Richard Hyatt

Big hair, big mouth

Imagine a world without Mel Kiper Jr.

This is that time of the year when Kiper comes out of a dark cave in Connecticut and turns ESPN into his personal showcase, making seventh-round draft choices from Vidalia Onion Academy sound like something important.

For 10 years we’ve watched Kiper and his Addams Family hair come on the air, and talk for 48 hours straight about the NFL draft as if this meat market of football talent will one day lead to world peace.

Kiper is the network’s self-proclaimed expert. He never earned a football letter. He never coached or prepared a game plan. He has never received a paycheck as a talent scout.

But for weeks leading up to the college draft he shares his analysis of players few of us ever saw play. On the weekend of the draft, he is there to say he told us so. For days after NFL teams announce their choices, he sends out report cards.

We’re in that part of the ritual right now. We’re hearing Kiper give a team by team rundown, recognizing that it will be three or four years before anyone proves him right or wrong.

Kiper started in 1984, when he was in college. Now his hobby has grown into Mel Kiper Jr. Enterprises. His empire includes a Web site, a toll free number and a library of five annual publications.

That doesn’t count his 51 weeks of research or his endless and annoying appearances on ESPN. There, with the world watching, he out shouts the loudest of mouths and is so intense that you wonder if he’ll survive the two days of drafting.

Kiper is a creature of cable TV and the World Wide Web. The NFL has held a draft every year since 1936, but who cared before Kiper came along.

Thanks to him, in this modern world of sports, we know more about the pro prospects than their mothers do.

We always had an idea how many yards in passing a quarterback gained his senior year or how many TD passes a receiver scored in college.

Now the Kipers of the world flood us with useless information, data and charts that helps win late-night arguments at the sports bar but does little to gauge what kind of a career a player may have in the NFL — if he makes it to training camp.

All of this has created a culture of fans that gives up real life for endless hours and months of TV and computers.

We know the names of every linebacker on Kiper’s big board but hardly remember the names of our brother’s children.

This football fixation has changed the way sports writers cover the game and how television presents the nightly sports. Useless has replaced the useful.

Meanwhile, the rest of us have to endure Mel Kiper Jr. and friends. We love football but we can’t stand his diatribe of data, the shrillness of his voice or that head of hair that reminds us of the disgraced governor of Illinois.

Mel Kiper Jr. is bad enough. But who’s Mel Kiper Sr.?

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