Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Sweet Perfume of the Half-Time Air

Eight years to the day before I was born music died. For forty-three years, American Pie has shared a place on my menu next to birthday cake. It has outstanding powers of persuasion. It truly does. Once upon a time I doubted it but now I believe music really can save my mortal soul.

This year the date on the calendar that marks my arrival also was designated as "National Letter of Intent" Day. It is the day on which the youngsters (17 and 18 year old boys for the most part) who have been getting pursued by universities and colleges from coast to coast in an effort to get them to matriculate on over to WhatsAMatta U to play college football sign on the dotted line. Here in the State of Concrete Gardens, the home team had a busy day - signing twenty-five high school seniors to letters of intent. Out in Boulder the Alma mater signed twenty-one.

A cottage industry has grown up in this country: the tout. There are individuals who hold themselves out as experts in conceivable thing. If you can envision it, then there is a man or woman somewhere in the United States who is an expert -often self-proclaimed - in that field.

Among my favorite area of expertise is the rating of high school football players as college prospects. It would seem to me an impossible task to assess the skills of an outside linebacker from a mid-sized high school in suburban Alabama in comparison to those of an outside linebacker from a private high school in Queens, New York. Nevertheless it seems as if every young man who signed on yesterday to play college football somewhere next fall has not only a name, but a number and a constellation as well.

How the hell do you know with any certainty how a 17 or 18 year old "BMOC" will do when the campus around him has grown exponentially and is suddenly populated by a lot of other big men? You do not. No matter. A group of experts has popped up spouting with certainty which kid is a "can't miss" and which one has no shot at success. How accurate is their prognostication? Not nearly as good as one might want us to believe.

It is not what you know. It is how convincing a polish you put on it - how pretty a bow you affix to the package. The better it looks, the better it sells. Even when the package is empty. And especially when you have no idea what's inside.

-AK

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