Johnny Sears recently experienced a tragedy of epic proportions. Two of his closest friends were killed in a car accident. I read of the accident in the local Fresno newspaper, and for me, all concerns about grades, eligibility, performance in practice, and other things related to Johnny’s experience at Michigan ceased to be a factor.
The Internet has revolutionized the coverage of sports in general, and high school football recruiting in particular. That much is indisputable. Just ten years ago there were only a few magazines that published information on recruiting, and die-hard college fans had to wait until Signing Day to find out which players chose to attend their beloved schools.
Now, with huge internet sports networks such as Scout.com, information is available almost in real-time. For recruiting fans the Internet has been Nirvana. They can look at a variety of sources to get the latest on the players listing their schools. However, all this does not come without a price. Naturally, the fans pay a nominal fee for access to the latest, up-to-the-minute information. For the high school players, who are in the 16 to 18-year-old range, the price comes in the loss of privacy (along with, of course, the attainment of celebrity!) as a result of constant phone calls with requests for interviews.
There is another, more disturbing cost to the players who, after all, are high school kids. For the vast majority of fans who frequent the sports sites seeking information on prospects, the only contact they have with the kids are from the published reports. As such kids tend to become commodities on a message board, devoid of any sense of human nature. Words on the Internet aren’t people. The Internet cannot measure humanity.
I was recently given a sharp reminder of this. For those of us who write for the sites, we have far more interaction with the kids; after all, we have to do the interviews and at sites like GoBlueWolverine.com, we go out to scout the kids in person. As such, we get to see them, talk to them, watch them interact with their friends, watch them laugh, and as I did this week, watch them cry – we watch them as high school students, as people.
One such person, Johnny Sears, recently experienced a tragedy of epic proportions. Two of his closest friends were killed in a car accident. I read of the accident in the local Fresno newspaper, and immediately called the Fresno Edison coach, Tony Perry, to give him my condolences. He was obviously shaken as one boy was a member of the current Edison football team, and one had played on last year’s team. We talked a bit more and I asked if Johnny knew. I was informed that he did and would be coming home for the funeral. I posted the news report on the website, and a few people shared their condolences.
For me, all concerns about grades, eligibility, performance in practice, and other things related to Johnny’s experience at Michigan ceased to be a factor. Having just left home for the first time, an event such as this can have serious traumatic consequences. After speaking with Perry for a few moments I felt Johnny was well taken care of both by the people at home and in Michigan.
What caught a bit of my ire was the fact that shortly after I posted news of the accident, visitors to our message board continued to ask questions regarding Johnny’s academic standing, and how he was performing at practice. Here was a young man who shortly after leaving home had just lost two of his closest friends, and all people seemed to care about was whether or not he was in the two-deep.
How could people be so callous? Then it hit me that most folks who frequent the Internet sites and message boards don’t see these kids as human. They are simply letters on a screen and, a commodity to be discussed and analyzed, but rarely humanized.
At GoBlueWolverine Magazine and GoBlueWolverine.com, an attempt is made to bring the human side of this business to the forefront by the extensive use of photos. As a matter of fact, GoBlueWolverine was an innovator in this area, and continues to bring top-quality images to its subscribers.
As I watched Johnny give a testimony at his friends’ funeral, the fact that he was a football player, and a Michigan football player at that, ceased to be a part of the equation. He was a young man suffering, a human being who had just experienced a tragic loss. In situations such as these no words can take away the pain. That is something only time can heal. But when people suffer the same tragedies together, the journey through the hurt is a bit more comforting. And it can also remind us, the fans, that these are people, and kids.