By: John W. Scafetta
You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.
Life is full of relatable daft idioms—sugary, subpar turn of phrases constructed to either elevate and encourage or depress and dissuade us from following our burgeoning dreams. Archaic expressions like these of the self-doubting, stallion-esque variety also remind us of that out there, somewhere, someone always has something to prove and someone is always watching.
In the workplace, at home, and, for athletes, on the field of play, the judge always outweighs the juror. Your boss owns the last word. Your wife makes the decisions. And the man (or woman) with a single stop watch shapes the NFL draft class.
It is the end of February, after all.
So, in Punxsutawney Phil-like fashion, the future steeds of the NFL cavalcade have lined Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis once again for their entrance exam—an excessive clearinghouse of auction-like proportions.
I’ve always equated the NFL Combine to the dreaded SATs, an absorbent assessment of intellect and acumen based solely on one specific instance. It’s, often times, illogical to place so much emphasis on one showing. Break it down as follows: A football players’ merit on a campus gridiron is akin to ninth grade Algebra. The arithmetic is dumb downed. The angles are elementary. The all-attainable Honor Society, a nonexclusive group of students who simply showed up, is as impressive as an All-Conference team selection.
In summation: A whole lot of work for a whole lot of nothing.
Think of the combine as football’s meat market, where players are weighed, waylaid, and tagged. The cowbells resonate like clockwork to the beat of endless signing bonuses. Its big business for those NFL suits searching for a fresh substance.
But in a place where prime cuts are a dime a dozen, all players are seemingly a nickel short. The Combine is a platform where the bench press is more of a critic of character than of clout, where a player’s worth is determined by the magnitude of his hands, and where anything less than six feet is simply dead-weight.
Are the drills relevant? Remember, it’s a vanity, a cabaret of sorts for 50-plus-year-old coaches and execs with synchronized stop-watches, analyzing a man running in unencumbered Under Armor. Call me a cynic, but call me when they put on pads. Running a 4.5 without a helmet, shoulder pads, and inclement weather to worry about is about as noteworthy as an athlete’s sexual orientation— inconsequential to the big picture.
The point is that the Combine is undoubtedly over-analyzed, but isn’t that the point?
It’s an extended job interview that’s not entirely PC. Could you imagine siting in a conference room, conversing with a potential employer with the underlying hint of NFL Combine connotations?
Well, I could. For the sake of my masochistic mindset and for the thrill of continuity, let’s take a look.
After hurdling past the receptionist, weaving in-and-out of traffic while traversing the stairs, you meet your prospective boss in an oversized meeting room.
The suit says little—only uttering your name, occupation, and the college you attended.
“Sir, please take off your shirt,” the corporate heavyweight says.
“Are you sure?” you bellow, sweat slithering down your forehead, hands shaking in an uncontrollable epileptic illusion.
The Suit smiles and nods his head firmly. This is either a torture test or the dreaded turn and cough.
You proceed to engage in a series of physical tests, none dealing whatsoever with the position you applied for: The frantic 40-yard dash, an arduous bench press, a tedious three-cone drill, a 20- and 60- yard shuttle, and a torturous tackling exercise.
Just when you thought you were finished, the test gets more personal.
You’re instructed to parade both of your outstretched arms wide in an effort to showcase your wingspan. You expand your hands, as the Suit focuses on your fetching/retrieving ability. You need enormous hands for the potentiality of a possible role as office doughnut retriever.
Finally, the insincere supervisor pulls out an examination booklet.
You peer down, defeated. You still haven’t dodged the Wonderlic Test, where you’ll have 12 minutes to put that State College education up against a 50-question exam, required to be completed by all participants. With questions designed for both mental toughness and problem-solving expertise, the quiz is supposed to determine the intellectual viability of the potential draftee.
You stumble out the gate.
When rope is selling at $.10 a foot, how many feet can you buy for 60 cents?
Who buys rope? “Aside from those engaging in felonious kidnapping, Christmas tree salesman and some third-world country governments, I don’t know of any off the top of my head,” you concede. “I didn’t even pass ninth grade Algebra.”
But your inquisitive nature cuts the test short. The interview process is over and the Suit’s results are in.
“That wingspan won’t cut it,” the Suit says. “We’re looking for a team player who can reach both ends of the filling cabinet. Your hands are way too small. How do you expect to control+alt+delete with one infantile hand? We’re looking for productivity here. Your trip up the stairs was sluggish. You barely lifted the weight bar. You only finished half of the Wonderlic. Even Vince Young completed all of it. And to top it all off, your body mass index is 46 percent…You’re dropping off our draft board. You’re unfit to be an accountant.”
With that kind of pressure, it’s easy to see why NFL hopefuls never drink the water—most simply drown.