief and he looked at me and said, “that happens ALL THE TIME!” Of course, he knew what was coming at Season 2’s end, but when Big Pussy met the fishes, let’s just say I was the one who had trouble sleeping for a few days.

And I was forever hooked.

It wasn’t the violence that intrigued me about “The Sopranos,” however, it was the performances. They were unlike anything on television, and the actors, writers and producers knew that as much as we did. (I couldn’t even begin to tell you what else I was watching on television at this point outside of “SportsCenter.” Probably “Survivor” or Craig Kilborn.) ‘Sopranos’ was edgy. Gratuitous with its swearing and excess, and hilarious with its rough dialogue. These guys were gangsters but real people with surprisingly normal problems. They argued with their wives, their kids were a pain in the ass, and their troubles on the job always came home with them. Sure, they talked funny and dressed gaudy but we kinda liked them, even though we hated them.

At the center of it all was Tony, played to perfection by James Gandolfini, whom the world was shocked to learn died Wednesday at age 51 while on vacation in Italy. Larger than life, commanding of your undivided attention whenever he appeared on screen, and surprisingly sympathetic as the ruthless and murderous lead of the show, Galdolfini consumed the role, swallowed it whole and spit out pure gold. He made you root for the bad guy and almost had you feeling guilty when you didn’t. (One of the best illustrations of this is in the show itself, when Agent Harris, a longtime nemesis of Tony, cheered out after learning of Phil Leotardo’s death, “we’re gonna win this thing!”) Gandolfini made wanting evil to triumph cool. Make no mistake, Tony Soprano is one of the baddest men in television history, yet because of Gandolfini’s weekly performance, you wanted him to come out on top. You wanted him to finally find peace and that loving relationship with his family, to get past the panic attacks, to defeat New York. You wanted those things and you looked coldly the other way when he stepped out of bounds from time to time.

Certainly no one looked like him on television, which was another part of his appeal – he was big and balding, not exactly leading man looks – and no one could cuss like him. I’d argue he brought back creative cursing. What fun it must’ve been to write those scenes in which he went off the deep end with Carmela or Christopher or Paulie or the poor bartender at the Bada Bing, and then watch Gandolfini flawlessly execute them.

All this paved the way for characters like Don Draper and Walter White and Vic Mackey and Dexter Morgan and all the rest of our cable anti-heroes who lead questionable lives but whom we all want to see come out squeaky clean in the end. The power of the individual performance allowed not only “The Sopranos” but the rest to take big chances and change how we consumed television. It allowed Showtime to take a chance on an anti-hero, and FX and AMC and Netflix to do the same. It made Sunday nights the must-see TV night. Think about all your favorite shows… they all air on Sunday nights. That’s because of the power and the emotion and the rage and the ability of James Gandolfini, of what he did every Sunday night on HBO for 86 episodes.

He was truly amazing.

So much was written Wednesday about the man and it was all incredibly moving and tugged at your heart strings. By all accounts Gandolfini was a gentle giant who never forgot a face or an encounter, no matter how small, and made everyone feel as if they were the most important person in the room. These reflections couldn’t have been more refreshing to read. Someone who achieved his level of fame could’ve easily acted differently and no one would look the other way. Just goes shows the type of man he was and the legacy he leaves behind.

I spent any free time Wednesday watching old ‘Sopranos’ clips, thinking about his other flawless cinematic performances, and reading countless lists and reflections about the man, A co-worker and I even went and ate Italian for dinner at a place called “Godfathers,” which even had a painting on the wall inside of Tony and his crew. Just seemed like the right thing to do. And who could forget my old 1999 Chevy Tahoe, which I aptly called “Stugots” after Tony’s boat on the show. I told my buddy, Jay, that it was a night like Wednesday night I wish I still had Stugots, so I could just take a drive and pretend I was Tony Soprano huffing up the driveway one last time.

Rest In Peace, James.

Game of Thrones: NFL Style

LOS ANGELES — With apologies to Don Draper and Walter White, an argument could be made the two most popular television programs in the country right now are anything involving the National Football League and “Game of Thrones.” So, logically, we here at The Chris Brockman Website decided to combine the two, matching our favorite backstabbers, schemers, and philanderers of Westeros with their respective NFL counterparts. You don’t need to be a loyal book reader of the George R.R. Martin series to appreciate these footballers are who we say they are. (some spoilers ahead)

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TYWIN LANNISTER — Bill Belichick, Patriots: Leader of a dynasty and the self-proclaimed “smartest guy in the room,” the similarities between Belichick and the eldest Lannister are endless. Watching Tywin talk down to his Small Council, you can almost hear his Belichikian tone. All that’s missing is cutoff armor and hooded chainmail. There’s no question these two weathered veterans are winners, leaders, and probably not as smart as they or everyone thinks they are. But any time they’re on camera, you can’t look away.

TYRION LANNISTER — Steve Smith, Panthers: Both the undersized Carolina receiver and the Imp have been counted out their whole adult lives because of their physical stature, and while Tyrion has used his brain to get ahead, Smith has used his giant heart and fierce determination. The pair are extremely crafty despite being overlooked from most. Additionally, and this is a point we can’t harp on enough, each are equally despised by their own family as evidenced by Joffrey trying to have Tyrion killed at the Battle of Blackwater, and Smith getting in multiple fights with teammates and his alleged feud with Cam Newton.

BRONN — Aaron Rodgers, Packers: Money and winning are the only pure motivators for Bronn, who is fearless, reckless, and doesn’t play by anybody’s rules. Sounds a lot like the newly-minted, richest-man-in-the-NFL Rodgers if you ask me. Bronn is also funny – have you seen a Rodgers post-game press conference? – and petty – Rodgers got miffed at “60 Minutes” for suggesting he was short for a quarterback. Just not sure if the evil notions in Green Bay come free.

PODRICK PAYNE THE SQUIRE — Josh Scobee, Jaguars: Podrick has proved to have a way with the ladies, to the amazement of Tyrion and Bronn, and the same can be said for Scobee, who has one of the hotter wives in the NFL. Like the young squire, Scobee, as a kicker, knows his role on the team and when to speak up. And like Podrick saved his Lord’s life at the Battle of Blackwater, Scobee on occasion has lifted his teammates to victory in the closing seconds with a game-winning kick.

JAIME LANNISTER — Eli Manning, Giants: By virtue of being a Manning, Eli was automatically enshrined into NFL royalty, and like the one-handed Lannister, Eli has shown his prowess for taking what he wants. You could easily pass on the moniker “Kingslayer” to No. 10 for taking down the league’s Golden Boy not once, but twice in the Super Bowl, thusly denying Tom Brady championships 4 and 5.

WALDER FREY — Al Davis, Raiders: Old, crotchety, respected and always one to hold a grudge, there may not be a better Game of Thrones / NFL match that these two, especially after what took place at the Red Wedding. Davis is renowned for suing the league he helped create and living by his “Just Win, Baby” mantra, and well, we all know how Lord Frey likes to party.

BRIENNE OF TARTH — Joe Thomas, Browns: It takes someone lacking fear to defend a blindside, and no one does that better than Joe Thomas, even though whichever QB the Browns trot out any given Sunday is likely worthless. And like Brienne, a left tackle has to be big, bullheaded, and full of duty and honor. Often overlooked in the stat line, like the lady of Tarth, Thomas often has an impact when his master is unscathed.

