Chicago is Draft Town now; nowhere is it more clear that the NFL is No. 1

Spend the day in Draft Town and you will discover again that the National Football League is tops in sports. Jerry Lai/USA TODAY Sports

CHICAGO -- Nelson Algren once wrote of our city, “It used to be a writer’s town and it’s always been a fighter’s town.”

Now, it’s a Draft Town. Sponsored by a yogurt company.

So, how would I describe Draft Town, the official name of the sponsored, branded, marketed, $7 a beer, free shot cup of Mountain Dew outdoor experience that accompanied the NFL draft in its first Chicago iteration since 1963?

Well, I’m not a poet, but imagine if an NFL commercial threw up on Grant Park, and it’s a start.

Not that it was a bad thing, really. It was just very NFL.

If you love the NFL and all its sponsorship tentacles, please go down to Draft Town Friday and Saturday. Get a Panini football card. Buy a Wilson football.

But if you don’t, please stay away. Draft Town is not for the faint of heart.

How many NFL fans were at Grant Park on Thursday for the first day of the three-day draft? Well, if the Rapture had happened around 6 p.m. Thursday night, roughly a quarter of the world’s replica NFL jerseys would have ceased to exist.

Of course, even after an apocalypse, I’m certain there would still be NFL fans. Lifelike zombies with fantasy teams and hot-take opinions about 3-techniques.

Spending the day in Draft Town reiterated an immutable life lesson: The NFL, through its many trials and tribulations, is still No. 1. Throughout the day and night, I saw fans from seemingly every fan base enjoying their tangential relationship to the league.

Yes, even Jacksonville Jaguars fans. In fact, I even saw Maurice Jones-Drew.

On the train ride to the festivities, an excitable fan in a Jerome Bettis jersey told some fellow L riders, “You can only love the draft if you love the game.”

While I’m pretty sure the city won’t come out ahead financially on this deal -- there were so many cops standing around the closed-off streets, you’d think "crime is down" -- the event certainly worked to bring scores of fans to downtown Chicago. As far as I could tell, things worked pretty well, too.

The next two days should bring bigger crowds. If the NFL brought the draft back next year, and the year after that, making it the football version of Lollapalooza, I wouldn’t complain. I know Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel would pump his fists a few times.

After walking around for a few hours drinking in the NFL-ness -- Hey, there’s Mel Blount signing autographs! Hey, there’s an NFL talking head giving a weird pep talk in a hotel booth! -- I took my seat in Selection Square to see commissioner Roger Goodell get booed in person before he went to the main auditorium to get booed some more.

It didn’t disappoint.

While angry New York Jets fans are the traditional face of the NFL draft, Chicago Bears fans got their first taste of booing when the Tennessee Titans took Marcus Mariota. The Bears were rumored to be trying to trade up for that pick. A guy in a Ditka jersey was yelling, "Jay Cutler!" when the Titans were on the clock.

Sorry buddy, but the Titans won’t even sell Cutler season tickets.

At that point, I looked around the fans at Selection Square and noticed a trend: A lot of Bears fans, but no Cutler jerseys. Like not one.

One guy had on a Rashaan Salaam jersey. Another was wearing a Shea McClellin. Plenty of Ditkas and Fortes and Paytons. But no Cutlers.

"I saw two out there," a guy in a Matt Forte jersey told me. "But none in here."

While the Bears couldn't move Cutler to Tennessee, his days as a Bears headliner are all but over. But Kevin White, the Bears’ first pick, sure could make Cutler look good while he sticks around. Cutler, who I'm predicting has a nice bounce-back season now that no one is expecting anything from him, has to be thrilled to get this replacement for Brandon Marshall.

Bears fans booed when Alabama receiver Amari Cooper and USC defensive tackle Leonard Williams were taken, but when it became apparent that White, the West Virginia receiver, was falling to their team at No. 7, they were very, very happy.

After a 5-11 disaster that jettisoned Marc Trestman, Phil Emery & Co., we don’t know what to expect from the remodeled organization this season. But as the first pick of the Ryan Pace-John Fox relationship, White has all the tools to be an NFL playmaker.

“This was an easy pick,” Pace told reporters at Halas Hall.

Before the draft, White said he had a great visit at Halas Hall and thought the Bears would take him. He said great things about Cutler and talked about how he rose from a junior college guy to a top-10 pick.

White was in Chicago for the draft and was ebullient when the pick came in, showing the kind of spirit that endears athletes to fans. While anything he said would be music to the ears of Bears fans, surely the New Jersey native impressed Mayor Emanuel when he said Chicago "is second to none, a lot cleaner, a lot better than New York."

Be careful Kevin, Rahm might ask you to repeat that to Roger Goodell on Monday.