Ahead of June 2015’s NBA Draft, Ohio State freshman point guard D’Angelo Russell declared that he was the best player in the draft.
Yesterday at the NFL Combine, Ohio State junior defensive end Joey Bosa declared that he was the best player in the draft.
Nobody has asked me to analyze potential draft picks for professional sports franchises. I would be horrible at in that role. After all, I came out of fantasy football retirement this year, drafted my favorite players, was algorithmically declared the worst drafter, and subsequently finished 14th out of 14 in my fantasy league.
What’s my deficiency? I’ve got to like you to draft you. And you’ve got to be likable for me to like you. And to me, likable includes having an appropriate confidence in your gifts, a good work ethic, and the ability to have fun while you’re doing your job. Cam Newton falls in this category for me.
What makes you less likable? When you need to insist that you’re the best.
In Russell’s case, he clearly stood head-and-shoulders above his Buckeye teammates. He left after his freshmen year, after all, and was taken as the second selection in the draft. And he’s doing fairly well his rookie season with the Lakers.
But in Bosa’s case, by saying that he’s the best player in the draft, he’s also saying that he’s better than 12 of his Buckeye teammates, his fellow national champions, his brothers. That he’s a better player than Ezekiel Elliott, Braxton Miller, Joshua Perry.
(Bosa is also saying that he should be drafted number 1 overall despite the fact that his statistics slipped dramatically this season. And despite the fact that he sat out of two of Ohio State’s most important games for bad decisions: breaking team rules kept him out of the season opener at Virginia Tech, and a targeting penalty against Notre Dame found him ejected in the first quarter of the Fiesta Bowl.)
“I’m the best.” Maybe that’s exactly what the Tennessee Titans, who have the first pick, wanted to hear: confidence bordering on cockiness with a tinge of invincibility and a heavy dose of superhumanity. (Apparently they didn’t need to hear Marcus Mariota say that last year in order to draft him as their franchise quarterback.) Maybe that’s what his agent told him to say. Maybe it’s all a game.
Yes, that’s right. It is all a game. And the game is for players and fans. To your fellow players, you’ve just told them you’re better than them. To this particular fan, you’ve just made yourself much less likable.
Come to think of it, these players are essentially saying “I’m the best. Pick me!” This is actually a contradiction. On the one hand, they’re saying “I’m in charge of my own destiny. I control my own fate. I’ve got mad skills and I’ve honed those skills to perfection. I know I’m the best.” On the other hand, they’re saying “Pretty please? You won’t regret it. C’mon, me. Me. Look over here! At me. Please?”
Maybe more than being disappointed in these athletes that I cheered on at Ohio State, I should feel sorry for them. They’re working like crazy, they can’t eat whatever they want, they have mad skills, and yet they’re still begging.