DAENERYS TARGARYEN  — Russell Wilson, Seahawks: Like the Mother of Dragons emerged from a hopeless girl to dominate across the Narrow Sea, Wilson came out of nowhere to be a real NFL power player after a breakout 2012 season. And while Khaleesi now has a trio of new weapons in her dragons, Wilson now has Percy Harvin’s plethora of talents at his disposal. Both are now major contenders to wear the crown after being unknowns when the season (and show) began.

JORAH MORMONT — Pete Carroll, Seahawks: Jorah was disgraced and booted out of Westeros, which is not unlike Carroll’s tail-between-his-legs exit from Southern Cal following the Reggie Bush scandal. Now, both are fortunate to have fallen into backing big-time winners. Loyal, slick, wise, and cheerleaders, Jorah and Carroll are cut from the same mold and seem to have positioned themselves for long-term success.

BARRISTAN SELMY — Dick LeBeau, Steelers: It’s not often that a battle-tested warrior lives to become an old man in the Seven Kingdoms, much like the NFL translates to “Not For Long.” So it makes sense that Barristan and LeBeau are counterparts. A pair of grizzly veterans of the game, they’ve seen it all, done it all, and have survived to pass on their defensive genius to a new crop of players.

ROBB STARK — Tom  Brady, Patriots: Brady is the unquestioned leader of the North, untouchable, and received this tutelage from the best; very similar to Robb, who trained under his well-respected father, Ned. And like Robb, Brady has had moments of resounding brilliance (multiple Super Bowl championships & MVPs) and ones of shake-your-head foolishness (dancing in Brazil, water sliding, ridiculous haircuts). Brady’s big-game performance of late has also matched well with the eldest Stark son, whose actions have left his men wondering if he’s fit to be King.

TALISA STARK — Gisele Bundchen: Like Talisa, Gisele stole the heart of the King of the North, and an argument could be made both Robb Stark and Tom Brady haven’t won anything since. Brady has come up short in two Super Bowls since hooking up for the former Victoria’s Secret model. Stark, meanwhile, has upset his own men, soiled the faith of an ally, and been blundering away strategic position since shacking up with the battlefield Volantis nurse.

EDDARD STARK — Brett Favre: One of only two deceased GOT characters to make the list is a fitting match for Favre. Both Ned Stark and the Ole’ Gunslinger were honorable statesmen, loyal to their homeland for many, many years before abandoning what they knew for the perils of the Big City. Favre jettisoned Green Bay for New York and then Minnesota, figuring his built-up good faith would carry over into this new surroundings, not realizing he was out of his element. And while Ned showed he could hang briefly at King’s Landing – like Favre’s career year with the Vikings – he ultimately ended up backstabbed and without his head; Favre’s magical journey ended on the sideline, consecutive games-played streak history, and after he retired, he’s barely been heard from.

JON SNOW — Wes Welker, Broncos: You could say undrafted players are the bastard children of the NFL, which would make Welker much more than Jon Snow given his success. And whether it was by his own doing or not, Welker left the safe haven of the North and joined up with the enemy on the other side of The Wall, or on his case, the Rocky Mountains. If Welker is still working for his new team’s enemy or knows more than nothing, a la Snow, has yet to be seen.

BRAN STARK — Adrian Peterson, Vikings: Both heirs of the North, Bran was thrown from a tree and lost the use of his legs, while Peterson was chopped down and needed reconstructive knee surgery. Bran has since been running like the wind in his dreams, while Peterson went out and nearly broke the NFL single-season rushing record in 2012. You almost get the feeling that Bran is destined for great things and likewise Peterson is only scratching the surface of what he could accomplish, especially after his recent 2,500-yard pronouncement.

ROOSE BOLTON — Bill Parcells: So let’s say you’ve worked your entire career for one team, had a lot of success with that team and grown really close to that team. Now let’s say, a little later on you went to work for that team’s most hated rival because they paid you a lot of money and it’s gotten to the point so much that your other team doesn’t even know you anymore. Maybe you died your hair blond, I don’t know. That would make you kind of a traitor, huh? Thought so.

HODOR — Rob Gronkowski, Patriots: Could you imagine if Gronkowski had a press conference and just said, “Hodor, Hodor, Hodor” every time someone asked him a question? It would be the greatest YouTube moment in sports. Just a big, lovable galoof is what Hodor is, and you could make a serious argument that’s exactly what Gronk is, only with more alcohol. Now if we can just get GOT’s writers to work in “Yo Soy Fiesta” as a battle cry.

THEON GREYJOY — Mark Sanchez, Jets: No one has taken public abuse and been the brunt of more media scrutiny (warranted or otherwise) and sports radio rants than Sanchez, who like Theon, can’t seem to get out of his own way. Seemingly the toast of the New York only a few years ago when he had the Jets in the AFC Championship, Sanchez is practically in shackles after the drafting of Geno Smith. Theon tried to make a bold move in taking Winterfell only to have it backfire into this weird torture play that’s hashing out slowly in Season 3. Neither is a bad guy on the surface, and unfortunately not a winners either, and I suspect both will have an unhappy ending.

STANNIS BARATHEON — Jay Cutler, Bears: When coming up with words to describe Stannis a few immediately came to mind: dull, boring, and pussy-whipped. That led me to only one NFL counterpart: Jay Cutler. Who else embodies Stannis’ spirit of being at times awesome at his position while being an enormous d-bag? Stannis had his best friend, Davos, thrown in jail! Doesn’t that remind you of Cutler screaming at his offensive line for getting sacked all the time? Literally all that’s missing is a Smokin’ Stannis Baratheon Tumblr page and we have Internet perfection.

DAVOS — Ronde Barber, Buccaneers: Davos stood by his King, Stannis, until the bitter end at the Battle of Blackwater, and you could say the same for Ronde, who remained a faithful Buccaneer following their Super Bowl title in 2003, when he no doubt had opportunities to just ship and play for a contender. While he didn’t get made to walk the plank by ownership, he might have well been, as Tampa Bay went 69-91 over the next decade.

JOFFREY BARATHEON — Tim Tebow: The most hated man in the Seven Kingdoms easily could be the most talked about, over-hyped, and dare I say, hated man in the NFL in Tim Tebow. Both Joffrey and Tebow were unfairly placed in their position of power (one by his scheming mother, the other by the scheming media machine and Josh McDaniels) and seemingly have no idea what to do. Joffrey can’t lead his men at the Battle of Blackwater, and while leading seems to be only what Tebow can do, his elsewhere skills so limited at the pro level, as evidenced by his current ouster from the league all together. Joffrey, meanwhile, doesn’t seem likely to sit on the Iron Throne for much longer.

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ROBERT BARATHEON — Rex Ryan, Jets:Robert was a terrible king, but by all accounts, a great guy to be around, and he was a helluva warrior. Rex really isn’t that great of a head coach, but he sure looks like he’d be a fun guy to go to the Old Country Buffet with, and he used to scheme a good defense. Robert really liked fathering bastards and Rex, well, he liked to, well, make weird videos with his wife. Both were blubbering idiots who were mostly all show and no go. We know what happened to Robert, so I’m guessing Rex’s days are numbered.

