Photo: Robert D. Cobb/INSC Media & Photography

CLEVELAND, OH – Cold. Rainy. Miserable. Sounded like and felt like a typical day on the lakefront in Northeast Ohio in late April. Thanks to the first NFL Draft being held in the age of COVID, none of it matter to the throng of football mans and media that descended onto the shores of Lake Erie.

In the shadow of the home of the Cleveland Browns’ First Energy Stadium and global tourist attractions such as the Great Lakes Science Center and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland was more than ready for it’s primetime closeup, but shined like a Hollywood A-lister.

Once universally mocked and maligned for the Cuyahoga river catching on fire, the only thing that is ablaze now in this gritty Midwestern city is it being the home of Hollywood blockbusters such as Spiderman 2, Avengers, Captain America: Winter Solider, the site of the 2016 GOP Convention, an improbable 2016 NBA Finals title, the 2019 MLB All-Star Game and the future home of the 2022 NBA All-Star Game as well as the 2024 NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four.

Not bad for the birthplace of Superman. Somewhere, Clark Kent is blushing with pride.

Whether it was the NFL Draft Fan Experience that allowed and estimated 50,000 fans to partake in a wide range of fun events, sample Cleveland-based vendors such as Ohio City BBQ, or stocking up on NFL Draft merchandise at the Pro Shop inside the stadium, fans from all over the country—and world—enjoyed just being out and about, talking smack with rival fans again, as well and proverbially celebrating the return to “normal”.

Whatever the new normal will be defined as going forward, fans who have been confined to their homes and in quarantine for the better part of a year and a half, finally had a chance to spread their wings again, scream, shot and boo Roger Goodell in full force.

In what was a visual cornucopia and mixing of masked fans mingling, socializing and just having fun, you saw individuals bonding over their love of America’s de facto national sport, debating trade rumors, friendly jabbing was a long overdue sight to see and behold.

While many already knew that former Clemson quarterback—and now Jacksonville Jaguars QB—Trevor Lawrence would be taken No.1 overall, as well as all the other pre-draft hype and drama, neither the inclement elements of freezing rain, sleet and chilling temperatures dulled the joy and enthusiasm of the NFL Draft—and football—officially being back.

And in a city that has been known for making a comeback, Cleveland couldn’t been a better or more fitting locale for the NFL to announce its much awaited return.

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