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NFL tries to work its marketing magic with the draft

2011 NFC Championship: Green Bay Packers v Chicago Bears

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 23: An NFL logo shield is painted on the field during the game between the Green Bay Packers against the Chicago Bears in the 2011 NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field on January 23, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Packers defeated the Bears 21-14. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)

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Maybe the NFL really is going to turn this car around, Mister.

Even if, as it now appears, the NFL has decided to abandon Radio City Music Hall and New York City for the 2015 draft, it’s impossible to rule out a change of heart if the powers-that-be at Radio City or another venue in Manhattan decide to give the NFL what it wants financially for the privilege of hosting a sporting event that involves not a single element of actual sport.

It seemed obvious when the NFL announced on Thursday, first through its in-house media machine and then through a P.R. rep, that Radio City has lost the gig, and that the league is “focusing” on New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. When NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy added that other cities are in the mix, the message was as clear as it can be.

If you pay us, it will come.

Or, for some cities that truly aren’t viable options, if you offer to pay us, we’ll use that to leverage more out of one of the cities where we would actually stage the draft.

These “leaks” and announcements are coming at a time when a committee has convened to determine the future of the draft. Formed just a few weeks ago, the committee doesn’t seem to be identifying options as much as it is trying to generate interest by creating a Super Bowl-style auction for the right to grossly overpay for something that someone else wants.

It’s an appeal to one of the most basic human emotions. We want what we can’t have, and we want it even more when we think someone else is going to get it. After decades of opting for the convenience and simplicity of holding the draft a few blocks from the league office, the NFL has decided to apply the same mindset that has helped the owners capitalize in many other settings to the most significant product of the sport that involves not a single element of sport.

Actually, the sport in this context comes from what the NFL is doing, pitting city against city for the right to buy a monorail before the monorail gets sold to another city that will be the city to get the attention and fame and prestige that comes from having a bunch of young men in expensive suits hug a man sliding into the mossy pond between being old enough to be their father and old enough to be their grandfather.

After Friday’s “news,” the league has leaked to ESPN that the candidates include Dallas, Houston, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Boston -- and that the league wants proposals by the middle of the month.

In other words, act now or lose the opportunity to cut a money-losing deal that will bring to town a piece of the biggest sport in the country, even if the event involves not a single element of sport.

UPDATE 2:11 p.m. ET: The NFL advises PFT that Radio City is indeed out, explaining that management of the venue has informed the league that there is no availability next April or May.