The NFL season - which actually never ends in Philadelphia - officially begins at noon Saturday when commissioner Roger Goodell accepts the first selection in the college draft from the Oakland Raiders and cautions all potential draftees that showering the audience with $100 bills will not be tolerated.
If you would like to attend the live draft, it is being held in New York's Radio City Music Hall, usually home to the Rockettes, but on Saturday the Rock Heads take over. Tickets will be distributed first-come, first-served starting at 6 a.m., but fans will not be allowed to line up for those tickets before 5 a.m.
This means that at exactly 5 a.m., there will be a rush from the nearby streets to the front door and the potential for all sorts of mayhem as the fleetest and fittest of fans compete for the best time in the 40-yard dash. The others will puff along behind, moving too slowly to reach the front of the line but quickly enough to dislodge whatever snack crumbs might have accumulated on their shirts during the long evening of anticipation.
See you then.
Eagles fans are, as always, anxious to discover the identity of the team's draft choices, particularly the first-round pick. Eight years of selections by Andy Reid have not extinguished that interest, although, heaven knows, he has tried.
Reid has used his first choice to take a lineman in the previous four drafts. This is a solid enough strategy, and reflective of Reid's belief about the importance of line play, but those selections haven't always done much for local excitement. (Last season's top pick, defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley, who emerged from one of the deepest drafts in the last decade, actually didn't do much of anything. Twenty-five of the 32 players taken in the first round made significant contributions to their teams as rookies. Bunkley was one of the other seven.)
In any case, Reid and general manager Tom Heckert are following the NFL code by being circumspect concerning their draft intentions. Some draft experts (see, Crumbs, Snack, above) believe the Eagles will select a defensive back with the 26th pick, either a cornerback or a safety. Some think it could be another defensive lineman, or a wide receiver, or a linebacker, or a running back, or - no way - a quarterback.
In the mock draft constructed by The Inquirer's Marc Narducci, the Eagles will go for Brandon Meriweather of Miami, whose upside is that he is a very athletic, hard-hitting safety and whose downside is that he could be summoned to Goodell's office at some point. Meriweather was in the middle of things when Miami and Florida International staged a remake of West Side Story with everything but the leather jackets and Maria. Then there was a small issue with a gun, but everyone insists Meriweather is a good citizen who has learned from his previous errors.
No disrespect to Marc, but, at this time of year, mock drafts are the belly buttons of the sports world. Every sports Internet site has one. So, as a public service, let's take a comprehensive look at which player the Eagles will take in the first round:
They will take defensive end Anthony Spencer of Purdue, according to NFLDraftScout.com. The Eagles are uncertain about the play of Jevon Kearse and Darren Howard, and are looking for some run-stopping ability to complement the speed of Juqua Thomas and Trent Cole.
They will take cornerback Aaron Ross of Texas, according to Fox Sports. With Rod Hood gone, the Eagles need to improve their nickel packages, and Ross is a player big enough to convert to safety if need be.
They will take linebacker Lawrence Timmons of Florida State, according to five of eight experts doing the predicting for USA Today, all of whom either think little of Takeo Spikes or haven't been paying attention to the way Reid drafts.
They will take defensive end Jarvis Moss of Florida, according to sportsnutz.com, with the intention of moving him to linebacker. Why not, since that worked out so well with Chris Gocong?
They will take safety Sabby Piscitelli of Oregon State, according to scout.com, or safety Michael Griffin of Texas, according to nfldraftcountdown.com, or safety Eric Weddle of Utah, according to draftking.com. (Personally, how can you not root for Sabby Piscitelli?)
They will take cornerback Darrelle Revis of Pittsburgh, according to Draft Daddy and Doc's Mock. They will take cornerback Reggie Nelson of Florida, according to Scouts Inc., or cornerback Marcus McCauley of Fresno State, according to Inside the Eagles.
Ourlads Scouting service says the Eagles will take linebacker Jon Benson of Miami, and About Football says it will be defensive end Charles Johnson of Georgia.
There are hundreds of sites devoted to predicting the NFL draft and it seems that almost all of them are stumped by what the Eagles will do. Looking at Reid's draft history, you can't blame them.
But whomever the lucky player might be, Saturday is the day and New York is the place for the real start to the 2007 NFL season. See you about 4:45 a.m. I'll bring the doughnuts.