COLUMN: Signing Day more like a circus than public announcement
With National Signing Day just a day away, I’d like to take a moment to look at how this sports holiday of veritable athlete worship came to be.
Every signing day, ESPN and its myriad of sister networks cover college football recruiting as intensely and completely as any political election I’ve ever seen.
They send out reporters in the field. They bring pundits into the studio. They get coaches and players on the phone. They show live feeds of players’ announcements.
They assault their viewers with an army of talking heads, and they do it all day long just to see where some high school kids choose to play college football.
Excuse me for thinking it’s a tad bit ridiculous.
It wasn’t always like this. High school players didn’t used to announce their future plans in front of television cameras, reporters and their school’s entire student body. They didn’t play for the camera while they pulled hats from a bag like lottery numbers from a hopper, and fans didn’t hold their collective breath in hopes of seeing their teams’ hat emerge from among the others.
Thirty years ago, only the nation’s finest players received significant media coverage of their recruitment. We’re talking once-in-a-lifetime athletes. The Jim Browns, Earl Campbells, Herschel Walkers and Marcus Duprees of the football world were the only ones to make a blip on the national radar. And even then, the signing of their letters of intent wasn’t broadcast live for the world to see.
But fast forward to 2013, and it seems like every high school football player from here to North Dakota who has plans of playing college ball gets his own announcement party — camera crew and cheering section included.
When you think about it, it’s absolutely asinine. When you consider the age of the kids being thrust into the limelight, it’s unbelievable. And when you realize how few live up to their blue chip billings, it becomes insane.
But it’s just another byproduct of our country’s idolization of athletes.
Now I’ll admit I’m guilty of it myself. I have about a dozen jerseys of professional athletes — active and retired — I wear with pride, and I live vicariously through the successes and failures of a few different sports teams.
But there’s a difference between wearing a jersey adorned with a grown man’s name and number and going all TMZ on the lives of high school athletes.
There’s where I draw the line: When we allow our obsession with sports to turn high school kids into celebrities, there’s when we have to pump the brakes. We need to take a step back and consider the consequences of propping up 17- and 18-year-old kids as larger-than-life heroes. It’s too much pressure.
People talk about childhood stars and how too fast of an ascent can bring about an equally rapid fall, and it’s no different for athletes who achieve superstar status before they reach adulthood.
For every Lindsay Lohan, I can name three Maurice Clarretts, Brent Rawlses or Mitch Mustains.
It’s an epidemic only worsened by the spectacle of National Signing Day and its buildup. And, unfortunately, I don’t think it’s changing any time soon.
Dillon Phillips is a journalism junior and sports editor at The Daily. You can follow him on Twitter at @DillonPhillips_