Kevin Scarbinsky of The Birmingham News wrote an article on some high school kid not being able to be a “high school kid.” The kid — someone named Brent Calloway — is an in-state recruit in Alabama that has been heavily sought out by both the University of Alabama and Auburn University. Apparently the pressure is so much that he has temporarily left his hometown and has not attended school at all this week [I could not care less that he missed a basketball game]. In the article, Scarbinsky writes:
His life has been turned upside down because too many people who don’t have a life have been hanging on his decision. He’s gone into seclusion because too many people who need a life have been tugging at him and trying to discover or influence his decision.
But Scarbinsky stops short of blaming another group of individuals that are a fault — the media. Nowhere in his article does he lay blame on the very medium that helps spread the word about these recruits, where they have visited, and where they have signed. From ESPN and Yahoo! Sports (via Scout.com and Rivals.com) all the way down to The Birmingham News, the media is the one that helps thrusts this kids into the sudden spotlight.
Now, do not get me wrong. There have been people following recruiting long before the process become a new form of entertainment (almost a new “sport”). I have a friend who used to tell me all the time about this recruit from X-high school and that recruit from Y-high school and I would respond, “How in the hell do you know all of this!? And more importantly, why do you want to know this?” Granted, it is nice to know that UAB signed that awesome “1-star” recruit out of East Buddah-fuck, but it seems extreme to know that said recruit has a birthmark in the shape of Whistler’s Mother [See: Naked Gun 2 1/2].
And it should be clear that I do not follow recruiting…at all. When I write “some high school kid . . . named Brent Calloway,” I am not writing that to be a smart ass. I seriously had no clue as to who he is until I read that article. And even then I thought he was a lineman — Calloway just sounded like the name of a guard — until the article mentioned that the kid wanted to play his preferred position…running back.
Nevertheless, Scarbinsky wrote another line that pretty much sums up my feelings on the obsession of recruitment following:
Can you imagine the mind of a person who would criticize a teenager, let alone threaten him, because he wanted to play college football here rather than there? Sadly, if you follow recruiting, you can.
Perhaps that last sentence needs a little bit of editing. Remove a comma and a couple of words so that the sentence reads “Sadly, you follow recruiting.” I akin following recruiting to controlled pedophilia. Keep in mind, the roots of “pedophilia” is not sexual (although it is mostly associated with such action), but a (love) relationship with a child…an obsession. And that is what the following of recruitment is — an obsession over a child. Call it “Obsessive Recruitment Disorder,” or ORD.
We tend not to use the word “child” with teenagers. But if you are a parent of a teen, then you likely have used the term “my child.” The word “kid” seems to be a bit more “mature” than “child,” but make not mistake about it — high school students are still children.
And make no mistake about this — following recruitment like many people do is an obsession over a child. It is pedophilia!! People form an invisible relationship with that child, certain that the child will go to their preferred team. And they will “love” that child unconditionally. They will love the child’s 40-time; his strength to shed blockers; to maintain his vision downfield while scrambling; to use his hands rather than his body to catch the ball; his ability to read the quarterback’s eyes and anticipate passes.
But actually, that love is conditional — conditional on that child going to Z-university. Because if that child decides to go somewhere else, the relationship turns sour. Suddenly the 40-time was not that fast; the child was not that strong; he could not find the open man; he does not go for the ball over the middle; he slow to recover on play fakes. Suddenly, the beauty queen is just a bitch…or a Benedict Arnold.
It is a twisted world filled with obsessions and pedophilia. And it is on full display today. Just visit the message boards of any of the major football programs and you will see what I mean. I am not referring to the casual “recruitment follower” who may just check ESPN or Yahoo! Sports to see an update on how their favorite team is doing in filling needs for the upcoming season (still eight months away!!!!!!), but even those can be suspect. But I am focusing squarely on those that “live and breathe” recruiting; those who see it as the “second season” of football. It is those sickos that could be labeled pedophiles.
But it is not just those nutjobs that deserve criticism. It is also the media. ESPN has taken all of this to a new level and helped satisfy the fix that the pedophiliac recruitment junkie! Broadcasting high school football games to the wall-to-wall coverage of NATIONAL SIGNING DAY only brings more of the spotlight to players like Calloway. The media — including so-called “new media” (blogs, YouTube, social networking, etc.) — has turned what used to be an obscure day in February into a friggin’ circus!
To many, including myself, today is just Groundhog’s Day (or for me, the day I watch students struggle to find Africa on a map). But to many others, today is the climax of an obsession that will either result in a “beautiful relationship” or heartache as the beauty queen goes with Johnny Football Hero.
I am reminded of Nick Nolte in the movie Blue Chips, where he is confessing to “buying” players. He goes into a rant at a post-game press conference following a question from Ed O’neill. During that rant, he talks hypothetically about a young kid (13 years old?) out shooting hoops, already dunking the ball. And soon, the kid being surrounded by scouts and coaches who are drooling over the kid. The picture painted is almost macabre as you have grown men (and maybe women) obsessing over a child.
How is any different that those “fans” who obsess over children, harassing these kids to find out if they are going to Alabama or Auburn or Arkansas-Monticello? It is not different. It is still ORD.
How is any different that ESPN showcasing high school football games and Yahoo! Sports “tracking” recruiting interests? It is not different. It is still ORD!
Scarbinsky is right to question the mental stability of some of these people who are so obsessed over recruitment that they actually harass these kids. He is right to “hope” that kids like Calloway can return to focusing on school (hold your cynicism).
But there is still a disconnect in Scarbinsky’s article in that he is also part of the problem. Like it or not, the media has made recruiting a part of “sports” and thus it is now part of his job to report on it. But the true disconnect is that so much attention is paid to the decision of children — a decision that involves sports, but has no direct bearing on the well-being of people’s lives (outside of the child’s family). Yet, little is made of the 4.0 student who chooses to go to Tulane over Emory.
Yes, this is a sports site and I love sports. And yes, I am not naive enough to believe that academics will ever trump sports. But if we are going to obsess over children and where they are going to attend school (I’ll use that loosely for athletes), should we not be obsessing over those that might one day find cures for diseases rather than those that play sports?
I guess there is no money to be made or egos to be stroked in reporting that Little Johnny chose Purdue over Georgia Tech because of the engineering program rather than the sports program. There is something twisted and perverse about that.