It was exactly 24 hours until the gates were scheduled to open for The NFL Draft Experience at noon on Thursday and to say the scene on the Parkway suggested readiness would have been a bit of an overstatement.
Everywhere inside the fenced-in corridor between 20th Street and the Art Museum were hundreds of workers building something, arguing about how something should be built, dodging forklifts carrying stuff out of which it looked possible to build something, or just having a sandwich.
An army of red-jacketed security forces shooed away the curious who ventured too close to the activity, which was taking place alongside the ongoing, picturesque Parkway construction. Step back and the scope of the thing, the sheer amount that still had to be done, made it seem the draft had to be at least a week away, maybe two.
The exception, notable given the expectation that 200,000 people will visit the scene during the three days of the draft, was porta potties. Thousands of them lined the streets along either side of Philadelphia's grandest boulevard. Say what you will about the relative enjoyment of The Porta Potty Experience, the people charged with getting them in place don't wait until the last minute, hopping around on one foot as they do. Veteran festival goers are happy with any porta in a storm, and the ones here for the draft will have their choice.
Near Logan Square, a cop moved some cones to keep the bottled-up traffic around the fountain from venturing in the direction of the Art Museum at the far end of the Parkway, where the huge stage bearing the banner, "The Future Is Now," was still being constructed amid the clang of hammers against metal.
"Will it be finished in time?" the cop said. "Sure. Those are union workers in there. They say it will be ready, it will be ready."
Here's the thing that is true. Every detail might not be carried out. Every logo might not be in place. Every vendor stand might not get loving attention. But it will all be ready enough for television, and while the event is billed as being for the fans, those are just extras in the show, a colony of brightly costumed ants serving as a living background for the production.
In other words, like any NFL game in any stadium.
When the red lights go on and the first round commences at 8 p.m., the show will look as good as anything that ever came out of Hollywood. The city will sparkle in the aerial shots that glide from City Hall to the Art Museum. The stage on the Rocky steps will shine in the floodlights like a reviewing stand fronting some baronial estate. I swear if you threw in a few Lipizzaner stallions it could pass for the opening act of a coup d'etat.
Off to the side, there will be piles of building materials strewn in the mud, and miles of orange traffic barricades, and things that won't get on television. That's how the NFL operates and the league is always careful to present the show it wants to present.
Away from the stage upon which the sport is presented, the NFL doesn't want to bother you with the effects of the game on its participants. It might be true that football eventually kills its players, but that's really not something upon which the league wants its fans to dwell. So, concussion issues and chronic brain injuries are put over there with the tangle of wires and the mud, out of camera range.
It is also true that not every good football player is a good person, so the NFL works on that one, too. When the videotape of running back Joe Mixon hitting a woman became public, the league knew just what to do. Joe Mixon wouldn't be invited to the Scouting Combine, because if he was, well, he would exist. Problem solved, or at least solved until Mixon's name is called on the Parkway, which it will be.
If the show looks good, nothing else matters. If the NFL Pro Shop is open for business - and there's a bet you can safely make - and if people can get their picture taken next to the glass-enclosed Lombardi Trophy, who will still care that the display case was empty until the very last minute? (The Lombardi being late to arrive in Philadelphia isn't really news, by the way.)
Maybe it was a mess with only a day left to go, but nobody seemed worried. There would be three shifts of workers into the night. It would get done. The switch would be thrown, the lights would come on, and the city would be treated to an Experience. Just don't look behind the porta potties.