I feel fortunate that “signing day” as a craze arrived long after I was responsible for covering a college sports beat. My water bill would have been astronomical each February for all the showers I’d have needed to take.
Bad enough I had to proffer opinion most years about the obscene indulgence of an event – trumpeting the signing of national letters of intent, or that is, scholarship acceptance by already entitled teenagers — that fluffs sports programs and inflates impressionable egos.
Somehow it was always the same opinion on rewind, that, well, it’s an obscene indulgence. As it was again Wednesday.
It is a perpetuating embarrassment to the adults of college sports – administrators, coaches and fans — who have created a four- and five-star frenzy over college recruiting, and in the reactionary sports media that blankets it all ’round the clock.
As a matter of fact, I don’t drive a Buick, and I do fancy the Internet. Still, is it that old school to be offended by the rush to instant judgment that has bled into “amateur” sports and applied unnecessary and unwelcome marketplace pressures?
Or that many top youth players who want to play beyond high school are forced to “commit” to college programs as sophomores, under vague threat of being recruited over and losing their spot on the factory line?
When it comes to young bodies and minds — in general, not just among athletes — sensible observers understand what is now is not what will be, good or bad. Future performance is never guaranteed.
Yet mature sensibilities take a holiday when we create a growing market for subscription-based websites selling “expert” scouting reports on high-school athletes and their potential.
That in turn demands the college coach to proactively respond — with predictable gushing praise — to snap reviews of his recruiting success based on obscure ratings and blind trust. The ravenous who buy seat licenses and season tickets must be fed.
Here is a quaint quote: “Proof of the pudding is in the eating.” That’s the actual proverb, did you know that? The trouble is, reflexive — refluxive? — response has ruined a sports nation’s appetite for patient tasting.
It’s regretful that gorging on the whims of high school kids, the definition of signing day hype, is the default behavior we bring to the table.