An excerpt from my latest Chicago Tribune column:
Both networks will have broadcast positions in Grant Park along with their traditional sets inside the Auditorium Theatre. Bears legend Dick Butkus will be featured on the voiceover for NFL Network’s open Thursday.
“Chicago is going to be a main character in our coverage of the draft,” NFL Network producer Charlie Yook said. “This thing is bigger than just football this year.”
Both networks praised the NFL for moving the draft out of New York. While ESPN producer Seth Markman believes Radio City Music Hall is a fine venue, he said it had reached the point “where we could do a draft there in a our sleep.”
Markman admitted he was nervous when he first toured the Auditorium Theatre, noting “it’s really small.” But he and the rest of the crew became invigorated with the prospect of airing the draft for the first time with an outside component.
“Being in Chicago is going to provide a jolt of energy that we feel is needed,” Markman said. “It’ll look great. It’s the right city to be in. When the Bears are on the clock, it’s going to be some kind of moment.”
John Wildhack, ESPN executive vice-president of production and programming, is counting on Bears fans to put on a good show.
“Chicago is an amazing sports town,” Wildhack said. “The scene and the environment are going to be spectacular.”