Today is a day full of back-door dealings and false promises.
It is a day in which grown men will tell teenagers the importance of loyalty, commitment and desire, mere months before they abandon their position for one with better pay or better personnel.
They call it "Signing Day."
It might as well be called "The End of Innocence...uh, Day."
I heard a guest from one of the main scouting services on the radio this morning, assuring listeners that his employer had already laid out their first rankings of the top 100 players of 2009.
Don't let him fool you—these guys have scouted out the next three years of players, at least.
If you're a high school football player, don't worry about getting your driver's license, who you're going to ask to homecoming, or what questions are going to be on that upcoming algebra quiz. The important thing to ask yourself is: Who's your leader right now?
For those of you not versed in "recruit-speak", a leader is the college you are most likely to commit to at the moment. I don't know about you, but until the spring of my senior year in high school, I still hadn't picked my school out. And I had a lot less to offer to a school than these kids, who will pack 80,000 seat stadiums full of screaming (and paying) fans.
That kind of pressure is insane. And the trend is toward applying that pressure at younger and younger ages. Some of this pressure inevitably stems from the schools themselves. But more often, the pressure comes from an enlightened element of the population that realizes that the statistics and measurements of the top high school kids is just a mouse click away.
There was a time when fans of a school would ask a coach in late summer, "How we looking, Coach? Got any good'uns?" Now a call-in show is likely to include questions like, "Where do we stand with the Johnson kid out of Oolagaga?"
This age of uber-informed fans has led to the current craze known as Signing Day.
This morning in downtown Atlanta, the ESPNZone restaurant opened its doors and invited in dozens of local high school athletes to publicly announce their college decisions. This isn't an indication of arrogance on the part of these students (although for some it might have that effect).
It's instead a simple case of supply and demand. The public wants to know, and this is as efficient a way of disseminating the information as you can find.
I love sports. I particularly love college sports, and I'll admit that I keep an eye on where the local talent is headed. But the obsession with this date every year makes my jaw drop. I'd love to see a day where the fans could simply be fans of their team, regardless of who was inside the jersey and how many stars were next to their name in a recruiting guide.
Unfortunately, I'm afraid those days are long gone.