GENDRY — Andrew Luck, Colts: Whether he knows it or not, Gendry is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, and by virtue of Peyton Manning’s bum neck, Luck is the future of NFL quarterbacking. The best prospect at the position since the man he replaced, Luck’s upside is exponential, especially after his record-breaking rookie campaign. And the best thing about him, is there’s no ego. Much like Gendry, who just wants to be a part of SOMEthing, Luck is happy to be here and help his team win. The future is bright for both these young, goofy men.

SANDOR CLEGANE — Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers: Natural counterparts, The Hound and Roethlisberger are both larger than life, fierce warriors, and survivors of life-altering facial injuries – Big Ben’s after his June 2006 motorcycle accident and The Hound’s after his brother shoved him in a fire. Both like to party (though Ben’s days appear to be over) and never back down from a challenge. Ben is known for always playing through pain and keeping plays alive by being nearly impossible to take down, and The Hound is lauded whooping serious ass and being loyal to those he has a soft spot for.

PETYR BAELISH — Jerry Jones, Cowboys: No other owner can truly stake claim to being the NFL’s Lord of Coin like Jerry Jones, who out of his own pocket practically built the world’s greatest sports stadium. Like Baelish, Jones is extremely crafty and always scheming (how else do you explain the multitude of Draft-day trades?), likens himself as the smartest guy in the room (what other owner is also his team’s General Manager?) and commands an audience. Though you get the feeling others in Westeros laugh at Littlefinger behind his back, as I suspect those across the NFL do as the Cowboys blunder away season after season.

VARYS — Mike Shanahan, Redskins: Not similar in stature but definitely in mind, Varys and Shanahan are without a doubt the ultimate backroom deviants who know who they are and are completely comfortable in their own skin. Varys waited his whole lifetime to get his revenge on the mad scientist who crippled him while Shanahan lived through all the Raiders madness before achieving success with the Broncos. Now, he has the ear of Robert Griffin III and knows good things are on the horizon.

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BERIC DONDARRION — Peyton Manning, Broncos: Manning being able to come back and have the kind of MVP 2012 season that he did after four, count ‘em four, neck surgeries is damn near the equivalent of Beric coming back from the dead a half dozen times after suffering fatal battle wounds. You could also make the argument now Manning is closer to the Lord of Light given Denver’s mile-high altitude, but you’d need to check with Thoros first, since he’s the one who actually returns Beric from the other side, which we know is dark. Speaking of.

THOROS OF MYR — John Elway, Broncos: If it wasn’t for Elway and his belief in Manning returning to his Colts championship and MVP form, then the Broncos No. 18 jersey wouldn’t be flying off shelves at ludicrous speed in the 303 and 720. It’s well known The Duke likes to throw ‘em back, too, and that fits well with the Brotherhood Without Banners’ red priest’s mantra of getting drunk and searching for ways to swindle gold. Thoros was a renowned warrior who now is an adviser of sort to Beric, which fits well with Elway, who is arguably the greatest quarterback in NFL history and is doing a mighty fine job thus far as an executive.

MANCE RAYDER — Clay Matthews, Packers: Maniacs, defensive leaders who don’t play by anyone’s rules but their own, and strong men of the North, Matthews and Mance are quite the pair. While Mance doesn’t quite have Clay’s hair, they are both giant, rugged figures, who elicit loyalty from their men and fear in their opponents.

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TORMUND GIANTSBANE — Brett Keisel, Steelers: The man with the best beard north of The Wall and the man with not only the best beard in the AFC North, but the entire NFL, are a match made in facial hair heaven.

— thanks to James Wright for his contributions to this column.

Disappointment, Controversy Mire Epic Sports Day

LOS ANGELES — Late Spring is arguably the best time for sports. With the unpredictability of the NBA and NHL Playoffs, interleague baseball, the randomness of big boxing matches, tennis and golf Grand Slam tournaments, and even horse racing; if the sports planets all align there’s the chance for something special. So when the Devils beat the Kings last Wednesday to avoid a sweep in the Stanley Cup Finals, and then the Heat beat the Celtics to avoid elimination in the NBA Playoffs the next day, the intergalactic sports Gods set up a potentially epic day like Saturday, June 9.

As it turned out, there wasn’t just two or three of the previously mentioned events planned, but all six. I mean, why wouldn’t there be. It isn’t often you get a horse going for the Triple Crown, a tennis great trying to complete the career Grand Slam, your favorite baseball team playing against the best young player since Junior Griffey, a potential Stanley Cup deciding game, an NBA Playoffs Game 7 and a big-time prize fight featuring who many consider the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. All in one day!!?! A sports guy’s dream.

I’ll Have Another’s bum leg kept it from a historical Triple Crown, Saturday, in New York.

However, when I’ll Have Another’s trainer Doug O’Neill pulled the horse, who already had a pair of stunning come-from-behind wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, on Friday morning after noticing signs of arthritis/tendinitis in its leg, the Gods proved they had other plans. We now know those were nightmarish ones, especially for those with northeast rooting interests, like myself.

We’ll start with the Red Sox, who are on the precipice of a disaster .500 season (seriously, Adrian Gonzalez, you suck). They got things going in the southern directional with a 4-2 loss to the hotshots from Washington (who would later sweep Boston after Sunday’s win). While I failed to watch a single inning of this contest, I didn’t have high hopes after Stephen Strasburg (6 innings, 2 runs, 13 Ks) and Bryce Harper (3-for-5, 3 RBIs and a HR) dominated the squad the day before. You know it’s a bad sign when I just expect a disastrous performance before a pitch is ever thrown; 2004 and 2007 seem soooo long ago.

Nationals rookie Bryce Harper has lived up to the very high expectations he’s faced.

Shortly there after Boston’s “L,” the rest of the field that would’ve been an asterisk to I’ll Have Another’s historic Triple Crown (he was going off at 4-5 odds as late as last Thursday) took to the track at Belmont Park before a less-than optimally hyped crowd of over 85,000 (who bet over $15M). There was a group of us watching at The Daily Pint in Santa Monica for our friend Joe’s birthday or perhaps I would’ve skipped the race entirely. Back in the day, I wouldn’t have missed a big race. There was a harness racing track near my house in Maine and my buddies and I would roll over and lay some action down; always made it more interesting. Alas, I had zero interest, but the historic mile-and-a-half jaunt ended up being a dramatic race despite the favorite’s absence. Union Rags came from behind to claim the victory but will be a distant memory to what might have been. Legendary trainer Bob Baffert once again had his horse Place, as Paynter came up just short.

After falling in a 3-0 hole, the New Jersey Devils did their best to stave off elimination by forcing a Game 6. The Kings then won their first ever Stanley Cup on Monday.

Now, I’m not a hockey fan, but the hometown Kings being a game away from clinching the first Stanley Cup in the franchise’s history, and with the puck dropping on Game 5 a half hour before Heat/Celtics Game 7, was enough to garner at least 30 minutes of my viewing time. Our now 5-man crew shifted over to Busby’s where we’d be able to watch both events and then possibly the Bradley/Pacquiao fight later on. The move proved to be a smart one as we posted up right in front of a TV with the basketball game on, with the hockey on directly behind us for easy viewing. I turned my head every now and again to check the score; we were updated on what was happening by the groans/cheers from the other patrons. There were mostly groans as the Devils extended the series with a 2-1 win.

