Micah Rice: An Opening to big prep opportunity

Commentary: Micah Rice

By Micah Rice, Columbian sports editor



Depending on your view, it's either what's best about high school football or what's worst.

This week, 162 of the nation's best prep football players have gathered at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.

It's called The Opening, and it's big-time.

NFL players and coaches will be there. So will ESPN.

Participants were invited to the fourth-annual showcase after being hand-selected from 36 regional events.

They'll go through an NFL-style combine, compete in a 7-on-7 competition and get a taste of the limitless attention and opulence that surrounds elite-level football.

Is The Opening a Pandora's box? Do events this like this further drag amateur sports into a world of big money and bigger egos?

It's a question that's irrelevant. For elite talent, sports are big business from a young age.

That's why I'm perfectly fine with events such as The Opening.

Amateur athletics is a tiered system. The most troubling divisions are those based on wealth, where some families can afford year-round specialized coaching, the best equipment and membership on traveling club teams.

Solving those inequities involves fixing problems well outside of the sports world. Amateur sports should offer opportunities for everyone, but some athletes are not like everyone.

Like the athletes at The Opening.

The elite few that might get an education or money from their talent should have every opportunity to maximize that talent.

Lest you think this is an American phenomenon, last year Spanish soccer rivals Real Madrid and FC Barcelona battled each other to sign wünderkind Joshua Pynadath to their youth academy. Pynadath was 11 at the time.

I'm continually surprised by the public's appetite for football. I thought it was silly when ESPN started showing high school football games a decade ago, but people watched. Thus, the broadcasts continue.

I shouldn't be surprised that people want to watch top recruits perform drills.

Does money play too large of a role in youth sports? Yes.

Do parents have unrealistic expectations that elite camps and teams will ensure their child has athletic success and fulfillment? Yes.

Does it make me cringe when ESPN shines its million-megawatt spotlight on youth sports? Yes.

But those issues are father down the food chain. We won't solve them by focusing on the shiniest apple in the barrel.

Therefore, respect The Opening for what it is — a gathering of the nation's top talent.

And what could be better than that?

Micah Rice is the sports editor for The Columbian. He can be reached at (360) 735-4537 or micah.rice@columbian.com