Thursday, February 3, 2011

Christmas in February

Yesterday the NCAA presented ardent college football fans with “Christmas in February” – National Signing Day. It’s the annual rite of passage, when high school seniors sign paperwork to pledge allegiance to their favorite university.

For fans who religiously follow the Crimson Tide, Fighting Irish, Volunteers, Buckeyes, or Fearsome Chickens, it’s like Christmas morning: What’s under the tree? Will they get everything on their “Christmas list”?

College football recruiting has turned into a veritable industry; highly paid “experts” and services do nothing year-round but evaluate, speculate and pontificate.

Everyone knows players from the South, especially Georgia or Florida, are bigger, faster, meaner, quicker and just better than those from the North. Why? No one knows. Except the South lost the Civil War and it’s been trying to get even ever since.

The funny thing about college football recruiting is it’s not an exact science. In fact, it’s not a science at all. And despite chest-thumping (or teeth gnashing) that follows each gridiron stud’s decision, it’s far from exact.

Many top-rated, “4-star” and “5-star” athletes perform like falling stars. They might have peaked with their last game in high school. They might lose their zeal after years of peewee, junior and senior high competition.

Key injuries in college might impede or end their careers. Sadly, some find their names etched on police blotters and earn headlines for non-football reasons.

At the other end of the spectrum, some lowly rated 2-star and 3-star players use the lack of respect as motivation, working to get better and better. A fellow who started out as “who’s he?” on State U’s commitment list winds up earning his way into college football’s Who’s Who.

National Signing Day is only about potential. Measuring sticks and stopwatches can’t gauge what’s inside a young man – his heart. Maybe that’s why the day is so fascinating. You think you know, but in the end, you just don’t know what you don’t know.

That’s also true of life. We look at people, even ourselves, and think we know what’s going on. In reality, we don’t. That’s why the Bible says, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

And God has much better things to do than coach college football.

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