Like everyone else who strode down the red carpet here, Mr. Bolles is a large man, but he was almost lost in the teeming crowd. Like our expanding universe, the N.F.L. pursues a single course — more and bigger. And the draft has become part of the general bloat.
Once presented on ESPN as a Saturday and Sunday afternoon package, the annual selection of college football’s top players was then a sleepy event followed mainly by sports die-hards who quoted Chris Berman. Starting in 2010, the draft expanded from two days to three and was moved to prime time. Now the league has craftily turned it into a junior Super Bowl in its spectacle — and a fashion show, too.
The draft is the moment when players go from the college level — with its prohibitions against receiving gifts or financial compensation and its discouragement of off-field flash — to the world of red-carpet paparazzi and endorsement deals. Even if they are not among the top five picks, members of the Class of 2017 can still audition to become the face of Under Armour when Tom Brady retires.
This year, in its quest for bigness and moreness, the N.F.L. took over the city of Philadelphia.
Something called the N.F.L. Draft Theater was constructed on the red-carpeted steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The stage had three tiers and held more than 3,000 people. Its foam-columned facade replicated that of the museum’s, as if to confirm that football is America’s high culture. Eric Finkelstein, the league’s director of event operations, called the temporary structure “an engineering marvel.”
Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the wide, tree-lined avenue that leads to the museum, was turned into the site of a giant street festival that was expected to attract 200,000 visitors over the draft’s three days.
A few hours before the first-round picks were to be announced, there was a…