Signing day: Debating the hype

La Salle high linebacker Zaire Franklin is heading to Syracuse. (Ed Hille/Staff Photographer)
La Salle high linebacker Zaire Franklin is heading to Syracuse. (Ed Hille/Staff Photographer)
Posted: February 07, 2014

"Did you hear?"

"What?"

"It was national signing day on Wednesday. Our alma mater had its best recruiting class ever."

"Says who?"

"Says the people who are paid to know. ESPN, Scout.com, Rivals.com. They all say so. We got a quarterback, two wide receivers, three defensive linemen, and a safety, and they were all among U.S.A. High School, Elementary School, and AAU Sports Fever Magazine's 'Totally Awesome Top 25 Recruits.' All of them!"

"Big whoop."

"You're not excited?"

"You are?"

"You bet. It's like I'm Brent Musburger, and I get to spend the entire day looking live at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa."

"I don't get it."

"What don't you get?"

"These recruits, they're 17 years old, right?"

"Most of 'em, yep."

"And when they leave college, they'll be 21 or 22, right?"

"Most of 'em, yep."

"Did you ever think about how much you changed from the time you were 17 until you turned 22? Ever think about everything that happened or could have happened to you over that time? And you weren't trying to swim in the cauldron that is big-time college football. I mean, today is great for the player himself. He gets a news conference - flash a grin, make the big reveal by putting on a baseball cap, TV cameras rolling, photographers clicking away. I'm sure he's happy and relieved at the same time. No more texts and calls and superspecial handwritten notes from recruiters. He gets a chance to breathe again.

"And I'm sure a lot of these guys turn out to be top-notch. But nothing's certain. Nothing's close to certain - not even when the people who get paid to be certain say it's certain."

"Yeah, you're right."

"That's what I don't get. If you acknowledge that we don't really know which of these kids - and at this point, they are still kids - are going to develop into elite players, if any at all, and that everyone admits this is all just one big game of chance, why do TV networks and websites and newspapers cover this stuff so heavily?"

"Because people care about it."

"I know that. What I'm asking is: Why do they care so much?"

"I think it's because of one word: hope. That's what this is all about - that my team might get these one or two or five or 10 terrific players who lift us to a better season or a conference title or, dare I say it, - a national championship! I like thinking that the best part of my Saturdays in the fall may not be the pulled pork sandwiches and lagers before the game. My team might be - how do I put this? - part of the conversation. That's what it's all about today, isn't it? It's like we get more joy out of talking about sports than we do out of actually watching the games."

"I agree completely - which is why I'm not a fan of national signing day. What you call excitement, I call excessive hype. What you call hope, I call misplaced attention and empty speculation. Get back to me in September, when the games actually start."

"Hey, look at it this way, it's just one day."

"True."

"And just think: In two weeks, we'll be talking about something much more interesting."

"What's that?"

"The NFL combine!"


msielski@phillynews.com

@MikeSielski

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