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Chicago a logical new home for NFL draft

6/12/2014
AP Photo/Jason DeCrow

CHICAGO -- It's the city of big shoulders and open arms.

Give us your Olympics, your boat races, your Broadway musicals. Give us your ... professional sports drafts?

Chicago prides itself on being a welcoming tourist attraction, and while it failed to land the 2016 summer Olympics and it'll likely never get the Super Bowl without a roof and about 10,000 extra seats on and in Soldier Field, the city will gladly campaign for the 2015 NFL draft.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is our Lord Business, and being in business with the NFL is good business.

Landing the draft, which is moving out of Radio City Music Hall next year and seemingly now lasts longer than Wimbledon, is a nice way to get Chicago in the spotlight and enhance the city's reputation as a Big Events Town and a tourist attraction.

"I would say that there are two things in pro football I would love to see in Chicago, either one of them or both: the NFL draft and the Super Bowl," Emanuel told the Chicago Tribune in February. "They have different advantages given that we have neither one, so they would be great attractions for the city to bring national attention."

Positive national attention, at least, compared to the ever-present dangers many of our citizens face in parts of the city they don't show before and after commercials during nationally televised games.

Rahm could use to be the face of some good news, especially with an election nearing.

In May, commissioner Roger Goodell told NFL Network host Rich Eisen that Emanuel, along with the mayor of Los Angeles, has been “very aggressive” in pursuit of hosting the draft. We know Rahm, Mr. Commissioner, you don't have to tell us. New York City is also still in the running.

Chicago is being treated as a favorite. Perhaps just because sports people with expense accounts love the city.

On Thursday, Eisen told "The Dan Patrick Show" that he guessed Chicago would get it, mirroring what another NFL media employee said this past weekend.

"If I were an oddsmaker, I would say Chicago is where it'll be next year," NFL.com's Gil Brandt said recently on a satellite radio show.

Hooray?

Will having the draft benefit the city? Sure, if you're a bellhop at a Chicago hotel, a waitress at a downtown steakhouse, a union electrician at McCormick Place, where it likely would be held, cabbies, you get the picture.

The draft doesn't bring in scores of tourists, but any event that brings in "new business" is helpful to someone, even if it's not you.

While the draft might not mean too much to us, it's the city's job to attract visitors, especially those who spend money.

What Emanuel and others hope is that the draft will be a televised postcard to Chicago in the spring. We know a scary amount of people watch it.

We're all familiar with the standard drill of Chicago shots that come in and out of breaks: "The Chicago River! Wrigley Field! Navy Pier! Tall buildings! Boats! Popcorn! Hot dogs!" Add to that those made-for-TV city tours the NFL takes the top prospects on and it's basically an infomercial for the city. As long as it's not snowing or something.

We have plenty of tourists already, but would that kind of advertising, along with the experience of actually hosting the draft, help the city attract future events? It couldn't hurt.

And for the taxpayers, and I am one, there shouldn't be a great expense, or annoyance, at landing the draft, unlike, say, the Olympics or even the Super Bowl. We don't have to pay for a new building or anything, do we?

While there would certainly be city costs to hosting the draft, none are great enough to argue against it. Admitting this is tough, because I'm definitely a "put the money in the schools" kind of voter. But here am I, advocating for the draft.

The Bears would certainly get some exposure, but as one team employee wondered aloud to me recently, would it really make a difference in their bottom line? The Bears sell out every game, they move merchandise and they own the city's sporting conversation.

Yes, I replied, but wouldn't it be good for the team to see goofballs in Bears jerseys instead of Jets jerseys during those crowd shots of the draft?

I guess it depends on the goofballs. But this one is on board. Maybe I'll even skip out on the fun of watching the draft at Halas Hall to see it for myself downtown. You hooked me, Rahm, now close the deal.