Of course, my focus was solely on the Celtics, who were seeking their 3rd NBA Finals appearance in the five years of the Big Three Era and a revenge victory over Miami, which took out Boston in 5 games in last year’s Eastern Conference semis. It was a torridly-close affair but the Celtics managed to have a not-so comfortable 7-point lead at halftime, however, with just 12 minutes left to play it was dead even. The way Miami came back didn’t leave a good feeling in my gut, and as the time on the game clock dwindled it became apparent that the new golden era in Boston was coming to an unceremonious end. The Heat finished off the 101-88 win to advance to the NBA Finals against the youthfully athletic Oklahoma City Thunder and their dynamic and questionably fashionable duo Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. What made the loss even more obnoxious, was that suddenly we were surrounded by Heat fans, fans who were noticeably silent for the previous 36 game minutes. All that was left for me to do was lick my wounds, and devour my turkey burger, and prepare for the pugilistic showdown.

LeBron James finally had something to cheer about as he advanced to his second consecutive NBA Finals with the Heat’s Game 7 win over Boston.

I suppose we should have taken this has a sign of weird things to come, but the fight’s start was delayed by nearly an hour as 1) Manny Pacquaio, apparently a huge Celtics fan (finally, something to like about him) refused to get ready until the basketball game was over, and 2) Pacquiao, after getting ready, had to walk on the treadmill for a lengthy period of time to loosen up his calves, which he’s had problems with tightness in throughout his training camp. Meanwhile, the HBO announcing team was running out of things to talk about as everyone waited. It was beyond bizarre. Meanwhile, Bradley was gloved up and ready to go, pacing around backstage while Pacquaio went on with his shenanigans. The whole scene was bizarre, to say the least.

Manny Pacquaio dominated Timothy Bradley for a majority of their bout, Saturday, or so thought those watching who weren’t the judges ringside.

Finally, just after 9pm pacific time — only an hour or so after it was supposed to get underway — the boxers made their way to the ring, Michael Buffer did this overpriced thing (did you know he gets close to $5 million to be a boxing announcer for big fights?) and the dance began. It was clear from the get-go that Pacquiao was there to fight and quell the thoughts his 12-round triumph over Juan Manuel Marquez some months back wasn’t earned. The WBO champ was aggressive and closed rounds strongly, while Bradley tried to fight off Pacquiao’s his flurries. The challenger didn’t do a good job of it. Midway through the fight I tweeted out that a knockout was looming in the coming rounds. It never came.

Timothy Bradley had every reason to be smiling after Saturday’s split-decision win.

Bradley, who we later found out broke his foot in the fourth round, fought admirably to close the bout, but by then most assumed it was a forgone conclusion he was the big loser. When it was finally over and Bradley’s cornermen lifted him up, Jim Lampley commented on the irony, since it appeared he was soundly defeated. It was even reported Bradley told promoter Bob Arum that he gave all he could but even then couldn’t defeat Pacquiao. It wasn’t until Buffer read the first score of 115-113 that I knew something was up. And even though the round went to Pacquiao, that someone could even think the fight was that close was ludicrous was not a good sign if he hoped to continue his 7-year unbeaten streak.

Then Buffer said the second judges scores; “115-113 for Bradley” and you knew right then Bradley was going to win. The final judge’s score of 115-113 for Bradley didn’t even need to be read but when it was there was a good 15-20 seconds of silence inside Busby’s while we all soaked in what we just heard and what that meant for Pacquiao, a sitting-in-jail Floyd Mayweather and the sport of boxing. What it meant for Bradley was a rematch (one that was already predetermined, ironically) and a bigger payday and a still unblemished record. Twitter was aghast with notions of a fix and it was tough to argue. Inside Busby’s, some clown in a LeBron James jersey was running around yelling his outrage to any one would listen. Many did not. On my drive home, I wondered what Mayweather’s reaction must have been when learning of the outcome. Surely a smirk was involved.

Maria Sharapova finally won her coveted French Open championship.

In the end, only Maria Sharapova was able to come through to win the French Open and complete her career Grand Slam. Still, she’s getting married to former Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic so a complete victory is not awarded in my book. On top of all the sports brokenheartedness, it was the first weekend in nearly three months without “Game of Thrones,” and it was the last for probably a year with a Mad Men episode.

So much hope, so much promise when the sun rose that day all for not. Sometimes stars shine bright but their alignment is a little off. Maybe next time.

2012 NFL Draft 1st Round Diary

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was only slightly booed at the start of this year's NFL Draft.

LOS ANGELES — The day is finally here: the First Round of the 2012 NFL Draft. We’ve been talking about this day since the season ended back on February 5 when Tom Brady’s hail mary landed just by the outstretched arms of Rob Gronkowski. It was then speculation began on who would go No. 1 overall, even though we all assumed (correctly, it turned out) that it would be Andrew Luck of Stanford. Last year, it was Cam Newton who dominated our pre-Draft chatter; this year it’s Luck and Baylor’s Robert Griffin III who’ve high-jacked the Draft talk in the months leading up to Roger Goodell taking the podium at Radio. City. Music. Hall. As always, I couldn’t be more excited for this year’s First Round. And as always, I’ll be documenting all the action live all night with NFL Network as my guide (#duh) with its team of Rich Eisen, Steve Mariucci, Marshall Faulk, Michael Irvin and Mike Mayock. I’m expecting hilarity, ridiculousness, insight and lots of references to watching tape, being a beast and scout jargon Mayock likes to use to confuse the viewers. I laid out my First Round Predictions earlier this week so we’ll see how I do, but above all, I’m expecting a fun several hours. The festivities don’t officially kickoff until 8pmET but I’m tuning in for the pre-game show just in case. We’ll see if anything good happens. Enjoy!

Seriously, look at that suit. And why is that guy wearing a throwback Emmitt Smith jersey?

4:03pm – Robert Griffin III on the red carpet with Melissa Stark and wow, does he look just like Andre 3000’s kid brother; pretty much dressed like him, too, with a baby blue suit and purple tie and a checkered shirt. Camera pans down to his socks, which say “Go Catch Your Dreams” and are Redskins colors. Very sick. He had them custom made; no kidding. This guy is going to be a huge, huge star in the D.C. area. Ya know, until he clashes with Mike Shannahan and Jared Allen separates his shoulder in Week 6.

4:08pm – WOW!! An hour to go before the draft and we already have a trade. Michael Lombardi and Jason LaCanfora are reporting the Browns have traded up to No. 3 to presumedly take Trent Richardson. Unreal. The Greatest Player Of All-Time, also known as Jim Brown, called Richardson “ordinary” earlier today. I guess we’re going to find out just how ordinary he is in Cleveland. Colt McCoy is smiling big right now.

4:13pm – So the Browns give up, reportedly, a 4th, 5th and 7th, as well as swapping No. 1s for Richardson. Well, I guess Cleveland had the picks after last year’s coup with the Falcons for Julio Jones. NFLN has Richardson video on, it’s ridiculous how good he is. The Vikings should’ve just traded Adrian Peterson and taken Richardson.

