A daddy blog.

18 September 2007

Is the Monetization of High School Football Inevitable?

On Saturday, FanHouse's Michael David Smith highlighted a couple of good stories outlining the ways high school football is getting out of control.

Particularly damning is this Slate story, which outlines how a school covered up for an alleged lascivious battery as long as it could, which was apparently long enough to get its team national TV coverage on ESPNU:
And ESPN? They're allowed to broadcast these games, I guess. It's legal. That doesn't mean it's right. High-school football should be as local and small-time as possible.
To which I'd agree all around. It is legal, it's probably not right, and high school football would stay local in a perfect world.

But does anyone think ESPN is going to sit still while MSG et al are bring in money on local high school football programming?

UPDATE: I've been kind of hankering for a reason to complain about this aspect of The Blind Side, which was probably the best book about the NFL that came out in the past year. In dealing with issues of power over talented young kids, it's a dozen times worse than ESPN. The book is by Michael Lewis of Moneyball fame, and it's evidence that we can't exactly hope for smarter high school coverage from the folks who write from journalism's most ivory heights.

The just-out-in-paperback book contains a hell of a story, about a genetic freak of a kid who seems to have been placed on earth to play left tackle. With the proper guidance, he's a lock for the NFL. But thanks to his drug-addicted mother and his incredibly introverted nature, he seems unlikely to ever to find a way to use his talents.

But then the kid falls into the loving arms of a family with deep pockets, white skin, and an abiding love for all things Ole Miss. Inevitably, this freakishly talented black kid ends up getting steered toward Ole Miss.

Now, the book seems to make clear that this family of Ole Miss boosters really does love their left tackle. Even though he's black while they're white; he was raised in the projects while the family's father does well enough to sometime use a private jet.

Instead of looking askance at all this, Lewis just adopts a bemused tone thoughout the book as the NCAA and other bystanders wonder what this rich booster family is up to. There is never a hint of skepticism. Having picked his protagonist, Lewis just backs him to the hilt. And he does this even though he, Michael Lewis, is a long time friend of the family he's writing about.

(I realize this isn't about the monetization of high school football exactly, but: where standards are lax, the profit motive will trump all other considerations, like what's best for these young amateur athletes.)