Marketing is a funny thing.
The reality of corporate sponsorship in sports is something I've just had to adjust to. Naming rights, tie-ins and cross promotions are something I've just learned to live with, sort of a necessary evil.
What I saw Jan. 15, however, took me over the edge.
I flipped on the television and caught a little bit of the Army All-American football game. The game is designed to highlight the nation's best high school football players in an all-star game.
I have absolutely no problem with a televised high school all-star game. The idea came from the popular McDonald's All-American basketball game.
The commentators say from the outset that there will be "declarations" throughout the program. Before the kickoff, the broadcast booth sends it down to the field, where Maurice Wells, a running back from Jacksonville, Fla., stands with his family. In front of him is a large duffel bag. The onfield "reporter" tells him to make his decision and Wells pulls out an Ohio State hat, thus pledging his allegiance to the Buckeyes.
This pseudo-event continues more than a dozen times - or at least NBC advertised it would - throughout the broadcast, but I turned the channel.
Then I read online that some of the players were contacted by NBC to make a commitment on-air. The old peacock was pressuring 17- and 18-year-olds to make the biggest decision of their young lives as a ratings ploy. Again, I wasn't too surprised knowing the lengths that studios will go to get ratings - see Fox's now-canceled Who's Your Daddy?
What did upset me was the overwhelming emphasis on high school recruiting.
National Signing Day has become as important to some fans as their team playing for a national title.
Signing Day has always been big, but the event has grown exponentially over the past five to 10 years.
The creation of online recruiting Web sites such as Scout.com (the sponsor of the All-American game) and Rivals.com has propagated the event into what it has become.
No longer is college recruiting based on great plays. The advent of Internet recruiting has produced the nation's largest meat market.
College coaches can go online to find some 6-foot-5, 300-pound lineman who has that desirable word "potential" attached to his name.
These recruiting services also have turned National Signing Day into an annual monthlong pilgrimage for college football fans.
Fans scour the Internet every day in January to find out which prospects will visit where.
The Web sites tease information to the salivating masses, but one must pay $10 a month to get the information. If you want the info, the Web is about the only way to get it.
What happens is you have some person in Yuma, Ariz., looking at which schools some guy in Massillion, Ohio, is considering, hoping and praying that his school will be among the choices.
Who's hurt in this equation?
Prospects such as Cheng Ho from Evans or Eugene Rogers from Greenbrier or Reggie Porter from Lakeside and even Robert Dunn from Laney.
Those guys haven't attracted the Division I-A interest they might deserve because they don't have the size or marketability other guys have, but those guys are under the same pressure to sign on Signing Day because of its attention.
They would be best served to wait a week or so and watch as some of the schools lose out on players who haven't decided where they will play.
That is hard to do with the ferocity in which the Web sites pump up Signing Day.
But how in tune are those sites?
Dunn, the Associated Press Player of the Year in Georgia, isn't even listed in either database.
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