I’m having a hard time believing that Rueben Randle is somehow that much more important than any of the 1,400 or so freshmen who will enroll in our college next fall. That Manti Te’o is more special than all the future teachers, scientists or doctors making college decisions. That Wednesday’s wall-to-wall coverage of the letter of intent day for future college football stars (and flops) is anything more than an annual made-for-TV hype machine full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Yet so much speculation centered on where Randle, perhaps the most sought-after wide receiver, would fly before he announced he’d become an LSU Tiger. Much ballyhoo for linebacker Te’o who was part of a third celebrated Notre Dame recruiting class … even though past vaunted groups have made the Fighting Irish merely mediocre. ESPN spent much of Wednesday as part carnival barker, part pied piper declaring from every corner of the country how this 330-pound-lineman or that fleet receiver were the best thing since sliced bread and headed for some kind of promised land.
But this is the last time you’ll ever hear about many of these young men. Some will flunk out before they’ve ever played on national TV. Others will learn how much harder college football is than the high school game and find themselves buried in the depth chart. Many who do play will be analyzed and criticized for anything less than a Heisman Trophy or national championship. The odds are against most of these high-school phenoms ever becoming an NFL starter, let alone star.
Does anyone pay attention to all those other soon-to-be freshmen entering our colleges who will someday become teachers having a real impact on our next generation? Or scientists whose innovations will solve problems, improve the way we live, drive a future economy? Or doctors whose actions will really be a matter of life or death?
It really shows the misplaced priorities in our media, in our country. Sure, NCAA commercials talk about all those student-athletes who go pro in something other than sports. But letter of intent day mocks this premise as it treats students like so much cattle, rating them and branding them and selling them before they’ve ever suited up. It’s exploitation, with the media and colleges willing partners in raising unrealistic expectations while preparing to cast aside those who fall behind.
In the long run, I’ll match the 1,400 dreamers and doers entering my college as freshmen vs. the products of this overhyped mockery of higher education any day.