8 Questions with Paul Salata, Founder
Paul Salata has seen Irrelevant Week grow from just a funny idea in his mind to a weeklong production that has been one of the great events in the Southern California sports world for decades.
After 38 years, Paul has a lot to say about Irrelevant Week. But this is a blog post, not a memoir, so we asked him to focus on just eight questions.
Whose idea was all of this anyways, and how did this idea come about?
Mostly, it was my idea. About 50 years ago, I heard of some people in the area who would pick an individual out of a phone book and fly them out to Southern California, just because. That memory has always stuck with me. Then one day I noticed how people being honored always thank the little guy who helped them along the way but nobody ever honored them. So, I got to thinking: The first pick in the NFL draft gets a lot of attention and money. What about the last guy picked? He’s the ultimate underdog. He should get some recognition. You know, what’s wrong with doing something nice for someone for no reason?
Did you think Irrelevant Week would be a one-time event or did you foresee it going on as long as it has?
Hope and expectation are two different things. Certainly we hoped it would go on but we didn’t even know what to expect the first year. That first year, the kid who was the last player picked, Kelvin Kirk, was reluctant – “Whoa, I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He was picked by the Pittsburgh Steelers though – and I had been a Steeler for a few minutes – so I got Mr. Art Rooney, the Steelers owner on the phone. I asked him to call and tell Kirk it’s on the up and up. So he does and Kirk agrees to come out. He missed his flight a couple of times but that’s another story…
How did the NFL first react to the Irrelevant Week concept?
I talked to [the late] Pete Rozelle [NFL Commissioner] about it – told him how we wanted to shower the guy with gifts and attention – and he said, “That would be great.” He liked the idea. We’ve always had a lot of support from the NFL.
Has there ever been a Mr. Irrelevant who expressed reluctance to accept the throne?
Not seriously. As soon as we get on the phone and say, “We’re flying you to Newport Beach to throw you a party and taking you to Disneyland, to go surfing and yachting” then it’s on. We had one guy who brought his wife who tried to take over and wanted to be co-honored, but we’re not honoring the wives. One guy, Tyrone McGriff in 1980, he went to Canada because he got a better deal playing football, so we brought the next-to-last guy, Kevin Scanlon.
What do you say to the people who think the moniker “Mr. Irrelevant” is a dishonor?
We believe that it’s an honor to be drafted at all – to us, it’s irrelevant whether the guy was drafted first or last.
Who has been the best sport among the Mr. Irrelevants?
There have been more popular ones and less popular ones. This Cowboy player we had, we took him to Hollywood Park and they named a race after him. The horse that won was called Cowboy Prize and he said, “Boy, you guys are really powerful!”, like we fixed the race or something.
How long will Irrelevant Week go on?
As long as the annual NFL Draft has a last pick. We don’t have any intention of stopping Irrelevant Week.