This past Wednesday was National Signing Day for college athletes who participate in certain sports. It’s the day that official NCAA “letters-of-intent” are due for those players who make commitments to accept scholarships from certain schools, and play sports on their behalf. In this state, so enamored with college football, it is not too far from being a state holiday.
You may have heard that there are three seasons in Alabama (the recent snows notwithstanding): football season, spring football season, and football recruiting season. If you watched any news, or tuned in to social media, you no doubt saw the obsession right there in front of your eyes. There were countless videos of teenagers whose much anticipated decisions were publicly heralded by fans and media alike.
No doubt, most Alabama fans are celebrating another recruiting “national championship,” while Auburn fans also have much to celebrate with a top ten finish in national recruiting rankings. Of course, much is to be played out over the next few years which will determine how good those recruiting classes actually are, from the classroom to the practice field to Saturday afternoons in stadiums in front of rabid fans and national television audiences.
As much as I am interested in college football, and where the star players of the future will be lining up on Saturdays, I am even more fascinated by the attention given to recruiting by grown-ups, whose very happiness hinges on the whims of adolescent boys. Sometimes, it’s nothing short of sad.
There were some humorous sides to this year’s recruiting stories, like the school down the road that published on its website the bio of one of its prized “5-star” recruits who had been committed to the school for some time, only to realize that the player had signed instead with its arch rival. Or, the student athlete from a neighboring state who signed and faxed in three different letters of intent to three different schools on the same day.
Both stories are indicative of what I think is the saddest development that has come out of the cottage industry of college football recruiting in the last couple of decades: the new definitions of “commitment.” In the famous words of Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Regularly through the recruiting process, student athletes announce that they are “committed” to a certain school, which that school’s fans celebrate, but then the player still continues to look at other schools. (They call those “soft commitments.” Try that one with your spouse sometime, and see how it works.)
Of course, it’s not just the players who have a hard time with understanding the meaning of commitment. Often, as signing day nears, those players who have made public verbal commitments to one school are encouraged by supposedly responsible adults (i.e. coaches) at other schools to “flip” to their school, thus reneging on their commitment instead of honoring their word.
Which brings me to my long-awaited point: What doescommitmentmean to you? If and when you say that you are committed to something, or somebody, do you follow through on it? As a follower of Jesus, does your “verbal commitment” prove itself by how you live your life, or is it just talk? Do you say what you mean, and mean what you say?
Jesus said, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23). That’s commitment, and that’s what Jesus expects for all of His followers.
May your life prove the validity of your commitments today, especially as you follow the Lord. I am praying for you, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.