NFL Draft Brings Fans of Every Team Together for a Weekend of Football Bliss

Social Navigation

Immaculate Vibes: NFL Draft Brings Fans of Every Team Together for a Weekend of Football Bliss


On a full flight from Kansas City’s brand new KCI airport on Saturday afternoon, I sat next to a Chicagoland native and his 10-year-old son, who made the trip to Kansas City to experience the NFL’s biggest fan experience of the year, the NFL Draft.

Patrick Magee, a resident of the western suburbs of Chicago, invited me to sit next to him and his son as I searched for a seat on the crowded flight. I wore a Joe Burrow jersey on my last day in Kansas City. Patrick’s son was wearing Bengals gear. We struck up an immediate conversation about the Bengals chain that his son was wearing. Patrick is a Bears fan, and his son’s mother, a Bengals fan from Cincinnati.

Given the age of his 10-year-old son, a big football fan watching the movie Draft Day for the second time on their trip, leaning toward Mom’s allegiance to the Bengals seems like a no-brainer. Cincinnati has Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, and Tee Higgins, and they’ve been to back-to-back AFC title games. The Bears, well, they’re the Bears. They may be on the rise, but they’re in a different league than the Bengals. We even ran down the long list of Bears quarterbacks of yesteryear to Patrick’s son to highlight how lucky Bengals fans are to have Joe Burrow right now.

Patrick and I discussed the wild first night of the draft, Will Levis’ surprising slide out of the first round, and the overall fan experience at the NFL Draft. My overall takeaway from the hour-and-change conversation was that the NFL and the city of Kansas City hit a home run this weekend.

Whether it was Patrick and his son, my father who made the trip with me to experience the NFL Draft for the first time in his life, a few Bleacher Nation readers at the airport, or fans at the draft and other local spots, the consensus was the same: the experience was a huge success.

My takeaway from this weekend was this: the NFL has turned the draft into a national fan convention, and the numbers don’t lie; it’s a smashing success.

I spent the first day in Kansas City tallying the team gear that nearly everyone donned. So naturally, the Chiefs dominated the scorecard. The Bears were quickly the next most significant fan contingent in Kansas City. But regardless of who you root for, everyone was there to talk football.

I lost count of the “Bear Downs” my Dad received as he donned Bears gear all weekend. I watched a Chiefs fan walk around a restaurant in the Power & Light District in KC, chatting it up with tables full of other fans. He complimented their selections and hyped up the experience thus far. When the Lions selected Hendon Hooker with the 68th overall selection of the NFL Draft, this fan stood at a table of Lions fans and emphatically cheered and handed out high-fives to everyone at the table.

Regardless of their rooting or geographic allegiance, the fans were all football fans this weekend. Everyone was on the same team this weekend. This weekend, countless conversations around the Kansas City area featured rival fan bases just talking football. I spoke with two gentlemen outside of Jack Stack’s Barbecue on Saturday. One was wearing a Cowboys jersey, the other an Eagles jersey. They analyzed and complimented one another draft hauls. In six months, they’ll have nothing nice to say to each other as the two NFC East rivals compete for a division title. Today, they were simply football fans taking in a once-in-a-lifetime experience for some.

As for the experience, the NFL and the city of Kansas City did an excellent job. Thursday’s round one of the NFL Draft featured at least 60,000 fans on the north lawn of the Crown Center in Kansas City before the Panthers were even on the clock with the No. 1 overall pick. A release Thursday evening notified fans that the north lawn had reached its capacity of 60,000 fans. The south lawn area that houses the fan experience portion of the event remained open. Multiple people I spoke with estimated that there were likely more than 100,000 fans at the event on Thursday alone. 

There were complaints of long — and sometimes impossible — lines at beer and food vending stations. With so many people in attendance, that wasn’t really surprising. However, event staff saw the issues and responded by deploying beer and drink vendors on foot on Friday and Saturday. So, there was a reaction and response to the chief complaint of day one of the draft. That’s doing right by the consumer.

Another observation was that despite a lack of uniformed police presence at the event, it went off without a hitch. I didn’t speak to one person who said there were fights or unruly behavior. I’m sure it existed, but it was obviously limited, which is highly impressive given the size of the crowds.

The draft was wildly entertaining, with a first-round featuring three trades inside the top ten picks. The three-day event featured a record-setting 41 trades in total. The Lions alone made six trades during the draft. Round two also started with a flurry of trades.

The experience was also a smashing success. Over 300,000 people attended the three-day event. The vibes were as perfect as the Kansas City BBQ I consumed this weekend. When we got off the plane at Midway on Saturday evening, my Dad — who experienced the draft for the first time at age 59 and isn’t generally a fan of crowded events — looked at me and extended a fist-bump and said, “Man, what an incredible experience.”

Latest from Bleacher Nation:

Author: Patrick K. Flowers

Patrick is the Lead NFL Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @PatrickKFlowers.