bad sports, good sports

Bad sports, good sports: Davonte Neal doesn’t show up to his own recruiting announcement

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People often complain about the excesses in sports. The players make too much money, the games cost too much to attend, and the players behave too badly. Despite those antics, we hold these players up as role models to our children, protesting all the while that we are not doing so. Rather than finding ways to tone down the adulation, the fans and the media seem to be inventing new and worse ways to contribute to the phenomenon. Every February, a bunch of high school kids sign letters of intent to play football at colleges around the country. This has been going on for years, but now, in many cases, it has become a quite a spectacle. This needs to stop.

The popularity of recruiting websites has made it very easy to follow these kids as they go through the process of deciding what school to attend. Add in Twitter, and you can read their every thought as well. They pile up followers from each school that is mentioned as a possible destination, are discussed endlessly on message boards, and are the subject of radio talk shows. Given all that, it is amazing that there are any recruits that still quietly fax in their letters and go on with their lives. There are press conferences, all-star games where the players commit on camera, and various other kinds of dog-and-pony shows where the players can be the center of attention. In the last couple of years, a few of them have decided that announcing their decision on Signing Day is too mundane, and so they have waited until afterward to try to find a day where the focus can be entirely on them. On Tuesday, over two weeks after Signing Day, Davonte Neal, a wide receiver from Scottsdale, Arizona, was set to make his announcement. 600 kids from his former elementary school had been gathered in the school’s auditorium to hear Neal make his choice. Inexplicably, Neal did not show up. He appeared later in the day, albeit with a much smaller audience, and pledged to play at Notre Dame. Reports are that Davonte and his father had a difference of opinion about which school he was selecting. So many things are amazing and bizarre about this story. I have no idea why a whole production is planned by people who have no idea what they are going to say. Beyond that, though, who exactly are the people who felt it was appropriate to take 600 young children out of class to witness said production? What educational value could someone argue would be delivered by this, even if everything had gone off as planned? These kids had to sit around waiting for this spoiled high school kid to show up and announce something that will make no difference in their lives whatsoever. The one lesson that would have been imparted, had Neal shown, was that it would be good to play football because people will do stupid things in order to try to make a big deal out of you.

Although I do not absolve Neal, or others like him, of responsibility for his actions, it is easy to understand how this happens. I, myself, read these message boards and follow some of these guys on Twitter. When a player sits with multiple hats in front of him, fakes putting one on, and then dons a different one, there are many people in attendance, listening, or watching online, holding their breath hoping that their school is the one selected. This culture we have allowed to develop leads to scenes like the one Neal created on Tuesday. Is it his fault? In part, sure. Of course it is. The real blame lies with the audience, though.

Bad sports, continued:

2) This week, we got to read about what Denver Broncos backup quarterback Brady Quinn really thinks about Tim Tebow. He thinks he isn’t that good. We then got to listen to Quinn’s apology to Tebow, because no one is allowed to express a negative opinion about someone else anymore.

3) Joseph Williams, a safety for the University of Virginia football team, is currently on a hunger strike to protest the school’s treatment of its employees. I guess this is a noble undertaking, but I am not a hunger strike kind of guy. If he were really bold, he would have done this during football season.

4) Ben & Jerry’s responded to the recent Jeremy Lin craze by creating a new flavor of frozen yogurt called “Taste the Lin-Sanity.” They have been selling it at one of their stores in Boston. This week, they followed Brady Quinn’s example and issued an apology for using fortune cookies as part of the recipe.

5) Perennially injured flamethrower Joel Zumaya, currently with the Minnesota Twins, will miss another season. He made it through all of 13 pitches of his first official throwing session of the year before having to stop due to a torn ligament in his elbow.

6) Rico Webb, a high school football player who was planning to go to Alabama State in the fall, died on Sunday. The cause of death is not yet known.

7) I could make an argument that this should be under Good Sports, but I’ll be nice. For the first time in its 54 year history, the Daytona 500 has been postponed to Monday. The rain never really let up all day Sunday, so NASCAR officials had no choice but to put the big race off a day. This way, a lot fewer people will be watching the big, stupid wreck-fest that the race is likely to become. On the positive side, the real races start next week.  Oops, forgot to be nice.

Good sports:

1) Here is another story that could go on either side of the ledger. Ryan Braun, the slugger and current league MVP from the Milwaukee Brewers, had his 50-game P.E.D. suspension overturned by an arbitrator on Thursday. I list this as Good Sports because I believe that policies like this must adhere to a very specific and detailed set of rules in order to be effective and to not be abused, and that clearly did not happen here. I am also a fan of Braun, and I am glad he will get to play a full season. That said, I truly hope we get a full explanation to go with Braun’s proclamations of innocence. The decision says the rules weren’t followed, but does not say that Braun didn’t take what he is accused of taking. I’d like to hear him tell his story.

2) Although the race did not turn out as she had hoped, it was a good start to her full-time NASCAR career for Danica Patrick this weekend. She won the pole for the Nationwide race at Daytona on Friday, becoming the first woman to win a pole in one of NASCAR’s top series in almost 20 years. She crashed during the race, but that was caused by a poor decision by another driver, not due to any mistake on Patrick’s part.

3) Derrick Rose, the star guard for the Chicago Bulls, has signed a massive deal with Adidas that will pay him almost $200 million dollars over the next 13 years. I have no idea if this is a good deal for the shoe company, but it is certainly a good one for Rose.

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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