(Ed. Note: I’ve touched on this subject before but I feel it needs re-visiting.)
Artist Andy Warhol, the creator of “pop art,” coined the phrase, “fifteen minutes of fame”, predicting that those not truly worthy of notice would still become celebrated by the presence of increased media opportunities, well before the Internet and social networking sites ever appeared.
What has that to do with football?
I love football. I have played and coached it on sandlots and in stadiums, on concrete streets and manicured fields for seventy-five years, without ever losing interest.
Admittedly, I cannot cure the concussion problems, although something must be done. Nor, have I earned the right to dictate to players whether they should kneel or not.
But from Labor Day to the Super Bowl, you’ll not find a devotee of the game greater than I. The lessons learned, and friendships made, have lasted a lifetime.
I must rail, however, at what I’ll call “Fifteen Minutes of Shame.” An homage, perhaps, to Warhol, but apt in its description of a ceremony in high schools all over America on national signing day when 17-year-olds tell a less than breathless world where they will be playing college football.
On an auditorium stage, surrounded by family and friends, a teenager will make public the school he has chosen. He will join a group of 1,625 other seniors from around the country who have been fortunate enough to receive offers from Power 5 schools.
Only 58% of those seniors, however, will ever earn college degrees.
Yet, on that stage, they will be lionized as future stars. Worse yet, it is customary for them to have caps of various schools that recruited them to be placed on the table in front of them to heighten the suspense of what their choice will be.
Behind them will be schoolmates, educators, coaches and parents. The recipient will then foolishly pick up a hat as if that is his choice, then shake his head ‘no’ and laughingly discard the hat as the group around him laughs.
In the audience will be coaches of those schools in contention.
These are men who have labored at their craft for many years, developing men out of such boys, men who have given boys like them a great chance at a better life by guiding them athletically and academically towards a degree, the attainment of which, according to a recent Georgetown University study, would mean $1,000,000 more to them in their working lives, if only they would earn one.
Yet, almost half will never get that piece of paper. It could be theirs for free, but they’ll spurn it.
I feel pain for those coaches who are snubbed at this faux celebration. They should have received a polite “no, thank you,” rather than the ignominy of watching these young boys making fools of themselves.
The University of Minnesota team from six decades ago will gather at Homecoming this year in Minneapolis to remember our teammates who have passed on, and celebrate the fact that every starting member of our 1958 Golden Gopher team earned a degree leading to a productive and fulfilling life.