That is the look of a man who is not in the mood to eff around during the First Round.

4:15pm – Bill Belichick coming up on Patriots Cam! I love that Bill always wears a suit for these things. He’s amazing. Man I hope the Pats trade up and take Chandler Jones or Mark Barron or Luke Kuechly.

4:24pm – Bill has said “we’ll see what happens tonight” three times already. Good to see he’s in midseason form in late April.

4:27 – hilarious tweet from Tom E. Curran re: Belichick: “Perhaps the finest coach in NFL history just sucked the life out of the NFL Network predraft broadcast. #belibuster”

4:42pm – “The Ones” feature is very tight. Love the Jon Hamm voice over. Some good names on that list and some busts. Interesting to see if both Luck and Griffin (I refuse to call him that other moniker) can become superstars as usually one is and one isn’t when two QBs go that high. I would bet both make the Pro Bowl in 4 years.

4:45pm – Eisen kicks it to Deion Sanders, who’s on the stage walking across a gigantic “PRIMETIME” which is embroidered on the carpet. That wasn’t an accident, I assure you.

I mean, this movie can't be any good, right?

4:51pm – and we have an early candidate for Most Annoying Commercial: you guessed it, “The Avengers” trailer. I think this movie is going to be so terrible and unwatchable not even Robert Downey Jr. will be able to save it but it’s not going to matter because it’ll still rake in boatloads of cash thanks to the fanboys, who are going to come out in full force for it. Who am I kidding, I’ll probably end up donating my 30 bucks to cause.

4:54pm – Ryan Tannehill standing with Melissa Stark says he’s excited about 14 times. Yeah, I would be too if I was about to be the 8th pick in the draft when any other year I wouldn’t go in the first 3 rounds. Oh, and his wife is a model. He’s winning the draft so far tonight.

5:00pm – NFL Draft open for NFLN narrated by Jon Hamm. I’m getting flashbacks to Don Draper’s Kodak pitch from season one of “Mad Men.” If you’re not watching that show, you’re missing out.

5:02pm – and there it is! Our first Radio. City. Music. Hall.  from Eisen. Only 56 more to go! What a scene out there in New York. Someday I need to attend the Draft as a fan. I gotta think it’s either one of the coolest, most fun days ever or akin to sitting outside Best Buy in the freezing rain on Black Friday because your girl wants a new blender.

5:03pm – and here’s Goodell to the dais to a chorus of boos from the Radio City crowd. New York is seriously the best. They’d boo their moms if they hadn’t made the playoffs in three years. “The 2012 NFL Draft is officially open” actually gets cheers from the crowd and Goodell announces the Colts are on the clock. How is this taking any time whatsoever?!? Jim Irsay, you’ve known you were taking Luck since October!!?!

5:04pm – Luck is on the phone as Eisen tells us since we’ve known this was the pick since 2009, NFLN is gonna show it, which won’t be the case throughout the night. No doubt they’ll show Griffin on the phone, too. The pick is in, so let’s get this party started.

Bold prediction: Andrew Luck's jersey will be better selling than Peyton Manning's ever was.

5:06pm – It’s official. Luck is the first pick and his mom pinning him with the Colts horseshoe on his lapel. Very cool moment. Handshakes all around in the Colts war room. So Luck doesn’t exactly look like a Mad Men extra. Looks like I’m already 0-fer on my predictions. Thought that one would be a lock.

5:08pm – Mayock just compared Luck’s athleticism to Cam Newton’s. Umm, really? If Luck rushes for 14 touchdowns this season I’ll run the LA Marathon buck-ass naked.

You think Jabar Gaffney will give up his No. 10 jersey for Griffin this season?

5:10pm – Luck with Deion on the stage and he’s excited and NOT sporting a neckbeard. Definitely the upset of the day thus far. And the Redskins have their pick in and of course it’s going to be Robert Griffin III. Can’t believe he’s still rocking the braids. It’s 2012. Come on, bro.

5:13pm – Griffin has his named called and as he’s hugging his family and entourage in the green room he picks up his daughter who’s holding an iPhone. Don’t know why, but this is hilarious to me.

5:14pm – apparently the Browns have made their pick already and the Vikings are on the clock. They should without a doubt move down and compile picks. Deion calls Griffin the savoir of the Redskins. I wonder what VA and Scotty Wat think about that. I’ve posted it on our GroupMe, we’ll see who gets back. Deion says you “have to have swag” to wear those socks. I’m already over Deion.

5:20pm – Browns make it official and take Richardson. This guy is… wait for it… a beast. Too bad he’s stuck in Cleveland, which means he’ll probably be out for the season with a knee injury in Week 4.

5:21pm – these guys are taking FOREVER to get on stage to the Commish. They are literally shaking hands and man-hugging with 30 people before getting up there. There is a wicked logjam right now, as the Vikings and Bucs have already turned in their cards. IN other news, I think my Triscuits are stale but that won’t stop me from eating the rest of the box.

5:24pm – and it appears the Jaguars have traded up to No. 5 to take who Lombardi is guessing is Justin Blackmon. OK, that’s fine and dandy, but who’s gonna throw him the ball!? Is Maurice Jones-Drew playing quarterback now? Richardson on the stage with Deion with his two daughters who are rocking Browns hats. Pretty cool moment.

The Kalil family loves themselves some beards. And that is a tight ass dress, Mrs. Kalil.

5:26pm – Mayock says it’s either Morris Claiborne or Matt Kalil for the Vikings here and the Rams will be taking whomever they don’t. Here’s Goodell … Vikings take Kalil, smart pick. 10-year pro. He’s the biggest lock in the Draft. And good because no one has to lose their job, as I bluntly stated earlier today.

5:28pm – a Lane Kiffin sighting! Wow. And Kalil rocking a serious beard. He also becomes the 476th player from USC chosen. That’s ridiculous, nine more than Notre Dame.

5:31pm – OH SNAP. First big shocker of the first round. Cowboys trade up to No. 6!!?! Jerry Jones has done it again. Who is he taking there? Mark Barron? Here’s the Jags’ pick … Justin Blackmon it is. “That’s a great pick” says Mayock. Yeah, it is, but still. Blaine Gabbert is still your quarterback.

5:33pm – first GroupMe update from my buddy Dave, a Giants fan: “not looking forwad to playing RG3 twice.” There you have it.

5:37pm – Mayock says reason Cowboys hasn’t made a Super Bowl in recent years is because of their secondary, as Goodell comes out and announces Dallas taking Morris Claiborne. “best ball skills of any corner coming out in recent years.” And is that Claiborne with his kid? So that’s 6 picks and four kids among the draftees. That HAS to be a record.

Morris Claiborne said he was shocked that Dallas traded up to select him 6th overall. Us, too.

5:39pm – really like Claiborne’s suit. I tell ya what, Cowboys fans can’t ever complain about Jones not doing what it takes to compile players. He goes out and makes things happen. They don’t always work, but he’s got that Steinbrenner in him in that regard.

5:43pm – so every selection except the top pick has been via a trade, which is a new record and now the Bucs pick is in… Mark Barron from Alabama, who people thought might go in the teens. Nice purple checkered shirt and tie and damn, an enormous gold watch. Mayock all but guarantees he’s a Pro Bowler.

