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You feel that draft? It's the win

March 19, 2003|CHRIS ERSKINE

IF you've never been to a draft, here's what to expect. Each player will receive a rating, based on a muddy calculus even your tax guy couldn't decipher.

It'll be based on the player's age, all-star experience, hair color, number of teeth and her recombinant DNA.

"The green number is a player's rating," someone will explain. "The red number is your total team score."

That's right, there'll be two colors on the big dry-erase board. Red and green. Colors favored by insurgent rebel armies and pimps. Just to keep things peaceful, one of the draft officials will be carrying a machete.

That's because hanging over this wonderful ceremony are personal animosities older than a bottle of decent scotch. Rules disputes. USC/UCLA feuds. Inappropriate back slaps. Some crack some guy made about lawyers.

This is your daughter's draft night, ladies and gentleman, no place for children.

"For our next pick, we select No. 1, Kelly what's-her-name," Mike says.

We sit around the table, about a dozen of us, with lists of players we want, and some we don't. Each coach has his own theory on beating the point system. It's like a Gamblers Anonymous meeting gone horribly awry. About 15 minutes in, the ventilation system fails.

"How about No. 95," I say, making our next pick.

TraciLyn is a steal in the fifth round. Good athlete. Devoted Girl Scout. Always breaks a wrist in about the second game of whatever sport she's playing. Still, a good pick. Mom's a redhead.

"We'll take No. 100," Fred says.

Fred knows what he's doing. Olivia's quick as a cue ball. She'll be at second base before you can say "foul ball, honey." Smart pick, Fred. That Harvard degree really paid off.

"We'll take Brittany," says Craig. "No. 93."

Ouch. Brittany was on my list. Pull hitter. Decent speed. Arm torque like you've never seen.

"Unbelievable arm torque," I whisper to the guy next to me.

"Right," he says.

I have no idea what arm torque is. But now I'm in this guy's head, see. Instead of thinking about his next pick, he's thinking about what a dope he must be for not knowing about arm torque.

"Arm torque?" he finally sniffs. "I've got your arm torque."

"It's your pick," I say.

Draft night. It's the most important evening in any American suburb. It's where dreams are born, careers begin and friendships blossom. I've never experienced any of these myself, but I hear it happens.

"This year, draft a good team," the little girl advises before the draft.

"You serious?"

"This year we want to win," she says.

Fine. No more Mr. Nice Guy. This year, we're playing to win. We're drafting talent, regardless of those petty suburban obligations.

Forget the car pools and the TV deals and the little drinking cliques the mothers have formed. This year, we don't care how great Coach Lorraine looks coaching first base, or that the leggy dentist always hosts the best parties, where the parents sit poolside each June licking tequila off each other's fingers.

"You're doing what?" one of my assistants asks when I explain our new approach.

"Playing to win," I say.

"Get out," Bill groans.

My long-suffering sidekick is stunned by this. We've always prided ourselves on a tradition of .500 seasons. In the past, when we've discussed winning more, he generally discourages the idea.

"Who needs that kind of pressure?" he'd ask.

"Not us," I'd say.

So until this year we've entered draft night with a list of nice kids raised in nice homes. You know where that gets you? Nice spot, right in the middle of the standings.

This year, we'll assemble a team the way Lee Marvin assembled "The Dirty Dozen." We'll give extra points for prior arrests. We'll favor little girls who spit.

"This is softball," my wife reminds me when she sees my draft plan.

"It is?"

"Played by girls who'd rather be walking around a mall," she explains.

Like their mouthy mothers. Oh, well, that's what happens when Steinbrenner gets involved. Unfortunately, all spouses consider themselves team owners. Listen to them at your peril, is my advice.

"Dad, I just want to win," the little girl whispers in my ear.

"You sure?"

"Just win, baby," she says, quoting sports' most-quoted scripture.


Chris Erskine's column is published Wednesdays.

He can be reached at

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