Friday, February 4, 2011

Cruel Intentions

Wednesday night the Missus and I watched the second-to-last episode of what is one of our favorite television shows. On Wednesday February 9, DirectTV shall air the final new episode of "Friday Night Lights". After five seasons, the good people of Dillon, Texas shall leave our airwaves forever.

If you have ever wandered past this space before then you know my position on how you spend your time: as long as you do not insist in spending it in my company or on my dime I cannot manufacture enough enthusiasm to give a counterfeit rat's ass as to how you spend it. If you have never watched an episode of "Friday Night Lights", then you know not what you have missed. If you have watched it faithfully as we have in our house, then you know exactly how much you shall miss it.

The first Wednesday in February this year was National Letter of Intent Day. It was the day on which high school football players across the country confirmed in writing their intention to play college football at one institution or another next fall. Up until Wednesday, no high school student was permitted to give a binding commitment to a particular college or university. Rather, the high school athlete provided the school with a "verbal", which in the real world we think of as a promise. Nothing more, nothing less. Nothing in writing. Nothing set in stone.

Among the many reasons why I am happy that I embraced mediocrity as an athlete in a big bear hug and never let it go - and why I am also less than disappointed that neither of my kids was a star athlete in high school - is that I know not whether either of them could have stood up to the rigors of the process that high school kids endure. I know for certain that I could not have withstood it. It is a process that ensures that adults - some with direct connections to colleges and universities and some with indirect and perhaps shadier connections - gain access to 17, 18 and 19 year-old kids and attempt by any means necessary to get a particular young man to agree to come to his/her school.

According to published reports, both the Alma mater and State U. had at least a degree of success in persuading young men they sought to bring their talents to their respective campuses next fall. Given the limited success that each had on the field last fall and the deep affection I have for both, I hope that the institutions and the new recruits mesh well in both places. And at the risk of sounding like Captain Naive, I hope that the kids who have been recruited to Boulder, Piscataway and all points in between get something more out of college than two-a-days and bowl appearances. It would be nice to see them all get an education out of the deal, particularly when considering that less than 1% of them or thereabouts will be able to make football their career.

Almost as much as I find the charlatans who run the "learn your new language the same way you learned your first one" outfit to be borderline frauds, I must confess that from my limited perspective they have nothing at all on the gents who earn their living rating and ranking high school athletes. Really? From looking at film and tape of kids from around the country you can tell me how much better or worse comparatively speaking an offensive lineman from Missoula, Montana is than an offensive lineman from Crabapple Cove, Maine? While I have not yet commenced efforts to learn my second language, years ago in my first one I learned the word for that, "Bullshit". Kids are adorned with stars and bells and whistles by these touts. The ones who are projected as 4 or 5-star players are labelled "can't miss" while those who garner only 1 or 2-star players are deemed "why bother".

Of course, for the frauds to continue to perpetuate the fraud they have to look backwards from time to time at how a year's recruiting classes actually panned out once the kids in question actually got to college and started playing football. Since the men with the pens are the ones who have created the designations to begin with, they find it easy to denote those kids who failed to live up to the tout's expectations as "disappointments" and those who completely exceeded them as "surprises". If any of them possessed the capacity to write the truth, then they would write something like this, "We have no idea how good or bad any of these kids are going to be at the next level because this is not science but alchemy." Then of course no one would buy their magazines, subscribe to their Internet services or watch their television programs. Egad, they might actually have to pursue real jobs like real-life, actual adults.

Go ahead boys and try and hitch a wagon to that particular star.


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