NEW ORLEANS — It’s National Signing Day again on Wednesday.
It’s one of the most eagerly anticipated and potentially misleading days on the entire sports calendar — much like opening day of various sports seasons.
Everyone looks forward to opening day — the long-awaited start of a new season after months without the given sport and weeks of the tedious tease of preseason practice and tune-up scrimmages and/or games.
Of course opening day is when hope springs eternal and everyone has the same record and therefore everyone has — mathematically anyway — an equal chance of winning a championship. Half of the results on opening day are encouraging and half are discouraging and there’s always plenty of time for the expectations generated by opening day to be overruled by the reality of the subsequent days, weeks and months.
National Signing Day is a lot like opening day. Its primary value is that it scratches an inch — it gives meaty news to fans starved for college football news and provides them with probably the closest thing to a game rush that the offseason can manage.
So enjoy and while you’re at it, visit SportsNola.com throughout the day for comprehensive coverage from an expert team of prep analysts. We’ll inform you of which schools did well and why as well as anyone can make such an evaluation on such a day.
But keep one caveat in mind: no one — not college coaches, not high-school coaches, not reporters, not even parents — can predict with any certainty how 18-year-olds are going to perform over the next three or four years as they take on the challenges of stepping way up in competition and doing it on a bigger stage than they ever stepped on before and with a brighter spotlight on them than they’ve ever experienced before.
Many players will thrive as expected, some will start slowly and ultimately reach the expectations of them, some might have to change schools before they find themselves and some won’t ever do as well as others predict or they themselves hope. In other words, the teen-agers who Wednesday sign scholarship papers to play football at a certain school will have athletic careers not unlike the academic careers that their non-football-playing peers ultimately will have.
So when you read and hear Wednesday about which schools did the best and which players are 5-star recruits and will be elite college players, if it makes you feel more optimistic about your favorite team, then enjoy that feeling but keep it in perspective. If you’re discouraged by what you hear about your favorite team’s signing class keep that in perspective as well.
Nothing that is written or spoken Wednesday will have any bearing on which players succeed and which don’t, or on which teams succeed or don’t.
Remember that the information you get is the best information that is available on players’ high-school careers and what are the best guesses about what their college careers might be like.
So get your offseason news fix and educate yourself on your team’s newest players.
But let’s do a favor to every high-school football player that’s embarking on a college career and let them start authoring the next chapter in their football careers in a context devoid of others’ expectations.