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Updated: February 26, 2008, 12:15 PM ET

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The NFL draft is by far the most overhyped event of the sports year. Its importance is wildly exaggerated, considering that more than half of the guys selected won't make a bit of difference and won't be remembered six months after their big moment. It always has seemed a little weird that so many people devote their entire lives to pontificating and theorizing about the myriad possibilities of those two days in April.

Or maybe it should be Two Days in April, for how it's billed.

But the draft is like the evening news compared to the combine. The combine might be the strangest thing ever shown on television, and that includes competitive eating and Maury Povich's paternity tests.

With the public's interest at heart, I think there should be a Web site that allows you to check how many hours of combine-watching your neighbors logged. You know, just so you can tell the kids to keep a wide berth. It might not mean anything, but you never can be too sure.

The combine is a bunch of guys lifting weights, getting weighed in their underwear and sprinting against stopwatches. Unless you are planning a career as a stalker, what's the appeal? This isn't even a competition. It's not like Jake Long can win a car for pressing 225 pounds more times than Sedrick Ellis. Even "The Superstars" understood competition was the key to viewership.

At best, I guess it's like watching a beauty pageant, only with guys and without competition. Somehow, there's enough of an audience that the NFL Network runs it, nearly all day and nearly nonstop.


This really could be the year the NCAA Tournament becomes a toss-up. We're promised as much every year, and except for the occasional George Mason, it's never as unpredictable as we'd like.

Florida was a logical favorite last year, but there's nothing resembling that team this year. Think of it this way: If you were choosing right now, would you pick Tennessee for the Final Four? The Vols are No. 1 in the country, but I know I wouldn't.

The best thing about parity is the trend toward team play. Drake, Butler, Saint Mary's, Kent State -- all ranked, balanced teams from unheralded conferences, and each team has a chance to make a few big-conference teams uncomfortable in the tournament.

Unfortunately, there still is interest in making the NCAA a star-driven enterprise. Call it O.J. Mayo Syndrome, with an individual being featured in a television broadcast at the expense of the game.

Mayo didn't ask for or invent the concept, but when USC played Washington State two weeks ago, the entire pregame buildup was dedicated to Mayo. During the game, the director apparently thought we all would turn off our sets if the camera left Mayo for more than 30 seconds.

And so it didn't. Over and over, we were treated to highlights of Mayo from previous games, and discussions of Mayo's NBA prospects (all precincts report they are bright) and misunderstandings concerning Mayo's sometimes-troubled past. It essentially was a two-hour commercial for the guy.

The problem came when they attempted to shoehorn reality to fit the script. The game didn't conform. In fact, WSU's Kyle Weaver went 8-of-8 from the field and thoroughly dominated Mayo with his defense.

There was very little discussion of Weaver, even though he is a far superior college player than Mayo. There is no debating that point. It is simply true. It also is likely Mayo will be a better NBA player than Weaver. No debate there, either.

This is a pretty heady time for basketball. The NBA is riding a well-deserved surge of popularity, and the college game is benefiting from a distribution of talent and the rule keeping high school kids out of the draft. In the grand scheme, this is a small issue, but when college basketball broadcasts become "pre-pro" broadcasts, we're losing something.

This Week's List

He doesn't look too good on the court right now, but we're happy to welcome back an old friend: The great Mumble-Shaq, dominator of all microphones.

I guess we all can be glad he didn't decide to demonstrate the box-out: That foul Bruce Pearl put on Erin Andrews at halftime of the Tennessee-Memphis game looked like two shots and the ball out of bounds.

Found: Jeff Van Gundy's personality, and it's a good one.

No word yet from Ray King: Giants reliever Steve Kline reported to camp 40 pounds lighter.

The only Wonderlic story worth repeating, which is why I make a point of repeating it every year: Legend has it a player answered the true-false statement "I like tall women" by crossing out the "t" and circling true.

What Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon needs to know and know now: There are no "minor discussions" when acknowledging that your team has raised the topic of signing Barry Bonds.

There's poetry in there somewhere: Bonds, finishing his career as a Ray.

Just for the heck of it: Larry Eustachy.

Because what already looks bad is bound to get worse: Dear Mr. College Coach, if your team is down 17 with 1:13 left, please tell the eager young men at your disposal to stop fouling.

At best it sounds weird, at worst downright inappropriate: The top "Best Damn Shocking Moment" in sports, according to the "Best Damn Sports Show Period," was the murder of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games.

Maybe he's partnered with Kevin Harlan and Gus Johnson: The Associated Press reported Monday that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has not spoken during the past 144 oral arguments, spanning two years.

And finally, why sometimes it is better to be Clarence Thomas: The father and son who came forward to say they have a photo of Roger Clemens at Jose Canseco's infamous pool party said they were going to keep the photo to themselves until they heard Rep. Dan Burton's wild-dog diatribe against Brian McNamee at the hearing.

Tim Keown is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. Sound off to Tim here.


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