It was a hot and muggy day in Hollywood, Florida, circa 1977. The 8-year olds gathered to test their sports knowledge and prognostication abilities. Before the advent of fantasy football magazines, the latest Topps football cards would have to do. Scoring was a problem, since there was no internet. No NFL.com. No live scoreboards. The commissioner saved Monday's newspapers and compiled stats by hand. The Monday Night Football game ended too late to be included in Tuesday's paper, so the scores did not become final until Wednesday.
It was $5 to play. That was a lot of money back then. You could buy about 14 packs of football cards for that kind of cash.
The first pick went to Bobby G. "The Fonzarelli's select Chuck Foreman, RB of the Vikings." A surprised group of kids questioned the move, but Bobby defended it. "He led the NFL in TDs, is on a potent offense, catches the pill, and is in the prime of his career. Plus, there's something about that O.J. Simpson guy that bugs me. I can't quite put my finger on it."
The 2nd pick was made by Joey. "The G.I. Joes pick Lydell Mitchell of the Colts." Joey bragged that Mitchell gained 1,200 rushing yards on a potent Baltimore team, but he stopped bragging when his rival owners reminded him that Don McCauley and Roosevelt Leaks would get the bulk of the goal line carries.
The 3rd pick was made by Chad, owner of 'The Kool Aid Experience', and he selected Steve Grogan, the QB of the Patriots. "I can't believe Grogan dropped to 3rd", said a clearly giddy Chad. "The dude was 4th in the NFL in TD passes, AND he rushed for 12 TDs! He is gonna blow up!" Eddie D was unimpressed, claiming that Grogan's '76 season was a fluke. "The guy is no Bobby Douglas."
Eddie was a self-professed fantasy junkie. He learned to read boxscores at the age of 4, and claimed to have won fantasy championships in baseball, hockey, the NBA, and even the ABA. "David Thompson and Artis Gilmore carried me to the title that year." No one was sure whether to believe him or if he was just trying to intimidate.
Things returned to normal, as the next picks were Lawrence McCutcheon of the Rams, Fran Tarkenton, Franco Harris, and Bert Jones, although there was some grumbling that Franco would share carries with Rocky Bleier.
With the 8th pick, the Hot Farrah's chose Tony Dorsett, the rookie for the Cowboys. That set off a mad scramble at the draft table, because Dorsett did not have a football card yet. Richie, the owner for the Hot Farrah's, mocked the other owners. "You need to do some research. Why don't you watch a college football game and expand your mind? This is the type of 'thinking outside the box' that helps me stay one step ahead of you chumps."
Little Angelo perhaps made the steal of the draft by selecting Walter Payton, who broke out in his second year in 1976. "I think this guy is gonna be good. Who else is going to score for the Bears? Brian Baschnagel?" Angelo was still mocked for this pick. Someone said that the Bears were a sorry team and would never go anywhere, and that Payton's career would end early due to the beating he would take behind a horrible O-line. Predictably, no one is owning up to those remarks today.
Since many in the league were new to fantasy sports, there were many important questions, such as "If I draft Billy 'White Shoes' Johnson or Rick Upchurch, do I still get credit for the TD if they return a kick?" There were also some interruptions to the draft. Richie had to leave when his mother yelled down the street that he had to clean his room, and Vinny had to leave for an hour in order to attend his accordion lesson.
The 1st round ended and the 2nd round began with Pete G, who selected Benny Malone and Bob Griese of the Dolphins. Out came the "homer" shouts. Pete defended the selections, claiming that Malone was going to bust out with his aggressive, high-stepping running style, and that Bob Griese would rebound from his disappointing 1976 season. Chad mocked the picks and claimed that by mid-season Don Strock would be the starting QB for the Fins. "Are you going to pick a kicker in the 3rd round? I hear that Garo Yepremian is still out there." Pete outwardly claimed not to be a homer, and covered his draft list with his hand, so as not to reveal that he had Nat Moore and Duriel Harris as his top WRs.
And so the trash-talking began. It was a glorious day, and one that will be cherished and remembered.