Take a second to really think about that number.
That’s how many people descended on Nashville last weekend. Between the NFL Draft, Music City Marathon and various other events being held in Nashville, it’s estimated that an extra 600,000 people were in Nashville between April 25-27.
Having an issue imaging that many people? No worries. I’ve got you covered.
— Nashville’s #1 Sports Station (@1045TheZone) April 28, 2019
With 600,000 people, you could fill Nissan Stadium up 8.72 times. Neyland Stadium would fill to capacity 5.86 times over. And for all you futbol fans out there, Camp Nou, home of the Barcelona soccer club and the second largest soccer stadium in the world, would be filled up 6.04 times.
The number shattered the previous draft attendance number of 250,000, set in 2017 in the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia. Nashville nearly topped that number on the first night, when an estimated 200,000 people braved the rain to watch Kyler Murray become the first overall selection.
As someone who’s grown up in Nashville, who was here before all the murals, before all the country-star-owned honky tonks, and back when the term “pedal tavern” just referred to a guy drinking a six-pack on his bike on a random Tuesday afternoon, it was incredible to see the national sports media finally realize what bachelorette parties have known for years: Nashville is awesome.
Drafts in NY, Chicago, Philadelphia and Dallas were tremendous and all were great hosts. There never has been a scene like this for any draft in any sport, ever. Nashville’s insane.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 25, 2019
— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) April 26, 2019
Who won the #NFLDraft? The city of Nashville! Amazing crowd, tremendous enthusiasm, fantastic energy. I’m in DC covering the Redskins draft, and after seeing what Nashville did, everyone here wants to go there. Even jaded broadcasters are impressed. #MusicCity rocked the NFL!
— Trevor Matich (@TMatich) April 27, 2019
In a world of hot takes and debate shows, very rarely is something universally agreed upon within the Twitter-sphere, and the city of Nashville somehow pulled that off this weekend. It was the anti-Fyre Festival (and yes I know that’s a dated reference at this point, but give me a better example and I’ll gladly update the joke).
My personal experience of the draft was that of a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed promotions assistant who spent his first day on the job overlooking the stage of the NFL Draft, surrounded by ESPN personalities. As if starting a new job wasn’t stressful enough, throw in the possibility of me tripping over a loose wire and shutting all of ESPN’s draft coverage off. Probably not a possibility, but a lot of weird things go through your head when you play the “worst case scenario” game on your first day of work.
I was still playing that game in my head as I walked up to the rooftop of Rock Bottom Brewery, where 3HL and Titans Radio were going to be covering the draft for the next two days and where I would be stationed. As I walk through the door leading to the rooftop bar, I immediately see ESPN’s secondary set to my left. While I’m still staring at the set, I hear someone sneeze to my right, and like a good, southern-raised boy, I say “bless you.” It’s reactionary at this point.
I then hear the very familiar voice of Mike Greenberg say, “Thanks.” I then nervously reply with, “No welcome,” which I think was a mixture of “no problem” and “you’re welcome,” but there’s really no way to be sure at this point. I scurried away before he could see which station I worked for and ask them why they’ve employed a lunatic.
I’ve interviewed athletes and some other well-known people for various jobs in the past, but for a kid who grew up on Mike and Mike and loves sports talk radio and now works in sports talk radio, it took a second to regain composure. But then Greg Cosell walked in and the whole process repeated itself.
As a fan of the NFL, I look forward to the draft every year. It’s a fresh start for every team. It’s three days of hope being infused into your NFL team, even if you went 0-16 the year before. And as a lifelong Titans’ fan, you’ll take hope in any form you can get it.
Hope can also be taken away quickly if you don’t agree with your team’s choices, and that’s where all the best fan moments come into play. I’ve always enjoyed seeing the anguish in fans’ faces when their team makes a questionable pick, because I’ve been there (looking at you Pacman Jones). We all have.
Seeing these reactions on TV is great, but being there, in person, to hear the groans of a fan base was a whole new experience. The confusion in the room full of sports media professionals when the Raiders selected Clelin Ferrell fourth overall instead of Josh Allen or some other higher-rated pass rusher was palpable. Little did we know that just two picks later, the Giants would send the sports-Twitter world into a frenzy by selecting Daniel Jones, the Duke quarterback who’s upside seems to be solely based on his connection to Eli Manning. The whole city seemed to gasp before Roger Goodell could finish announcing Jones’ name. It was an incredible moment. Well, maybe not for Giants fans.
The city of Nashville managed to pull off a feat very few cities could: bring together 600,000 NFL fans without any major incidents. Giants fans partied with Eagles fans. Packers fans danced with Vikings fans. Patriots fans… probably still drank alone. If the Draft becomes a rotational event like the Super Bowl, don’t be surprised if Nashville is the first city to become a repeat host.