If by chance you were roaming around midtown Sunday, you might have come upon folks stumbling out of Radio City Music Hall and into the brilliant sun. They might have looked a mite addled, like gophers who had just tunneled to the surface, but then you would too if you'd just been extricated from three days of full-on wacky.
It began Thursday night with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell getting serenaded with rounds upon rounds of boos, the vitriol gushing forth in geysers of animosity. The balconies were a kaleidoscope of disparate jerseys and those jerseys bonded in rare raptness, the fans demonstrating their extreme distaste for an autumn without football.
Goodell did everything but cup his ear while saying, again and again, "I hear you," and "So do I," to the people's cry of "We want football." For a brief window it seemed the people would get their wish, as a judge in Minnesota had deemed illegal the lockout ordered by the league and its 32 owners. The first night of the 2011 NFL Draft swirled with optimism.
Tucked away in their various green rooms across the land, the 32 owners paused from getting fanned by giant palm fronds and went into a delay defense. (If you need a mental picture of these 32 owners, imagine Mr. Burns of "The Simpsons" tenting his fingertips and muttering "Excellent" in a dim, sinister voice. Then sub the giant yellow head with, for instance, the face of Jerry Jones.)
For close to 12 whirlwind hours, players lucky to be drafted in the first round scrambled to get the playbooks of the teams that now owned them, and to greet their coaches, learn the secret passwords and all the other things that come with playing in the NFL. But the owners figured an appeals court in St. Louis would be more sympathetic and sure enough, just as the draft's second night was gaining steam, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit granted an administrative stay of the injunction that had briefly lifted the lockout.