Thursday, February 3, 2011

High School Fame, College Money

Yesterday was National Signing Day for many high school football players. They decided which college will get to make money off their young talents by sending in their letter of intent. For most, they sat a table in the local gym with family members and announced to their coaches and friends where they will be next year. For the few talented hundreds, the stage was a bit bigger. They had the local media make a news story out of it as the camera lights and the press were present. The elite players got the national spotlight by having ESPN televise their decision and ask them questions about the process. No matter the greatness of the student athlete, he is appluaded on his decision, embraced by family and loved by his new head coach. Somewhere LeBron James is wondering why he didn't get the same treatment. All he got was the utmost hate and his only new friends were the residents of Miami. We're led to believe because James is known as a "professional" basketball player he is supposed to be humble and high schoolers can get away with the same act because they are amateurs. It's not in LeBron's contract to have good morals, be a role model, etc. Our reasoning somewhere along the way, James wasn't really taught how to act as an adult, however, we still let this generation's 18 year olds soak in the celebrity status and kick humility to the side (obviously some know how to act - Kevin Durant).

In reality, that's what most college football head coaches are selling to these prospects. They say you will play on TV, play the most minutes, make Sportscenter's Top 10, potential trophy presentations and play under the biggest lights at the championship game. All the coach is thinking is how much money that top recruit is going to bring to the program. In exchange, we let the barely registered to vote kid soak in on the fame at the risk of teaching him the wrong values in life. And then when they go pro, we wonder why they get in the trouble with the law, act stupid in public and only get away with a slap on the wrist?

How come nobody wanted to televise my college decision? I brought no shame to UT and graduated with a good academic career to work for a well known company. But I'm not nationally known. Sometimes it's just better to be in the background.

We need to teach our kids that it’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair; that success is not a function of fame or PR, but of hard work and discipline
- President Obama, State of the Union, 1/25/2011