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It isn’t just school culture which promotes senseless popularity contests, its embedded in American Culture as well. Whether it be reality shows like “American Idol” and “Dancing with the Stars” or whether it is simply tracking the highest grossing movie at the box office this weekend, Americans are obsessed with keep score, competing, ranking things from top-to-bottom and makings comparisons that are not always valid.
Another example came on January 25 when ESPN and Cal-HI Sports released the 2nd-4th team of its 33rd annual All-State Football Team. Philosophically there is nothing wrong with trying to determine the best high school football players in the state. The only problem was the execution.
First off, the second and third teams each had 30 players and the fourth team had 60. A football team starts 11 on offense and 11 on defense so even if the list were to include a kicker and a punter as specialist positions each team should have had no more than 24 players on it. The expanded lists made a mockery of the teams initial purpose.
In addition, the list did not really attempt to create a second, third and fourth team with consideration of positions but instead had five multi-position players, three running backs and several other oddities on the second and third teams and the fourth team was all seniors and consisted of six offensive linemen, four quarterbacks and all sorts of odd combinations that made little sense.
These weren’t the biggest issues I had with this list, however. My biggest beefs was that two correspondents from Northern California had huge influence on the list and that it was extremely top heavy with NoCal players. In addition, since so few of these players battled head-to-head this season the list is biased and arbitrary at best.
Burroughs star running back Zander Anding was one of a handful of running backs on the fourth team. Truly an honor, but also a disappointment . Anding had one of the highest yard per carry averages in the country this season. He scored 30 touchdowns — a three score per game average — and rushed for 2686 yards (a 268 yard per game average). He was a one man gang who carried his team to a third straight Pacific League title.
While critics would point to slightly padded stat lines against Hoover, Glendale and other suspect defenses from the Pacific League they fail to notice that he also had strong games against Foothill League powers Saugus, Canyon and Hart and he had one heck of a game in the playoffs against Los Altos. In addition, anyone who actually saw Anding carry the ball this past fall saw that he was an elite Division I prospect who ran with speed and power. He hit the hole hard, broke through the first man and he was capable of going the distance anytime he got his hands on the ball. In addition, he was keyed so much the Indians usually faced eight or even nine men in the box.
So Anding’s place on the fourth team instead of the first or second shows another major flaw in these lists motivated merely by popularity. Too often, people are judged by what one or two others think they saw and then many other individuals repeat.
I’ll give you an example of how an opinion can spread itself as fact like a bad game of telephone. Last week Disney was filming a pilot for a new tween sitcom. A large cast was on site at my middle school. One of the cast members resembled Selena Gomez. By lunchtime supervision dozens of students were approaching me about this rumor that was spreading like wild fire. By the three o’clock bell there were also rumors that Justin Beiber had been on campus for lunch.
Of course, it was more fun for the adults on campus to play along with these rumors rather than squelch them, but that is not the point. The point is sometimes we get it wrong with our popular opinions. Cal Hi Sports got it wrong placing Anding only on the fourth team as he was worthy of a place closer to the top for his play this past season. And, chances are if the list misfired on a fairly easy position to evaluate in running back, it likely also missed when ranking offensive and defensive linemen and other positions with fewer chances to standout to spectators and journalists each week.
Enjoy our society’s obsession with making everything a popularity contests, I know I do. However, see them for what they are and remember not to take it too hard if you or one of the people you are passionate about fail to make the list.