As I predicted someone would, Barron wins the award for "spending all your bonus money on a ridiculous watch."

5:47pm – this is a great pick for the Bucs when you think about it, with all those receivers and explosive offenses in the NFC South. Now we have the Dolphins on the clock, so who knows what they’re doing. Ryan Tannehill? Jesus, that’s going to be a disaster. Good thing I’m not a Dolphins fan. Let’s see what Marc says.

5:49pm – and it’s Tannehill to the Dolphins. Man oh man. I thought last year teams panicked with taking quarterbacks early with Jake Locker, Christian Ponder and Gabbert. This guy might be worse than all of them. And poor Chad Henne, I actually thought he might be a decent pro. What do I know, though, Tannehill could be a legit starter. But I wouldn’t bet an apple on that.

5:53pm – the Panthers pick is in and I’m guessing it’s Melvin Ingram though Mayock disagrees, but we agree it’s a defensive player. And the Bills pick is in, too. This first round is flying!

5:54pm – Panthers take Luke Kuechly from Boston College, the stud linebacker. This guy is going to be ridiculous. He’ll make the Pro Bowl this year, count on it. Shot of him at home in Cincinnati with a huge party going on. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, that’s the way to go. Big party at your house. No need for the hoopla of being in New York.

5:56pm – another “Avengers” spot. I’m telling you, major flop. Followed by an Outback ad. Kinda makes me wanna go fight some crime and eat a bloomin’ onion. These stale Triscuits aren’t cutting it.

5:58pm – Bills dial up Stephon Gilmore from South Carolina. More defense for Bills after last year’s selection of Marcel Dareus. Let’s see what Owl says about this pick: “I know very little about him. He’s fast. I like taking a corner though, so I’m happy with that part of it.”

6:00pm – lot of conservative suits from these guys so far in the top 10. Only Robert Griffin went for something a little offbeat. Even Michael Irvin has a generally conservative (for him) look with pin stripes. Mayock did call him Nucky Thompson, which was pretty funny. Chances Irvin knows that reference? 5%?

Dontari Poe probably has the biggest head in the entire Draft. #Understatement

6:03pm – Chiefs take Dontari Poe to the surprise to most. Poe becomes literally the 10th of 11 picks to have dredlocks, I think, which is ridiculous. And we may have another trade, Eagles move up to 12 to take what people think is Fletcher Cox.

6:06pm – Poe has the top hair in the Draft. Hands down. Also amusing is how he’s wearing his hat now. And JESUS that’s a big watch. “think Haloti Ngata” says Mayock. Damn, that’s some comparison. Irvin wonders why he was so average in college, which is a good question. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say he didn’t work hard enough and took his dumptruck size shape for granted.

6:11pm – let’s see how Eagles fans respond to this pick, always interesting … Fletcher Cox it is and moderate cheers/boos. This is a big boy. OK, I’m all for congratulations backstage, but there needs to be a time limit on getting to the stage. This is getting out of hand. Actually, Cox was one of the quicker guys… wow, what a bear hug he just laid on Goodell. The commish needs to go through his own combine/training before the Draft to deal with these blows he’s taking from guys. I thought this would be a one-year thing, but nope. People love hugging Roger.

6:15pm – Cardinals on the clock. So are they going to take Michael Floyd here or what? Still not sure they’re sold on Kevin Kolb, especially after admittingly going after Peyton Manning earlier this offseason, so we’ll see what happens here. They must feel like they can win their division but are missing what? Defensive line, Offensive line. Who knows.

Someone needs to make sure Michael Floyd knows the number to the team car service.

6:18pm – Cards go with Floyd to team up with Larry Fitzgerald and whomever Ken Whisenhunt decides to march out there at QB. First Notre Dame receiver taken in first round since Tim Brown in 1988. We all know how that worked out (hint: very well.)

6:20pm – Irvin saying Floyd reminds of him Anquan Boldin. I’m buying that. Fitz hasn’t been as good since Boldin left, and well, since Kurt Warner retired. I also buy into the notion of having two stud receivers; balances out the defense so it can’t take away one. Look at the Patriots; who in the hell do you focus your coverage on on that team?

6:23pm – update on Tannehill from Epstein, our resident Dolphins fan: “Don’t know much about him. (Owner Stephen) Ross loves him, which isn’t a good thing to me. Guess we’ll see. Who knows what the Dolphins are doing.” So they have that going for them, which is nice.

6:26pm – apparently Seahawks owner Paul Allen is calling out every other teams picks on his Twitter account before it’s broadcast. Hilarious… Rams take Michael Brockers, the defensive tackle from LSU. Ooh, really liking his suit, too, three-piece with a purple pocket square.

6:30pm – love the war room shots as we see Seattle and Pete Carroll just chillin. Very cool cat. Almost literally ran into him rounding a corner at the Senior Bowl in Mobile this year, and he just laughed it off. Then again, it was kinda late, so who knows where he was coming/going. “I like the drama, I like not knowing the picks,” Mayock says in reference to not showing the kids on the phone before hand. It does add some intrigue, I’ll admit… Seahawks take Bruce Irivin, who can be kind of a wild card but is possibly the best rusher in the draft and wears #11, which is pretty cool for a defensive player. If I was a badass linebacker in college I’d definitely wear a single digit number or something low. Makes you look cooler.

6:31pm – Jets on the clock, who knows what would happen here but they’re definitely taking a defensive player. Really hope it’s not my boy Chandler Jones from Syracuse, that would be disappointing.

6:35pm – not sure if this is a good sign for the Seahawks or not, but the last 1st round pick out of West Virginia: Pacman Jones! Your Seattle Seahawks, everybody!

Yes, this was just an excuse to get a picture of Tom Brady in my column. You know me too well.

6:36pm – look at the names available for the Jets here: Ingram, Courtney Upshaw, Quinton Coples, Chandler Jones. Damn. Tom Brady can’t be loving that. Ryan Tannehill is too busy staring into the eyes of his new bride to care. Ryan Fitzpatrick is off grooming his beard somewhere.

6:39pm – ok, Jets fans, let’s hear it … Quinton Coples is the pick and we get some claps and jumping around from the gallery. Well we have another bust candidate. I question how much this guy likes playing football. We’ll see. “Julius peppers-like ability” says Mayock. I mean, come on, Mike. I was at the Senior Bowl, too, and the most impressive thing about Coples there were the fraternity brands on both his upper arms.

6:42pm – from Dave: “Coples and Goodell are hugging like they’ve known each other for 15 years.” Yeah, the hugging has gotten a little creepy at this point.

Your potential clubhouse leader for "Best Dressed" of the 2012 NFL Draft, Dre Kirkpatrick!

6:46pm – With the first of their two 1st Round picks, the Bengals take Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick, and man am I loving the red sweater under the suit the gray suit. And look at that polkadot tie he’s got there. But seriously, what’s with the dreds?! I really thought guys were going away from that look.

6:53pm – Melvin Ingram finally goes off the board to the Chargers. Surprised he fell as far as he did. Goes to show if you’re a player without a true position or teams aren’t sure where you can play it will affect your stock. It’s too bad, he had a fantastic Senior Bowl and could be one of the best defensive players to come out of this draft when it’s all said and done. Good value for San Diego here. WOW, he and Goodell just did a choreographed handshake like they were Victor Martinez and Manny Ramirez. That was pretty fly, can’t front there.

