Twilight of the running back

A nod to the reality of actual war was the presence on the Radio City stage of representatives of the five U.S. military services. Since many service members overseas watch the draft on American Forces Network, it's nice that they see themselves recognized. But like warplane flyovers of stadiums, having service members at the draft -- uniformed service members often are introduced at games, too -- suggests that football has something to do with national security.

Football has absolutely nothing to do with national security. When bombers appear before NFL games -- it was attack helicopters doing the flyover above the most recent Super Bowl -- or service members are at the draft to shake hands with Roger Goodell, this lets a professional sport piggyback a highly profitable entertainment venture onto the awful suffering and moral ambiguities of combat.

Or if the purpose of having soldiers at the draft is to recognize contributions to society, shouldn't there be artists and inventors on the Radio City stage, too? But it's only soldiers.The profit-obsessed NFL is basking in the reflected glory of military sacrifice. The conjunction of NFL and Pentagon also suggests that football should be above question. Everyone always supports the troops, so everyone must support football! Use of service members as a for-profit NFL promotional tool is tasteless at best; arguably, deeply cynical.

Literary note: If you haven't, read the 2011 novel "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" by Ben Fountain, which has a subplot about the Dallas Cowboys using soldiers to promote ticket sales. The book reserves all its ire for big-money conservative Texas culture -- there's plenty to dislike in big-money liberal Manhattan culture, too. But the novel is well written and rich with insights.

Jersey/A: First-round selection Odell Beckham didn't do well on the Suzy Kolber test. Standing next to her for an interview immediately after his selection, Beckham appeared only slightly taller than Kolber. Even adjusting for high heels and a riser, this cannot be encouraging to Giants fans. ESPN has Beckham at 5-11¼, and I'm not so sure about that quarter-inch. Given the G-Persons already field a fast but small wide receiver in Victor Cruz, why they wanted a Cruz body double isn't clear.

Unified field theory of creep (first-pitch edition): Major League Baseball's Opening Day was on March 22 -- the earliest ever, and barely beating the vernal equinox, which fell on March 20. Baseball creep is an ongoing trend. There have been 11 Opening Days before April, and all have occurred since 1996.

Jersey/B: The Jets have spent their past six first-round picks and eight of their past 12, which covers the past 10 years, on either a defensive lineman or defensive back. Yet their defensive performance has gradually declined since their No. 1 finish in 2009. Then, Rex Ryan's all-out exotic blitz philosophy was distinctive. Now most NFL teams show what were once viewed as Ryan-style crazy blitzes, while what was distinctive in 2013 was Seattle's conventional defense with a straight four-man rush. In a globalized economy, clever ideas get replicated fast. Ryan's way of playing football, which once seemed potent, increasingly looks tired.

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