The draft

High among the tender memories of the good old days of sport are the college football drafts of that beguiling pioneering era of football that stretched from the late ’30s into the early ’60s. How sweetly simple and innocent it all was.

In their earliest days, the Patriots’ brain trust consisted of crusty Ed McKeever, unsinkable Billy Sullivan, and that estimable gentleman, Mike Holovak, who alone knew what he was doing. But Billy loved the draft and approached it as Santa Claus might gear up for Christmas fully pledged to reward only good little boys. As for McKeever, ex of both Notre Dame and Boston College, he was joined to Billy at the hip. What a hoot it was.

The three of them would sit around a card table strewn with sports magazines, newspaper clips, and a couple of yellow legal pads. There would be a speaker phone in the middle of the table and a pot of hot coffee nearby. Billy always hotly denied it but the late and matchless Willie McDonough, ultimate authority on all such matters, always claimed they did all their drafting those first few years right out of the “Street and Smith College Football Annual.” Why not? It only cost a buck.

Which does not suggest they lacked a strategy. It was both bold and clear. If a lad looked like a player and had started at Boston College he got first call. Notre Dame boys were second. And in the odd year when Holy Cross produced an apparent prospect, he too was a lock. First and foremost the firm of McKeever, Holovak and Sullivan was loyal to the colors and, above all, to Holy Mother the Church.

Fast forward a half century to the bloated and bombastic mega-event that the annual College Football Draft, like so much else in Sport, has become. It’s high tech mingled with sweet science and completely computer driven. The production has a cast of thousands with the drama unfolding for three days over national television where wretched excess vies with egregious overstatement to be stars of the show with Mel Kiper, Jr. as the ringmaster.

Without question the opus that the draft has become is a truly remarkable phenomenon. Even more remarkable is its emergence as a prime-time entertainment hit, although in a culture that so dearly embraces the concept of the “American Idol” and “Biggest Loser,” this probably ought not be all that surprising. Surely Bert Bell had no idea what he was getting his beloved game into when he invented the draft gimmick back in 1936 in a desperate effort to keep Poppa George Halas from commandeering all the best talent for his Chicago Bears.

Granted, it has never been bigger. But given all the fuss, all the cost, all the swollen verbiage, all the intensity of preparation, interest and priority how much more does it actually accomplish in serving its stated purpose, which is the business of sending the nation’s football scholars on to graduate school?

Is the talent now distributed more equitably? Are the truest prospects truly revealed? Are there fewer flops from the first round and more gems in the last? When you get right down to it, how much better do teams draft nowadays than they did back in prehistoric times when they relied mainly on Mr. Street and Mr. Smith for information and old school allegiances for guidance in a quiet little pageant that started Tuesday morning and ended before supper with few paying more than casual attention? You sometimes wonder.

The degree to which Bill Belichick is widely regarded to be a master of the draft is odd. That’s still the case hereabouts in his backyard where questioning the wizard’s wisdom has long been considered heresy, although the intensity of that curious reverence has unquestionably begun to ebb. That Belichick, in concert with his long trusted and masterful aide de camp, Scott Pioli, performed neat draft tricks early on is decidedly true. But it has not been true for some time now.

The Patriots haven’t had a great draft since, probably, 2003 and the slippage has been steady and mounting. Take for example the ’07 lottery when they plucked only one chap still in the game, the rather flawed Brandon Meriweather. The year before they got two; Stephen Gostkowski, the kicker, and consistently underachieving set back Laurence Maroney. Ugh! In the meantime, Master Pioli has moved on. Make of that what you will.

Maestro Belichick remains a master of collecting draft picks but not of using them wisely. His last two drafts (’08 and ’09) have been, by any measure, decidedly poor. Therefore he has much riding on how he did in this year’s circus maximus when, quite as usual, his wheeling and dealing was feverish, commanding many oohs and aahs. But if all of that was dramatic while exciting much comment as usual there’s considerable doubt among the alleged experts about how productive all the fancy footwork will prove to be.

But first a word about those “alleged experts.” Don’t trust them. From the high priests of that dubious dodge -- chaps like “Boomer” Berman and his professorial buddy, the supremely kooky Mr. Kiper, who together preside over ESPN’s exhaustive coverage -- down to the legion of tinhorn columnists (present company very much included) who pass judgment on the thing, this much can be said with certainty. They don’t know what they are talking about.

A week after the fact, nobody can tell you who hit a homer in the recent auction and nobody can tell you who blew it. Find me the fellow who declared immediately after the ’81 draft that the San Francisco 49ers had made an epic historical score when they stole Notre Dame QB Joe Montana in the third round and I’ll agree that’s a bloke you might pay some attention to. As I recall, no one had such prescience. But then that was a long time ago.

You have to wait at least a year, and maybe no less than three, before pronouncing a given draft “good’ or “bad” and one pays no attention to those who try to do so the next day. On the other hand, it’s emphatically a fact that out of the past five drafts, the Patriots, under alleged genius Belichick, have yielded eight starters out of 41 picks which is not a batting average capable of sustaining a championship team. All those other picks he’s so cleverly gathered have yielded assorted cannon fodder, here and there, but that’s not what makes a difference in this nasty league. If you’re looking for a major reason for your team’s slide from eminence, look no further.

It is all of this that is the basis for the skepticism the Patriots’ 2010 draft now stirs. When they snared yet another cornerback with their first pick it marked their fifth major transaction having to do with a cornerback in the last two years, three of which have involved high draft picks. Let’s assume their choice, Devin McCourty out of dear old Rutgers, is supremely worthy of being chosen where he was chosen. But it’s no less reasonable to ask, “Why are we still trying to fix this one and same problem at such a high price, once again?”

Out of the gamut of other picks -- the beefy tight ends, Gronkowski and Fernandez, the other stout-hearted Florida Gators, linebackers Cunningham and Spikes, and even far-out picks including those three gorillas landed late in round seven -- there has to be a gem, or two, or three. At some point, the law of average takes over.

But it’s no longer automatically assumed that Boss Belichick knows best. Maybe that is healthy.

Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...

Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Advocates decry historically low cap for refugee entry in 2019

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Advocates for refugee admissions into the United States decried what one statement called a historically low cap of 30,000 for fiscal ...

Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

Catholic workers say U.S. aid cuts to Palestinians could be disastrous

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The U.S. budgetary cuts to humanitarian aid institutions helping Palestinians could lead to long-term disastrous consequences, said ...