crouching tiger, misplaced priorities.

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.

5 Comments

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5 responses to “crouching tiger, misplaced priorities.

  1. jesskry

    Agreed. Talent comes in forms beyond just athletics and music. Sad thing is the time you hear about a great scientist or literary genius is once they’ve graduated and are asked for speaking or monetary favors. It would be nice to notice other strengths and highlight them in a transparent way. What a great way to pull other talented individuals your way and to show the depth of your “roster”.

  2. Brad

    In the words of Dan Jenkins: “80,000 people never filled a stadium to watch a f3in’ math quiz.”

    In one sense, it’s understandable. Humans are inspired by watching people do something they understand, but doing it far better than most people can. Most people understand running, throwing, catching…. Fewer understand Eigenvectors, spectral analysis, the subtleties of ethical philosophy, or the intricacies of French literature, and yet, they too are inspired when they see these things “done” well.

  3. i am disgusted with the football team at the school i teach at, so i can only think the signing day is whatevah even more. i heard at lunch today that some of the school’s most talented players think its cool to get girls drunk, naked, and videotape them.

    plus a couple of the kids i teach that totally do nothing but clown around and create distractions got signed to 4-year colleges, of course with athletic scholarships. i know quite a few kids that may not be able to throw a ball around or rush x number of yards, but work their butts off for B’s that i think would way more deserve that money. i hate to say it, but i know some of those guys that are going to flunk out. straight up.

    but then how would urban meyer make so damn much money? i heard him on NPR this morning talking about the kids he drafted to UF and i thought, you make too much money.

  4. insidetimshead

    JESS: Wouldn’t it be awesome if a network dedicated hours of coverage to the most talented artists, mathematicians or writers entering college? Not gonna happen, but we as professional communicators can (and/or do) rightly promote outstanding students doing great things in addition to sports on our campuses. There are very bright student-athletes, but they are just part of the mosaic.

    BRAD: Spoken like a Texas fan. Hook ’em horns! But seriously, the expectations raised through this hype borders on the unreal and/or surreal. If Te’o isn’t the best linebacker at a Midwest school since AJ Hawk, plenty of people will call him a bust. (Though if Charlie Weis finally gets fired, I won’t complain.)

    FERN: The biggest football star our high school ever produced flunked out in his first year of college. A decent guy, so it was sad, but it showed what happens when students are promoted and are then left without educational preparation. In the long run, I’m betting on hardworking kids who earn everything to make the biggest difference in the world.

  5. Thank you for the point of view. To play a bit of devils advocate, we all know what role sports play in generating larger endowments for our schools. The publicity generated from this is enough to get a few alumni wallets open. It may be sad, but its the reality of higher ed in the United States.

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