For over a week I've been mulling over playing the heel, but something must be said about the foofaraw afforded to football recruits nowadays. It was on the 1st of February that Boise State (and indeed schools 'round our nation) participated in something they lazily dubbed "NSD" wherein teens—old enough to enlist to fight the Huns—are fawned over by tax-paying adults as they ELECTRONICALLY submit their John and Lang Hancocks for four to five years of indentured gridiron servitude. Each signed draft that is received o’er the wires is greeted with a chorus of 'attaboys' and clatter from the assembled dignitaries and let me tell you now it makes me want to cozy up to John Barleycorn if you catch my meaning.
Why such spectacle? When I was your average Joe Yale I did little more than study when my shoulder wasn't to the plow and yet these footballers believe they should be afforded more pomp for simply marking "X" on a "letter of intent" than Gertie Ederle received for swimming the English Channel. Applesauce! "Letter of ill-intent" I say! Sports fans in my day were hardly moved by letter-signing. Show me a 6-6 tie 'twixt Warner and Yost's squadrons at the Polo Grounds if you want to stir this old-timer's blood.
When I was a Joe Zilch we didn't pitch woo at foot-ball recruits...we went down to the shipyard and hand-picked the laborer with the strongest back (preferably of Swedish stock). If this man was between the ages of 16 and 27...and had a clean bill of health, they were offered the opportunity to play for Amos Alonzo Stagg. If they were to hit campus dressed to the nines looking for a round of applause simply for showing up—Mr. Stagg would have them scrubbing tin pans in the university commissary until Kingdom Come. Knute Rockne would have clapped them in irons.
And what of this "full ride" scholarship that these young men are given? Ole Amos Stagg would provide them room, board, 2 potatoes a week and one pair of game breeches (players were expected to knit their own tops). The rest of their compensation was the glory of victory. Extra glory was strictly forbidden...say via a free malt from the soda jerk. "Return that malted and reset your broken femur," Stagg would remark. You can put on the ritz when your six years of eligibility are expended and not a minute sooner.
Lest I sound like a wet blanket, know this—I will be the first to clap these youngsters on the back when they catch a for-ward pass to break a 2-2 stalemate against Yale. I'll lead the "tear them a-SUN-der" chant to will any of these men to vict'ry. But they will earn their respect from this old newsman by their exploits and not by being a bunch of Dapper Dons. Let me see those six yards and a cloud of dust before you expect my adoration...and when that dust clears, there I'll be with a malted or an egg cream.
Just don't tell the coach.