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Friday, April 21, 2006

The Echoes Are More Than Just Awake

In Texas they say that there are two sports, football and spring football.

Many colleges have recently completed their spring practice, and for many hope springs eternal that the fall will bring gridiron glory.

February marked the signing of national letters of intent, the final indicator of how well schools did in the recruiting wars of 2006. College football fans watch the returns the way ward healers see whether their henchmen deliver big-city votes in a key race, and they want to see how many of the top 100 kids their school has landed. Those returns, like the NFL draft, have become an industry of their own.

Nowadays it's not unusual for high school juniors to commit after the conclusion of their junior year (thus creating a secondary sport, as the national-letter-of-intent watch is all about high school seniors). So eager are they to get on campus and learn their college's system that they'll forego the joys of the second semester of their senior year of high school, graduate early and then start their new college during that second semester. As a rapidly aging curmudgeon in training, I'd like to see the youngster play for the high school baseball team, but these days the kids who are really good focus on one and only one sport. The days of the three-sport athlete have gone the way of the afternoon newspaper and sales of baseball cards at the corner drug store (heck, the corner drug store really isn't there anymore either).

Notre Dame just landed the biggest recruit in the 2007 recruiting wars, a HS QB about whom I blogged at Christmas time because of the number of times he's "red-shirted" during his schoolboy career. In the movie "Field of Dreams", the protagonist, Ray Kinsella, heard a voice that said, "If you build it, they will come." It was a baseball diamond that he plowed out of his corn field, and they were reincarnations of deceased baseball players, including "Shoeless" Joe Jackson. At Notre Dame, A.D. Kevin White heard a voice a few years ago that must have said, "If you hire him, they will come." Sure enough, despite the legend of Knute Rockne, Touchdown Jesus and the lore of Notre Dame, "him" was Charlie Weis, and "they" are the nation's top recruits.

The Echoes were stirred last season.

They are wide awake now.


Blogger EllenK said...

Being a Texas native and a teacher I can assure you that Football is King here. So much so that even struggling school districts will spend two or three times a classroom teacher's salary to obtain a coach that will bring home the trophy. Towns such as Midland and Odessa do shut down on Friday nights and people are loathe to give up that tradition. Sadly, when the State Legislature was trying LAST YEAR to get equitable funding on the right track, I wrote a letter to the local newspaper suggesting that if school boards wanted to get the attention of the State Lege that they should say that due to lack of funding, there would be no football next fall. Of course the coaches at my school didn't read the whole letter, or didn't understand it, but you would have thought that I had suggested ritual sacrifices and devil worship. But I think this is a reflection of our society in general where we have this dysfunctional worship of athletes, even when they are not worthy of such worship. It's not that I hate athletics, heck, I grew up watching Southwest Conference football and could quote stats when I was just a kid, but truly, don't you think it's gotten way WAY out of control? Especially when so few will actually make it to the pro level and so many need the money just for the basics of education?

8:22 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Thanks for your thoughtful post. I agree that it's gotten way out of control, and I'm always looking to figure out why. Is it that the parents' lives are unfulfilling enough that they want to bundle their resources so that their kid has the chance to be the next scholarship winner (which is interesting in and of itself in that certain collegiate football factories don't care that much about graduating their players with a meaningful degree anyway)? I see the emphasis locally in the mid-Atlantic region, what with having kids focus only on one sport and starting travel teams at 8. There needs to be more balance, not less, but I don't know how the current trend will change in the near future.

6:14 AM  

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