In a move that will surely be duplicated for years to come, Melvin Ingram and Commissioner Goodell performed a handshake like it was winter ball in the Dominican Republic.

6:56pm – This might be the first selection of someone I’ve never heard of: Shea McClellin from Boise St. Good to see Parker’s Broncos getting some love in the first round.

7:01pm – Patriots move UP in the draft, just like I predicted, and will take Chandler Jones per Adam Schefter. LOVING that pick. I guess that’s why Bill was being so coy earlier in the afternoon.

7:06pm – another logjam of picks with three in the hopper. Here’s Goodell with the Titans at No. 20 … Kendall Wright, the receiver from Baylor. Good move for them especially with Kenny Britt’s uncertainty following ACL surgery.

7:09pm – did Irvin just compare Wright to Santonio Holmes? That can’t be a good thing, can it? And the Steelers are on the clock at 24 even though we have yet to hear who the Patriots are taking at 21, even though we think it’s going to be Chandler Jones, or maybe Courtney Upshaw. Bill loves SEC players and is friends with Nick Saban.

The Patriots are hoping Chandler Jones is the missing link they've been looking for on defense.

7:10pm – here’s Goodell with the Patirots pick … boos from the Jets fan, haha, haters… CHANDLER JONES!!! YES!!! Mayock’s no. 9 player falls to 21. This is fantastic. Haven’t been this excited about a Syracuse player coming out since Dwight Freeney and that seemed to work out just fine. Also, how stupid athletic is this family. I’m sure you’ve heard by now, but Chandler’s brother is UFC light heavyweight champion Jon “Bones” Jones and his other brother, Arthur, plays defensive line for the Ravens. Three professional athletes, not bad. The Brockmans need to step up their game.

7:12pm – second first round pick for the Browns, let’s see how they screw this up … wow, Brandon Weeden! Unreal. Nice knowing ya, Colt McCoy. “He can make all the throws” says Mayock. I really like this kid, had a great Senior Bowl and a great season at Oklahoma St., which I thought should’ve been playing for the national championship. Should be a good pro. Ha, just realized how ridiculous calling him “kid” looks, he’s 28 and married for Pete’s sake.

7:13pm – VA, a Redskins season ticket holder, has weighed in on Robert Griffin via GroupMe: “he appears to be off the charts in any category you’d want in a franchise QB. Having said that, he’s coming to the sports Bermuda triangle of Washington, dc and I’ve assumed nothing but the worst for/from him.” And there you have it. Good luck, Mr. Griffin.

7:17pm – Lions pick about to be announced as we learn that the Patriots traded up AGAIN. Wow, I really nailed that one. This time up to 25, swapping out with the Broncos.

Can Calvin Johnson, your 2013 cover boy survive the Madden Curse this coming season?

7:19pm – Calvin Johnson, your new Madden 2013 cover boy, is out to announce the Lions pick. Let’s see how this works out for him. I guess if anyone can break the “Madden Curse” it’s Megatron. Oh, and they take Iowa tackle Riley Reiff. Sure, why not, need to protect the injury prone Matthew Stafford somehow.

7:21pm – big Stanford guard David DeCastro goes to the Steelers at 24. Blue collar pick for a blue collar team. Pittsburgh rarely misses on guys, so this is will probably work out for them. Let’s see what the Patriots do here, probably Courtney Upshaw, I’m guessing. Eisen says Pats traded out all their lower picks, so they have two 2nd round picks tomorrow and that’s it for the draft. Interesting move by Bill there. I’d guess they’d trade down on one of those 2nd rounders for more picks on Day 3, but that’s just a guess.

7:22pm – Patriots take Dont’a Hightower from Alabama. The 4th Crimson Tide player to go so far tonight. “two of the most explosive defensive players in this year’s draft,” Mayock says about the Pats draft so far. Really solid. Pats were 31st in the league last year in defense, so there’s only one way to go in that regard. Both players with start and play a TON next season.

7:28pm – and we have another “WHO?!?” pick of the first round. Whitney Mercilus from Illinois for the Texans at No. 26. Guess you have to try and replace Mario Williams somehow.

7:32pm – Eisen and Marshall do their Goodell/Ingram handshake impression. Eisen’s too white to pull that off, which he immediately acknowledges, so that’s good. Mayock just wants Charlie Yook to stop telling him what to do in his ear. Good luck with that, as well.

7:34pm – Bengals take Kevin Zeitler from Wisconsin to play guard. Zzzzzzzzzzzz… Maycok saying if your’e a Bengals fan you should be happy. Um, OK.

Cam Newton has proven himself very good at playing football after one season in the NFL.

7:36pm – OK, new commercial I’m sick of, the Top 100 promo that NFLN is running. I’m only half kidding because I really like that show having worked on it last season. I think this year’s list will be more indicative of who the players actually think are the best 100 players in the league. Last year it appeared if the voting was skewed because a) not a lot actually voted and b) no one really knew what this list was and how it was constructed. Really curious to see if Tebow makes the list. I’m guessing no. Cam Newton will be in the top 25 and maybe higher than Eli Manning, who continues to get no respect. Rob Gronkowski will also be very high. Aaron Rodgers will be your new No. 1. I have no inside info, just speculating. Probably do a full post about this next week or further along in the list, which kicks off this weekend.

7:39pm – packers take Nick Perry from USC, who is a BEAST. He can play some serious ball. Last time the Packers picked a Trojan his name was Clay Matthews, seems to have worked out so far.

7:42pm – Courtney Upshaw looks like he’s about to rip that table off and throw it across the green room. I’ve stood next to that guy. He’s straight up the scariest dude I’ve ever seen. Shocked he’s still on the board.

7:45pm – Ravens trade out of the first round to the Vikings, who take Harrison Smith, a defensive back from Notre Dame. Shocking, Mayock loves this pick, wonder if it’s that because he’s the Irish broadcaster? Haha, Mayock just called Darren Sharper “what’s his name” that’s hilarious. First time since 1994 that Notre Dame had multiple first round picks. So that must’ve been Jerome Bettis and who? Chris Zorich? No. Hmm… Ok, looking it up.

Whenever I see Willie McGinest in the halls here at NFLN, I just want to say "thank you."

7:47pm – So I was way off there. Bryant Young, Aaron Taylor and Jeff Burris were taken in the first round that year from Notre Dame. In case anyone was wondering, the first overall pick that year was Big Daddy Dan Wilkinson. The 3rd pick was Heath Shuler. NFLN’s own Marshall Faulk went 2nd and Willie McGinest 4th. Respect.

7:49pm – in doing the Verizon phone promo, with a closeup of his hand and the phone, Eisen says “sorry ladies, I’m married.” Classic.

7:50pm – 49ers take A.J. Jenkins, the receiver from Illinois. Mayock had him as a 2nd rounder and 8th best WR. Not exactly a ringing endorsement. Why would they take him, anyway? They signed Mario Manningham and Randy Moss this offseason in order to bolster that passing offense for Alex Smith. Really odd move unless you think this kid can play right away, which I seriously doubt.

