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This Is So Stupid

Why The NFL Combine Should Be In My Backyard: A 1,000-Word Essay

My backyard
My backyard, shot with a wide angle lens to make it look a little bigger. But don’t tell Roger Goodell! This secret is between us.
Dan McQuade/Defector

Dear Roger Goodell,

The NFL combine begins today. The event, at which potential NFL draftees attempt to impress scouts, has been held in Indianapolis since 1987. On Monday, though, The Athletic reported that the NFL has been looking to move the combine to a new city.

Per Zak Keefer, the league had teams submit 1,000-word essays telling the league why their city should be the next host. The story says that the NFL has narrowed the list down to three potential host cities: Los Angeles, Dallas, and Indianapolis.

Frankly, Roger, I think the NFL has sold itself short, here. In this 1000-word post, I will make the case that the league consider another location: My backyard in Philadelphia.

You can see it in the attached image. I am willing to change the setup just for you. The gardens in the back can be taken out. The trees and bushes my wife and I have planted over our three years here can also be removed. I think you should keep the fire table and heater; it was in the 30s for most of Monday. The fire table doesn’t really warm you up much, honestly, but my neighbors gave it to me. Maybe they have more stuff they could loan me for the duration of the combine. I’ll check.

This is the perfect spot for the combine. I live in a twin house, so it is easy to get to my backyard through a pathway on the side. Though parking in Philadelphia is often hard, my street is not particularly busy. There is also a large parking lot down the block for a nearby train station. I have a bathroom and shower in the shed kitchen accessible through a door in the backyard. I would be willing to open my house’s other bathrooms for an additional fee.

I think my neighborhood would be perfect for the combine. I live in the Wissahickon section of Philadelphia, which borders Wissahickon Valley Park. None other than Edgar Allan Poe—the patron author of the Baltimore Ravens—once praised the park in an essay titled “Morning on the Wissahiccon.”

“Now the Wissahiccon is of so remarkable a loveliness,” Poe writes, “were it flowing in England, it would be the theme of every bard, and the common topic of every tongue, if, indeed, its backs were not parceled off in lots, at an exorbitant price, as building-sites for the villas of the opulent.” I am not authorized to let the NFL parcel off the Wissahickon in lots, even at an exorbitant price, but think of the natural beauty the NFL would be associated with. It could become the theme of every bard.

Poe wrote this essay in 1844, when the Wissahickon was still bustling with industrial uses; it was long a mill creek. Concerned about drinking water, the city eventually bought up the mills in the second half of the 1800s. The Wissahickon Valley is infinitely more beautiful now than it was 178 years ago. Once industrial, it is now gorgeous parkland. And early March is about when the goslings show up along the banks. Think how cute it’d be to show some baby geese in between bench press sets or whatever. The Great British Bake Off does this and people love it.

There are multiple hotels along nearby City Avenue; an additional new hotel was just built down a few flights of stairs from the neighborhood. As for the medical testing athletes must undergo? Roxborough Memorial Hospital is just down the street.

But back to my backyard. I know what you must be wondering: Is there enough space to do everything? Yes! Well, no. But yes! There is the matter of there being a 40-yard dash, and my backyard being maybe 17 yards long. No matter. That’s part of the charm of the backyard combine. Athletes can just run in the middle of my street. And maybe you could add new events, in order to kick up the spectacle. I live near The 100 Steps (it’s actually 102); why not a timed race up the stairs? The rocks alongside the creek are also frequently used by climbers; the one I believe the climbers call “Danger Dam Rock” is closest to my house and watching linemen scramble up it would be excellent TV.

The Athletic article also says the combine is a time for NFL execs and agents to party a bit. Well! My neighborhood is close to Manayunk, a boisterous party strip alongside the Schuylkill River. Phil Martelli, the former St. Joe’s coach who is guiding Michigan after Juwan Howard’s suspension, told the Inquirer this in 2019:

What was the St. Joe’s equivalent of bringing recruits inside Michigan Stadium and its 100,000 watching a football game?

“Well, here’s what I would say,” Martelli said. “The people that were in the know—let’s say it’s a restaurant and you’re taking a family to a restaurant in Manayunk. I would get greeted in a certain way. The family would then say, ‘Man, he knows a lot of people. He’s connected here.’”

That’s right: Main Street Manayunk is basically the partying equivalent of the Big House! The Athletic article also mentions strip clubs; apparently there is a club called Sabel’s Showbar about a mile away. The Google reviews are promising! “It’s small but nice but well maintained unlike some clubs were floor is sticky etc and the drinks are well priced good dancers on mainly on weekends after 10pm you can finds some during the week all in all nice place,” one says.

There is one drawback to note: While digging in a garden last summer, my wife and I found a headstone. It was unused. But there is a chance my house is built over an old cemetery or something; the area was where, in the 1690s, Johannes Kelpius and his followers awaited the end of the world. (The world did not end.) I am willing to work with an exorcist or other religious worker in order to exorcise the area of any potential evil spirits prior to the combine.

Please write back if you are interested.

Sincerely,

Dan