It would be easy to say that the verbal commitment of a 13-year-old crystalizes everything that's wrong with college sports. But the real reason there's been so much handwringing is simple: it makes us realize we're old.
Let's get the jokes about Lane Kiffin still being there in five years out of the way. And let's recognize that a verbal commitment means nothing; that David Sills or USC can back out of this at any time before 2015. Basically, it's just good PR for USC, Sills, and especially Sills's "QB tutor" and shameless self-promoter, Steve Clarkson. That's not what this is about. This is about a kid born in 1996 making news for his talent, and how worthless it makes us feel.
What were you doing at 13? Trying desperately not to get cut from your "everyone plays" football team? Awkwardly stumbling over everything after your latest growth spurt? Learning to masturbate? Whatever it was, it probably didn't involve mutual interest from one of the top athletic programs in the country.
Everyone remembers the first time they found out someone younger than them was more successful. Mine was in 2005, when I was interning at a paper, and had to write a story about a high school sophomore named O.J. Mayo. Keep in mind that he was at a school in Ohio, and my paper was in Philadelphia; he was still big enough news.
In the course of my research, I found clips about him going back to age 13 and earlier; the fawning over David Sills is nothing new. There's no guarantee anyone that young will pan out, but then again there's no binding agreement to offer them scholarships. As it happens, Mayo did pan out, as did his HS teammate Bill Walker. You don't think USC and Kansas State would've loved to have their commitments five years early?
Last year my girlfriend asked me about the US Soccer team, and who my favorite player was. I told her Jozy Altidore. She looked him up online, turned to me, and said disgustedly, "Your favorite player is a teenager?"
I hadn't thought about it that way, until she phrased it like that. But yeah, the player I most like to watch is five years younger than me. And that was kind of a wakeup call that I had reached my mid-twenties, and that every new athlete was going to be born after I was.
And you know what? That's okay. It's a depressing milestone in life when you realize that you're never going to be a professional athlete, that you're simply too old to start. But the next step is to accept it, and just be a fan. That's what you've been training for your whole life, anyway.
Sills, 13, commits to USC [ESPN.com]
PG-13? Kiffin Uses 7th-Grader For Publicity Stunt [Sports By Brooks]
Earlier: Last Night's Winner: Lane Kiffin's Affinity For Young Teenage Boys