Nausea, fever, maybe a sniffle or two; all symptoms of a condition known as the Flu, and all reactions common to occur during or in response to the next couple of weeks leading up to college football’s National Signing Day.
Everyone who follows the college game understands there’s a greasy aspect of it best left to itself. Recruiting is the art of making promises you won’t keep, selling what you don’t necessarily have, and mastering the art of “not getting caught.” Schools spend the better part of this time trying to put their best foot forward, during a process which brings out their worst.
For much of the year, it’s the schools and coaches embarrassing themselves in an effort to play the game. But as National Signing Day approaches, it’s not the athletic department’s acting the fool, but rather the student/athletes caught-up in the circus who leave me wanting less of the game behind the game.
We’ve all seen them: The press conferences with recruit X, Y, or Z sitting behind a microphone, at a desk full of hats, surrounded by hanger-ons, awaiting the production that takes awkward to a new level. It’s “look at me” season and we celebrate it with every school assembly, press conference, and television show created to take his “moment” and make it ours … in the worst way possible.
For months, fanatics of the game follow closely who their schools are recruiting and what, if any interest, those recruits have in their schools. Websites, message boards, and even chat rooms are dedicated solely to the coverage and interaction of adults, following closely the daily activities of teen-aged kids.
They follow their twitter accounts, Instagram photos, Facebook posts and more. They know who’s visiting where, when they’re visiting there, and if and when they’ll pare … their list of prospective schools down. This is big business, and the bigger it gets the slimier the whole process becomes. It perpetuates a me-first attitude, and does so at a younger age.
It isn’t news that professional athletes have taken myopia to a new level. For decades now, the money and extent of coverage professional sports receive has created monsters of the celebrities our athletes have become. Now, due to the extent of the coverage of college football, coupled with the popularity of the game, we’ve made celebrities of kids before they’ve graduated from high school, and due to such, expedited the entitled attitude previously reserved for the professional level.
Don’t believe me? Visit the websites, read the message boards, and tune-in to the all-day coverage you’ll see on various networks come February 5th. These kids are treated like rock stars and they’re acting like it in response. They embrace their celebrity and enhance it via the mystery surrounding their commitment. They have the power and they use it as a means of bleeding every ounce of notoriety afforded them by the game’s fanatics. And who could blame them? And who could blame them for feeling lost when their 15 minutes is up, and they’re left with little more than an opportunity to earn a spot on the college team that’s been licking their boots for more than a year. Their bubble will burst, but before it does they’ll squeeze all they can from it.
I’m interested in recruiting. Functionally, it is the life blood of every college football program and every program’s success will and always has relied heavily on it. But while interesting, the process and everything that now goes with it has become extremely hard to stomach. It’s dishonest, it’s often unethical, and with every year it becomes more and more of a production immersed in arrogance and entitlement. I’ll roll my eyes … often, shake my head … often, and often find myself disgusted by the behavior of not just the coaches involved, but the players they’re recruiting as well. It’s a bit sickening to be honest, but I suppose it is that time of year.