7:53pm – Interesting tweet just now from Deadspin, noting that ESPN has said the word “Tebow” 14 times, while NFLN has said it only once. Not sure what that means but it’s not nothing that’s for sure.

7:54pm – Josh, my resident Ravens fan chimes in after they trade out of the first round; “waste of 3 hours.”

7:56pm – Bucs trade up to take running back Doug Martin from Boise St. Hmm, LaGarrette Blount can’t be happy right about now.

When you win the Super Bowl you get the privilege of drafting last in the First Round. Ugh.

7:57pm – and we’re minutes away from the end for the first round with the Giants on the clock. Amazing how fast this has gone, roughly less than the average time of an NFL game. That is the real upset/surprise of the night, especially given all the trades.

8:04pm – here we go, let’s wrap this up: “the world champion New York Giants” take David Wilson, running back from Virginia Tech. Wow, 3 running backs in the first round, also an upset, though not to Marshall Faulk. “He’s a football player”, um, yeah, they all are, Mike. Astute observation.

8:06pm – that was exciting and fast. What a fantastic first round. Really shocking no players drafted from the usual powerhouses Ohio St., Penn St., Miami, Florida or Florida St., among others. One thing that kind of annoyed me, aside from the all the man love with the Commissioner, is that everyone seemed to “love” every pick. I really like when the analysts kill picks on these types of things. Bruce Irvin and AJ Jenkins really shouldn’t have been picked where they were but yet there was no real criticism. Best picks, in my opinion: Morris Claiborne, Melvin Ingram and Chandler Jones. Didn’t really like any of the offensive players, aside from the obvious guys at the top. I think Weeden can play in this league but he’ll need some help on Days 2 and 3 from the Browns personnel department. Had a really fun time, once again, so thanks for taking the time to re-live all the 1st Round action with me. It was fast-paced and really exciting. Already can’t wait for my fantasy draft to see which of these rookies my buddies overvalue and the Sept. 5 kickoff. Happy offseason!

32 NFL Draft Predictions

LOS ANGELES — The annual National Football League college entry draft is on Thursday in New York City and Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck will be selected first overall by the Indianapolis Colts. These are the facts of the case. It’s been assumed Luck would be the first name commissioner Roger Goodell speaks since about October of last year; right around the time it became undoubtedly obvious Peyton Manning’s surgically repaired neck wasn’t going to allow him to signal call in 2011 and the Colts were in for a historically bad season.  Then, last month, the Redskins mortgaged their future to trade up to the No. 2 hole for the right to select Baylor quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III.

After these two 22-year olds are chosen what will happen with the next 30 picks is anybody’s guess. It’s what makes the NFL Draft my favorite sporting event of the year. (click here and here for my running diaries of the 2010 and 2011 NFL Drafts) The Awkward interviews, outrageous suits, head shaking over bad picks and Jets fans booing are only the tip of the football iceberg for what’s to come over the course of the 5-hour extravaganza. With that, and because everyone seems to do the same NFL Draft columns each year (“Biggest Busts,” “Best Late-Round Picks,” etc.), I decided to offer up some Round 1 Predictions. I’m shooting for a 12.5% success rate, or roughly the exact percentage of 2011 First Rounders to make the Pro Bowl last season (Cam Newton, Von Miller, Patrick Peterson and A.J. Green).

Enjoy.

Baylor's Robert Griffin III is one of the few athletes remaining still rocking the braids. Oh, and he's good at football.

1.) Someone is going to compare Robert Griffin III to Cam Newton, Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb, Troy Smith and other African-American running quarterbacks who came before him.

2.) NFL Network analyst Michael Irvin is going to a) say something so ridiculous I’ll wish I had a “Mute Irvin” button my remote, and b) look ridiculous doing it.

3.) Some team will pull a Vikings and completely whiff on turning in their draft card causing a chain reaction of quick picks.

4.) One of the draftees will spend his entire bonus check, which he hasn’t received yet, on a bracelet, watch, earrings or all of the above.

5.) Commissioner Roger Goodell will get lots of hugs from the draftees and all of them will be awkward.

Andrew Luck knows that no one rocks a neck beard on the set of "Mad Men." He's also really good at football.

6.) At least three of the draftees will look like “Mad Men” extras and Andrew Luck will definitely be one of them.

7.) New Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning will be mentioned so often we’ll think it’s The Decision: Part 2.

8.) There will be less Pro Bowlers drafted in the First Round than last year.

9.) Neither Luck nor Alabama running back Trent Richardson will win Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2012.

10.) NFL Network host Rich Eisen will say “Radio City Music Hall” roughly 57 times during the 5-hour broadcast.

11.) Colts Owner Jim Irsay will be interviewed looking like he just spent the night with Roger Sterling.

Brandon Weeden is looking to dispell the notion that 28-year olds can't play quarterback in the NFL.
Little known fact: most quarterbacks in the NFL are at least 28-years old.

12.) Oklahoma St. quarterback Brandon Weeden will be this year’s Andy Dalton.

13.) The Patriots will trade UP in this year’s draft rather than their traditional downward movement.

14.) Now that Al Davis is no longer with us, the Raiders will make a rational selection based on team needs… who am I kidding.

15.) Someone will get picked that none of “experts” had in their Top 50.

16.) An analyst will totally kill the mood of the broadcast by bringing up last year’s lockout.

17.) There will be roughly 2-3 commercials that will get played over and over and over again making me literally hate those companies.

18.) At least two of the draftees will be wearing bow ties.

19.) Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones will get drafted.

JaMarcus Russell enjoys many of life's pleasures, including eating and shopping at the mall with friends.
Playing in the National Football League is not on that list.

20.) We will see video of JaMarcus Russell doing SOMEthing (playing football well won’t be it, either.)

21.) Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill will get drafted far too high and spark comparisons to Jaguars QB Blaine Gabbert.

22.) In three years, teams are going to wish they drafted linebackers Courtney Upshaw (Alabama) and Luke Kuechly (Boston College) higher.

23.) The Colts will try and trade up into the end of the First Round to draft Luck’s favorite target of the last few seasons: Stanford tight end Coby Fleener.

24.) Someone will talk about the Madden video game curse.

25.) A team that didn’t make the playoffs last year, is going to complete a trade so terrible it’ll seem make the Falcons 5-pick swap with Cleveland last year look like a steal.

In case you didn't know, NFL Network Draft Analyst Mike Mayock spends a lot of time watching tape of players that might potentially be drafted. He'll remind you of this often.

26.) NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock will say the phrase “when I looked at the tape” no less than 487 times.

27.) During a crowd shot there will be someone wearing a jersey so dated I’ll have to rewind and watch it at least 3 times to figure out who it is and/or laugh.

28.) At least 7 players who played in this year’s BCS National Championship game (LSU vs. Alabama) will get drafted.

29.) Someone will trip either walking out to shake hands with the Commissioner or heading to a network interview.

30.) Despite the networks vowing not to show draftees on the phone before they’re selected, somehow we’ll know who’s going where before Goodell says a name.

31.) The point will be hammered home in full force that Nike is the new maker of NFL uniforms.

32.) At least one of the draftees girlfriends will become a Twitter star before the night is over, kind of like Jets backup quarterback Greg McElroy’s sister did a year ago.

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