bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: Mixed feelings about following college football recruiting

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There is something about sports fandom that makes us feel like kids. After all, childhood is when few things meant more than the results of one game or another. When we become adults, we are expected to focus on more grown-up matters, like jobs and money. In our hearts, though, the true sports fan knows that the games mean more than any of that. That’s why we get so worked up about a bunch of men chasing a ball. I am all for hanging on to that child-like focus, but there are limits. One area about which I struggle to know how I feel is college football recruiting. I follow it and read about it regularly, but I often feel like I should spend a lot less time on it.

There are numerous websites entirely dedicated to discussion of recruiting for one school or another. I read several of them on a daily basis that focus on Penn State. If I don’t think about it too much, I enjoy hearing about whether some kid is going to go to Penn State or whether he is headed elsewhere. There is something twisted about a bunch of grown men analyzing the Twitter feeds and Facebook pages of a bunch of 17-year-old kids, hanging on any mention of their favorite school. The hours spent poring over the rankings of the various recruiting services, and the screaming and yelling when a school offers a scholarship to a kid who has less than a 4 or a 5 star ranking is really unfortunate. The fact that the services seem to be wrong as often as they are right does not seem to matter much to many of these guys. An offer to the wrong kid is apparently a matter of life and death.

This weekend, I was reminded of the reasons why this bothers me. Up until now, this recruiting season was looking very positive for the Nittany Lions. They had gotten verbal commitments from a number of highly rated prospects, and were high on the lists of a number of others. Most of the message board guys were excited. On Saturday, though, that all changed. Penn State was hosting a football camp for rising seniors, as they do from time to time. The coaches, getting a chance to see and work with these kids up close, handed out a couple of offers that were immediately accepted. In particular, two defensive tackles, neither one of which seemed to be ranked by the big services, announced they would be playing at Penn State. Well, based on the boards, you would have thought the world had ended. Larry Johnson, Penn State’s well-respected defensive line coach, must have lost his mind, I guess, to have offered these players. Surely the anonymous posters know more than a man who has put quite a lot of his players into the NFL. Instead of continuing the discussion about the exciting class the school was putting together, conversation now went back to how incompetent the staff is and how Joe Paterno needs to retire.

The really sad part is that I am sure many of these kids read these message boards. So this weekend, a couple of teenagers got to read about how the school they just committed to wasted a couple of scholarships on them, according to a bunch of old men with nothing better to do. As a regular reader and occasional participant, I am just as culpable in this, I guess. I would never disparage one of these kids, especially before he has ever set foot on campus or played a down, but these sites only exist because people like me are interested enough to check them out. We really do need to remember that these are kids, and sports are supposed to be fun.

Bad sports, continued:

2) My opinion of Scottie Pippen continues to go south. Less than a month after suggesting that LeBron James might be the best player in NBA history, rather than Michael Jordan, Pippen’s old teammate, Pippen has now reversed course. Dragging out the old favorite, “I think it was taken a little bit out of context,” the former Chicago Bull now says that Jordan is the greatest ever. If you are going to say something, you should own it. Pippen is a weasel.

3) Perennial headcase Ron Artest, an NBA player currently playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, has announced that he is in the process of legally changing his name to “Metta World Peace.” Yeah, whatever.

4) Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Akeem Jordan was arrested in Harrisonburg, Virginia,  last week and charged with assault and battery. He was released on his own recognizance.

5) Madison Bumgarner, a pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, had a game that is pretty hard to believe on Tuesday. He gave up eight straight hits to start the game, comprised of four singles alternating with four doubles. He then struck out the opposing pitcher, which was likely even easier than usual considering the Giants were playing the Minnesota Twins, a team from the American League, where pitchers don’t bat. Then, after giving up yet another double, he was pulled from the game. Stunning.

6) Patrick Cantlay, who had the lowest score of any amateur at the recent U.S. Open, led the Travelers Championship on day two after shooting an amazing 60 on Friday. He finished only 24th for the tournament, but his recent play shows that he will be a force to be reckoned with on the PGA Tour before too long.

7) Violence broke out in Buenos Aires, Argentina, after River Plate, a famous soccer club was lowered down to the second division of Argentine Football. The team’s poor season caused the demotion, and this is the first time in the club’s 110-year history that it finds itself in the lower tier.

8) Austin Hatch, a basketball player who is committed to play at the University of Michigan, was injured in a plane crash that killed his father and step-mother on Friday. His father was the pilot of the small plane. Astonishingly, Hatch’s mother, sister, and brother were killed in a plane crash that Hatch also survived back in 2004. His father was at the controls that time too.

Good sports:

1) Washington Nationals manager Jim Riggleman resigned on Thursday after a Nationals win. He felt that the team’s solid season had earned him some job security, and wanted the team’s ownership to pick up his option for next year. The team refused to do so. Rather than go along quietly, Riggleman decided that if the team was not sold on him, he did not need to be there. I am not sure why, but I liked this move.

2) Yani Tseng showed why she is such a promising young golfer. On Sunday, she won the LPGA Championship tournament by a remarkable ten strokes. This was her fourth title in a Major, which is pretty good for 22 years old.

Bad sports, good sports appears every Monday

Alan Spoll is a software quality assurance director from the suburbs of Philadelphia where he lives with his wonderful wife and children. He has spent his entire life as a passionate fan of the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, Flyers, and Penn State. Recent Phillies success aside, you will understand his natural negativity. Follow me on Twitter - @DocAlan02
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3 Responses to “Bad sports, good sports: Mixed feelings about following college football recruiting”

  1. Alan, as I’ve said once or twice before and will probably say a few times in the future … “Good post! Thanks for sharing.”

    Regarding your initial “Bad Sports,” all I can say is “Amen, brother!” It’s probably because of my past as a print journalist who was always expected to check-and-respect the facts, and put my byline on everything I published … but I am SOOO weary of these anonymice on the message boards and their virtual ‘wisdom.’

    Regarding the River Plate incident … so sad, so true, and all too common. There are some ugly aspects to ‘the Beautiful Game,’ and one of those is fan reactions such as this. The violence in Argentina notwithstanding, I still believe relegation is a good concept – though I can’t imagine American sports fans (and community leaders) ever accepting such a policy, whatever new/fresh blood it might infuse into our major league sports.

  2. Harrisonburg dummy, not Harrisburg…..

  3. Billy Boy – Fixed. Thanks for the assistance, insulting though it may have been.

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