I am made dizzy by this Mel Kiper Jr. character again. He's a rabbi interpreting the Torah, a fundamentalist preacher explaining the loaves and the fishes, a Shakespearian scholar discussing Lear. He knows this damned pro football draft. "I think...," Mel Jr. says, his ESPN head as big as a cash register on my 32-inch screen. Yes? I listen for inflections in his inflectionless voice. I ponder the spray-can majesty of his foot-high hair. My jaw drops, leaving my mouth in a perfect, vacuous O. Yes? I await the opinion of the expert. I want to know if the Indianapolis Colts have done the right thing by taking Peyton Manning with the first pick of the first round.
I might have my own little thought—I would have taken Ryan Leaf—but my thought means nothing. I'm not an expert. I haven't locked myself in some electronic cave with computer readouts and video clips and six phones ringing at once with the latest updates. I haven't logged on to www.melkiper.com, a Web site brought to you by Mel Kiper Enterprises. My mock draft is a mockery of a mock draft. What do I know? Mel is the man. Mel.
I rely on him the way I rely on all of sports' springtime savants. This is the time for experts to deliver their expertise, as baseball begins and hockey and basketball hit the playoffs, as the golfers swing through Augusta, as the cars roll at Indy, as the 3-year-olds arrive in Kentucky, as the drafters draft in assorted sports. This is the time of the pundit, the sage.
I let Digger Phelps and Dick Vitale and Clark Kellogg and Dean Smith and Billy Packer think me through the NCAA tournament. A different thinker thought out every shot at the Masters. ("And now to Peter Oosterhuis on 17....") Tim McCarver and Peter Gammons and every thinker everywhere thinks the Florida Marlins have committed baseball suicide. Dr. Jerry Punch, I think, is thinking right now in the pits. Charlsie Canty is thinking somewhere around the paddock. Charlsie?
On sports radio, thinkers are thinking around the clock, professional thinkers thinking back and forth with amateur thinkers on their car phones. In print, in newspapers, in this very magazine, thought is everywhere. Dr. Z thinks one thing about the draft. Peter King thinks another.
It sometimes seems there are so many opinions, such a river of expertise these days, that the actual events are mere filler, talking points inserted between the predictions and the second-guesses. Who won? Who lost? Who cares? What do you think? Words, simply by their proliferation, have overwhelmed deeds.
I think I wonder what Mel Jr. thinks about all this.