And the winner is… My Ego!

I always thought I should be treated like a star.

I always thought I should be treated like a star.

By: Tiger Wench

The buzz of the audience quieted and then was silenced as he took a seat at the table.  The only sounds were the clicking of cameras and the rustle of cameramen jockeying for a better angle.  As he adjusted the microphone, and cleared his throat, grown men shifted nervously in their chairs, fingers poised over their laptop keyboards.  As he began to speak, the tension in the room was palpable.  Had a decision finally been reached?  What would it be?  Lives, careers, fates hung in the balance.  Stomachs clenched, foreheads beaded with sweat, nerves taut, the audience strained to hear the words they came for.  Just say it already, dammit…!!!

A Presidential press conference?  A statement on the economy by the Chairman of the Federal reserve?  A briefing on troop movements in Iraq?

Nope.

The announcement by an 18 year old kid on where he would be playing college football.

The 24-7 news cycle is a ravenous beast.  The public places tremendous pressure on the media to constantly provide instant, on demand, up-to-the minute content.  The problem is that there is only so much happening in the world at any given moment. 

Nowhere is this pressure felt more acutely than in the sports world.  It may be the offseason in college football, but the insatiable demand from fans for news has not stopped.  This forces the college sports media to make the most out of what they have – and right now, that’s recruiting news.

The media starts tracking these kids when they are sophomores and juniors.  They assign them rankings, dissect their stats, televise their games, review their films.  What seems to be overlooked is that these are high school kids.  Kids.  Even the guys considered to be the most talented of the bunch are nothing more at this point but little balls of potential.  Being a stud in high school sports – even at a powerhouse like Alabama’s Hoover High School or Evangel in Louisiana – is a far cry from being a stud in collegiate D-1A – or even D-1AA.  Few of these players come out of high school instantly ready to step on the field and perform.

But none of this matters.  As national Signing Day approaches, the media frenzy escalates, until every last burp, fart and whistle of every recruit is analyzed and scrutinized and assigned deep meaning.  Add in the internet message boards (this one included) and the premium information websites, and you have a perfect storm of epic proportions.  Where did he schedule an official visit?  Is he going to take an official visit?  What color shirt did he wear to school today?  Whose logo was on the sweatshirt he wore to the movies over the weekend?  Did his momma like the coach?  Did Coach stay for supper, or was he out the door in fifteen minutes?  OMG- i- heard- his- best- friend- was- going- to- go- to-State-U-but-his-girlfriend-is-going-to-U-State!!  OMG!! 

O!!!!!! M!!!!!!! G!!!!!!!!!

W??? T??? F???

Is it any wonder, then, that after two or more years of being fawned over by groups of grown-ups who should know better, of having their asses kissed and pampered and praised, of being told how awesome and gifted and special they are, that these kids choose to exploit the desperation of the coaches and media alike, and stage a ridiculous dog and pony show involving multiple baseball caps or football jerseys so as to get their fifteen minutes of fame?  All for announcing which institution of higher learning they have selected as the beneficiary of their awesome, godlike, football prowess?  To bring joy and rapture to one group of fanatics while simultaneously inflicting grief and despair on others?  All at the tender age of 18?

What a rush.

The sad thing is that for many, if not most, of these players, this will be the only fifteen minutes of fame they get.  What they don’t realize is that this is just the beginning of the end.  Some will wash out of summer camp.  Some will get injured.  Some will fail to meet the academic standards.  And when one or more of those things happen, the bright lights go away and the attention is directed to the next up and coming stud. 

We, the fans, gripe and complain about kids that show up on campus thinking that their fecal excretions do not contain odor.  We snicker that they will get knocked off that pedestal soon enough once they hit two-a-days.  Just wait until they take their first lick from an All-SEC lineman – that’ll bust their ego bubble.

The ego bubble built on our obsequious behavior.

The media gleefully report on the once highly touted freshmen who get arrested, who cheat, who fail to perform.  They solemnly editorialize about “failure to realize that there are consequences to actions” and that “the rules apply to everyone”.  That these players are maybe not that great, that they were overrated.

Ratings created, perpetuated, assigned and reported by the media.

We, the fans and the media, have created this monster of switching caps, last minute announcements, milking the moment, and even lying outright about being one of the chosen few.  It is our inability to maintain a rational, adult perspective that fosters this atmosphere of arrogance, ego, and unrealistic expectations in these unproven, untested, potential college athletes.  That would kind of make it our responsibility to put an end to it all, right?

As the 2009 National Signing Day approaches, let’s all make an effort to show some restraint.  Let’s congratulate these students on the college education they have earned through their talents, not deify them for what they might or might not do on Saturday afternoons.

I, for one, will promise to do just that.

Right after SportsCenter.

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