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There is no country quite like America when it comes to college sports. It’s not a celebration, but rather an obsession. Especially when it comes to college football.

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So much of an obsession, in fact, that it extends beyond the college level and bleeds into the high school level, where select players receive a sweet showering of attention based on their four or five star ranking.

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In the desperate effort to compile the best recruiting class of the year, college football recruiters pine after high school football players the same way high school boys pine after high school girls during prom season: dramatically.

“Promposals” refer to the relatively new phenomenon among high school students in which they ask each other to prom in the most theatrical, over-the-top and creative way they can imagine, such as sky-writing or even rose pedals spelling out “Prom?”. Essentially these students are vying to be chosen as the suitor by standing out amongst the rest of their classmates.

Sure it sounds high-stakes and a bit ridiculous, but what else can we expect from a bunch of 16 and 17 year old kids going through puberty, So as ridiculous as it might be, we let them enjoy it without mocking them too harshly.

Of course, college football recruiting does not involve grand gestures like skywriting (yet), but it certainly shares the same sort of idea of using unconventional, perhaps even excessive, methods to get those big-ticket recruits.

Consider social media: Today’s high school students have literally grown up along side social media. Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram are not platforms enjoyed by few, but a staple in nearly every student’s life.  Going “going viral” is a strange version of fame sought today. Therefore, it makes perfect sense for recruiters to invade the twitter universe and hype up certain players with mentions, follows and shout outs.

But it doesn’t stop with recruiters. Once a player has been granted that coveted five-star ranking, they blow up.  

Websites dedicate themselves to these players and the schools they are considering. The players’ twitter accounts get stalked by beat writers wanting to break the news of their destiny to the rest of us ordinary people. Even diehard football fans follow their accounts, pushing them to play for their alma mater via gently bullying or sharing illustrations of the player wearing their team’s uniform.

To indulge in our obsession as much as possible, the best players in the nation then get invited to the All-American Bowl where we finally learn what the composition of our favorite team will look like the following season.  

We put a camera on these high school seniors and milk as much drama out of the situation as possible by placing hats from his top three choices. Depending on his love of theatrics, he might hover his hand over one hat before picking up the hat he was going to choose all along.

And we eat it up, disregarding the problematic culture we’ve created by overinflating egos of these high school players.

Don’t get me wrong. I love college football. I respect the idea that players are out there playing the sport because they love it and not because they make millions of dollars doing it.

However, I could do without the obsession of high school players. All the attention these players are given makes me question how much of the college football experience is actually about the love of the game versus the love of limelight.

I was once a high school girl so I know high school boys and the pliability of their egos. Slap a five star ranking on a 16 year old boy and half the time it will result in disaster due to the expectations and pressure. When these recruits get to campus to start practice and classes they are, in a way, set up for failure.

It makes for a brutal dose of reality the first time the players step on field with their new teammates and the coaches shed their sweet demeanor and get tougher. Some players will respond well, but some just won’t. It’s no easy transition to go from being king of class to bottom of the totem pole.

Even those fans who so badly fought for these recruits to choose their favorite school can become volatile if the player does not immediately live up to his five star ranking. The fans might feel as if they’ve been cheated, yelling at specific players during games forgetting said player is just a 20-year-old student with a test on Tuesday.  

Star-rankings are problematic and, honestly, a bit arbitrary. We can’t accurately predict the future success of any given high school football player based on his performance against the average high school boys he faces.

Yet, we do it anyway because our love of college football is not just about the game, but the entire theatrical operation of the making of the game, starting with the 16-year-old boys we demand to be our future stars.

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