Very few analysts compare the papal selection process with the NFL draft. I think it’s because new popes are rarely selected so close to NFL draft day.
Also, there’s the "burning in hell" factor.
But, setting aside the fact that one is much more sacred than the other, both are very ritualized processes in which a group of men select their "go-to guy." There are some other differences. (In one, the major players are cardinals. In the other, the major players try to avoid being Cardinals.) But they share a lot of similarities, as well.
Both are highly publicized, and steeped in tradition. Once chosen, "The Guy" gets a new wardrobe and greets throngs of cheering people (many of whom had never heard of him until a few weeks ago). Both feature a lot of pre-event speculation and postgame analysis, which all boils down to: "We’ll have to see how he performs." And then they all go home.
But recent events in Vatican City have shown that NFL teams have a lot to learn from the papacy when it comes to a selection process. A few suggestions:
• Sequester them — Kudos to the church here. They know the best way to make men decisive is to lock them up in an artsy place with no TV. If the NFL did this, they’d eliminate empty predraft sound bites like: "We’re considering all options" and "we’ll select the best player on the board."
• Catchphrases — The papal selection process was mercifully free of prognosticator jargon. I thankfully never heard Diognini Tettamanzi described as "a five-tool cardinal with good lateral speed who really turned heads at the Papal Combine."
• Location, location, location — While we wait for the papal selection, we see gorgeous exterior footage of St. Peter’s Basilica, and a 400-year-old piazza designed by Giovanni Bernini. While we wait for NFL selections, we get the pasty figure of NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue saying: "The Green Bay Packers are on the clock." Whose architecture would you prefer watching?
• Smoke signals — I love this. It leaves the talking heads completely out of the loop. This would work so well at the NFL. Instead of all that yakking, draft "experts" would have to stare at a chimney. And then: "It’s white! The smoke is white! We have a wide receiver!"
• The presentation — Here, I think the church can take a page from the NFL playbook. The balcony and cheering crowds are nice. But the new pope steps out from the curtains, dressed exactly like the old pope. He just changed his name, and he’s announced to the world in a series of foreign languages, which requires the throngs in St. Peter’s Square to scream: "Long live you! Who are you?!" I would have suggested a few big screens, a little closed-circuit captioning. (Ratzinger, Joseph — Cardinals) And a jersey that said BENEDICT 16.
Which is probably why they never called.