9:16pm

Tue January 31, 2012
Sweetness And Light

Signing Day: Like Christmas For College Sports

Originally published on Wed February 1, 2012 11:03 pm

Well, here we are starting February, with the single most important day in sports upon us.

No, of course I don't mean a silly little thing like Super Bowl Sunday. But today, the first Wednesday of the second month, is by some sort of — what, pagan lunar calendar? –– officially decreed National Signing Day, when all over America, high school seniors can officially plight their troth to a college football program.

Basketball has its national signing day in November. But especially in the South, for grown-up college football zealots, today is National Regression Day –– like going back to being a kid anticipating Christmas again: "Who will Santa bring to my alma mater's team?"

Now, of course, some of the top recruits, the so-called four-star and five-star prospects, have already announced where they will be, uh ... matriculating.

Several of them chose the Under Armour All-America High School game of a few weeks ago to declare their roster of choice. That is an invitational game played between two sides known as –– let me say this slowly now: Team Blur and Team Highlight. The game is shown nationally on ESPN, so it's a top-priority place to get good exposure for your declaration.

The highlight this year –– or maybe it was the blur –– was one player, ranked seventh-best in all the land, who went on ESPN to announce that he was going to Alabama, while, next to him, his mother sat scowling and later declared: "LSU Tigers, No. 1. Go, Tigers."

Since verbal commitments don't count, maybe Mom will have swayed him from Tuscaloosa to Baton Rouge by the time he can sign that official letter of intent today. Anyway, either way, more face time.

The very best players will, indeed, when they sign, have massive television coverage –– and remember now, these are teenage kids.

There is one popular psychological rendering that, because LeBron James skipped college on the way to the NBA, when he decided to choose his next pro team he, in effect, wanted to re-create the high school experience he never had. So, he staged his own national signing day.

As we found out: When I was a child, I spake as a child, but ...

Guaranteed: As at the NFL and NBA drafts, when those chosen have baseball caps of their new teams plunked on their heads, all the players who publicly announce their decisions today will surely do so by putting on the cap of their new school.

This, of course, also happens now when teams win championships: Break out the baseball caps. Putting on a baseball cap to make a statement has become such the fashion that I fully expect, on the night of Nov. 6, either Barack Obama or the Republican candidate will greet victory not with a speech, but simply by appearing in public and putting on a baseball cap that says "PRESIDENT."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Excitement is building towards Super Bowl Sunday when the Giants play the Patriots in Indianapolis. But commentator Frank Deford says the really important moment in football is actually happening today.

FRANK DEFORD, BYLINE: Well, here we are starting February with the single most important day in sports upon us. No, of course I don't mean a silly little thing like Super Bowl Sunday. But today, the first Wednesday of the second month is by some sort of what, pagan lunar calendar? Officially decreed National Signing Day, when all over America high school seniors can officially plight their troth to a college football program.

Basketball has its National Signing Day in November. But especially in the South, for grown-up college football zealots, today is National Regression Day - like going back to being a kid anticipating Christmas again. Who will Santa bring to my alma mater's team?

Now, of course, some of the top recruits - the so-called four-star and five-star prospects - have already announced where they will be, uh, matriculating. Several of them chose the Under Armour High School All-American Game of a few weeks ago to declare their roster of choice. That is an invitation game played between two sides known as - now, let me say this slowly now - Team Blur and Team Highlight. The game is shown nationally on ESPN, so it's a top priority place to get good exposure for your declaration.

The highlight this year or maybe it was the blur was one player, ranked seventh best in all the land, who went on ESPN to announce that he was going to Alabama. While, right next to him, his mother sat scowling and later declared: LSU Tigers, number one, go Tigers. Since verbal commitments don't count, maybe Mom will have swayed him from Tuscaloosa to Baton Rouge by the time he can sign that official letter of intent today. Anyway, either way, more face time.

Guaranteed, as at the NFL and NBA drafts when the selected choices have baseball caps of their new teams plunked on their heads, all the players who publicly announce their decisions today will surely do so by putting on the cap of their new school. This, of course, also happens now when teams wins championships. Break out the baseball caps.

Putting on a baseball cap to make a statement has become such the fashion that I fully expect, on the night of this coming November 6th, either Barack Obama or the Republican candidate will greet victory, not with a speech, but simply by appearing in public and putting on a baseball cap that says: President.

INSKEEP: Frank Deford puts on his commentator's cap every Wednesday from member station WSHU in Fairfield, Connecticut. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.