Off-season hoopla largely unwarrantedPublished 11:51am Thursday, April 3, 2014
One of the things that never ceases to amaze me about sports in America is how that once the season is over, we are already talking about next year.
In the United States, the very nature of the off-season, particularly in football, means that even when the final touchdown is scored, the season never really ends. After the final snap of the year, we immediately turn our attention to the NFL draft combine, spring football in college, free agency and the NFL draft itself.
But one thing that amazes me more than fans talking about next year mere minutes after the current season has ended is how much of a hilariously pointless circus portions of the football off-season have become.
All of this mostly has to do with the unwarranted media and fan frenzy that surrounds the off-season itself. On the college side, the pointless attention is placed firmly on ‘National Signing Day’ and spring football practices.
Every February, millions of college football fans can be found constantly updating their twitter or Facebook feed, as well as refreshing ESPN.com to see if their favorite team landed some five-star high school running back from Florida that they had never heard of until about a week prior to signing day. That’s not to belittle the importance of recruiting because there is a positive correlation between the number of top-ten classes in the off-season and the number national championships won – teams such as Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Florida and USC are a tribute to that.
But for every top ten class that has produced a national title or BCS Bowl winning season, there’s an even longer list of top classes that have produced a litany of 6-6 seasons and bowl mediocrity.
Not to mention that there’s a long line of teams that have produced consistent success without a bunch of blue chippers.
How many five-star recruits flame out every year while other teams like Wisconsin constantly win Rose Bowls with unheralded recruits, as well as turn kids that no one has ever heard of into the next J.J. Watt?
How many top ten recruiting classes did Texas A&M rack up before Johnny ‘Football’ came out of nowhere and owned the SEC in year one?
Possibly, somehow, even more pointless than the attention that National Signing Day gathers is the needless attention given to college spring football practices by fans and media. Once again, I’m not saying spring football isn’t important for the teams, because it is. But time and time again fans get way too invested in players and practices that really amount to nothing. Sports fans, especially in the state of Alabama, think about all the conversations you’ve heard or been involved in over the past week about spring football.
I can’t even begin to count how many days I’ve gone to AL.com only find that four of the top five stories (ALL CATEGORIES) are related to Alabama or Auburn spring football. You would think fans would learn to stop caring so much about the spring after constantly following players who sometimes never even touch the field on Saturdays to evolve into the star people are so wrapped up in him becoming. Remember Duron Carter, Alabama fans?
Going back to Johnny Manziel reveals the perfect example of pointless attention being given to an off-season event. Manziel recently held his pro day at Texas A&M to much media frenzy, with some blown away by his skills in a controlled environment (I’m sure there were no 340-pound linemen chasing him that day) and some still convinced he’s going to be a bust.
There’s two things that reveal the pointlessness of pro days themselves and the attention given to them: No. 1 if you as a scout weren’t wowed by Manziel’s antics on the field against top competition, then what is Manziel throwing a football indoors with no pass rush coming after him going to tell you? No. 2 regardless of what Manziel did at his pro day, some people already have made up their minds about him in the first place. Are we ever going to hear any self-respecting scout, coach, owner or GM come out and say, after drafting a player, ‘well, I wasn’t sure about him before, but boy that pro day sure convinced me otherwise.’? Will we ever know if a pro day made any difference in a team drafting a player?
None of it matters because the teams that draft players usually have their sights set on a player regardless of what he does in combines and pro days. Using Manziel as an example again – If I were a scout, I’ve already made up my mind on him. He can play ball, but he’s arrogant and gets away with a lot of off-the-field antics (which other players have been crucified for) because ‘that’s just Johnny being Johnny.’
But guess what, for every scout like me that doesn’t like him, there’s another scout that’s picking him high regardless of anything short of him blowing out an ACL. All it takes is one team deciding otherwise. The attention given to off-season stuff like that is a pointless holdover until the fall rolls around.
Hudson is a staff writer for The Outlook.