National Signing Day for academics?
Saturday, February 09, 2013 7:26 PM
Last Thursday, our Sports section contained more than three pages of space dedicated to coverage of area athletes who, on National Signing Day, ceremoniously committed to play sports for various colleges and universities.
Admittedly, one picture just about looked like the next. Student with pen in hand seated at table, beside him or her family members. On the table, in front of the student, the paper. Behind the student, coaches, principals and other family members.
Signing Day is a big occasion in high school sports; after all, it's a day set aside just for this purpose and with the full intent of having press coverage. And so Wednesday, 13 students announced their decisions. All but one, a soccer player, committed to football programs. Most are sticking fairly close to home, heading to campuses around the state and North Carolina.
Yes, Wednesday was and is a big day in their lives, in their families' lives, and we were glad to be there to record their milestones and share them with readers.
THAT SAID, A THOUGHT OCCURRED to me. What if schools set aside another day, a day in which non-athletes are joined by family members and school officials at a table where they pose for photos and coverage of their signing their commitment to study at a college or university upon graduation from high school?
Don't throw the paper down to pick up the phone and cuss me out or to fire off an angry email. Don't take this the wrong way, for in no way am I trying to say anything negative about National Signing Day. Frankly, what was suggested in the previous paragraph is not realistic or very feasible. Wednesday was tough enough to cover with three writers and a photographer, and probably tough enough for everyone involved to pull together.
Schools do, of course, give recognition to students at graduation. Some actually do announce where their graduating seniors are going next. But let's be honest: As a nation, we put tremendous emphasis on sports, and sometimes at the expense of emphasizing academics.
And if we're going to be completely honest, we also have to admit without an athletics program, some students would not attend college. Truth is, some students are only in college because of their athletic abilities. Some barely get by in academics and - again, let's be honest with ourselves about this - are assisted, if you will, in making the grade.
Yes, colleges and universities do court high achievers in the world of academia. Yes, there are scholarships for non-athletes. But the scholarly, 4.0, studious non-athletes are not the ones who bring on the cheers, they're not the ones who pull millions of dollars through stadium gates.
SURE, THERE ARE ACADEMIC bowls, but have you ever watched academic bowl game after academic bowl game broadcast on New Year's Day? Have you even attended one that did not include your own child or family member? No? But there's a good chance you put on school colors and hit the road or perch on the couch to take in a game whose players include absolutely no one you know or who is a family member. Heck, you might even make absolutely sure you will catch a particular game because it is the last one for a particular senior at your alma mater. But have you gone to your alma mater's graduation ceremony without knowing a graduate or graduate's family? Probably not.
OK, now I've done it. I've gone from preachin' to meddlin', right? Honestly, I'm just as guilty as the next guy. I've attended ballgames of schools I never attended. I've perched on the couch to watch a good football or baseball game between teams I have little or no connection to. And I've never gone to a high school or college graduation to root, if you will, for students I don't know.
This was merely an illustration of a point we all already know: Sports is an American obsession. And that's not necessarily bad, provided we maintain some proper balance and perspective.
PS: Thanks for the calls and emails about Little Blue. I'm glad some other people found the information useful and have also been reunited with the smaller blue bin in which they can deposit recyclables until they are ready for dumping into the roll cart.
Whiting is executive editor of the Index-Journal. Contact him at 943-2522; email email@example.com ,or follow him on Twitter at IJEDITOR. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.