Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

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Money can't buy you love, or your kid a high-profile college scholarship

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Rivals.com has a very interesting piece about the sort of monster the site’s near-child-pornographic pantings and ratings of post-pubescent players has helped to make more common.

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It’s alive! And it has a four-star rating!

The story is about Cody Keith, akid whose father is obsessed  with getting him a scholarship to play quarterback at a big-time university. That’s a lot of people’s obsession, except that Cody’s father, Greg, has the money to do it, thanks to a successful development business Greg runs with his father, Graeme, a board member for Billy Graham’s ministries.

Actually, Rivals goes pretty easy on Greg Keith’s ambitions. His shuttling Cody to three schools in three years, including two within Charlotte, N.C., and one in Pasadena, Calif. His hooking up Cody in numerous passing camps, including one by guru-to-the-aspiring stars Steve Clarkson (an initial consultation will set you back $3,000). His connections to Peyton Manning’s quarterback coach, Clyde Christiansen of the Indianapolis Colts, to work out Cody. His putting a lot of money into one high school so he could, ahem, influence the football coach’s decision. His putting one $2.8 million house up for rent and buying a $787,000 house so Cody could transfer to a school in Charlotte where he could start at quarterback after that influence money didn’t work. His moving the family to southern California when that starting job in Charlotte turned out to be mostly handing off. His allowing a North Carolina filmmaker to follow Cody around for a little movie they call “The Hopeful.”

I probably left something out.

To Rivals, Greg Keith is but a loving and supportive dad. But of course he is, or else Rivals is shitting on their own gravy train.

“We’re a Christian family that’s very close knit,” Greg Keith told the Pasadena Star-News in one of the rare interviews the family has given since moving to California. “We’re a family trying to raise our kids the best we can.”

But know this: When Cody Keith gets down about football, he doesn’t turn to Clarkson, his speed coach or even Clyde Christiansen, an assistant with the Indianapolis Colts that Greg Keith arranged to work out his son – just so the practice could be on a DVD about his son for potential college suitors.

When times get tough, Cody Keith turns to his dad – and did so after his horrendous opening game.

The morning after the three-interception fiasco, he walked into his father’s study. Greg Keith, on the phone, looked up saw his son’s anguish.

“I’m going to have to call you back,” Greg Keith said.

Cody Keith slumped in a chair.

“I feel like I let my team down,” he said. “I feel like I let you and mom down.”

The words rattled Greg Keith.

“Hold it, Cody,” he said. “You need to understand something. I love you for who you are, not for what you do. And it makes no difference to me whether you play football or not. You’re still my son, and I’m proud of you for the type of young man you are.” …

He is The Hopeful. Or is it the transfer? Or perhaps, the rich guy’s kid?

Or maybe he’s just another high schooler playing quarterback – one who may unfairly get the blame or the credit from those in the stands, depending on how that week’s game is going.

Isn’t that so beautiful you want to vomit?

The Charlotte Observer had a different impression of the Keiths, with parents at one high school, the one where Cody didn’t start, complaining about how they threw their money influence around to get their son playing time he didn’t deserve any more than any other child. The Observer, in a story last year about Cody’s transfer from one high school to another, noted the old ghosts of Cody’s parents past that seemed to still haunt them.

Greg Keith attended Myers Park himself as a teen. His father pulled him out when the basketball coach refused to play him ahead of older players. Greg enrolled in McCallie [a private school in Chattanooga, Tenn.], where he became the school’s all-time leading scorer and earned a scholarship to the University of Georgia.

India Keith was a young girl swimming for fun in Hillsville, Va., when some Junior Olympics coaches asked if she could be brought to the next town each day to train. Her family wasn’t able to do it.

Now a lawyer, she still wonders how good she might have been.

“I just don’t want to have that regret with my kids.”

So when Cody found himself stuck as Myers Park’s backup quarterback last season, the Keiths decided to act. They believed their son had the talent to start.

How much talent does Cody really have? Not much. For all that money and time spent, he, sad to say, a fairly average quarterback on a not-so-good team (zero wins so far). Rivals itself notes that Cody is listed among college prospects, but not ranked among the elite. Steve Clarkson, smart enough to know not to upset a frequent client, said Cody has a “considerable amount of upside.” This is the sports equivalent of calling a house a “handyman’s special.” For all that work, Cody is not only going pro, but maybe isn’t going Division I either. I hope the Keiths saved up enough money to pay for any therapy bills — and not necessarily their son’s.

After all, you have Greg Keith, a successful businessman, and his wife India, a successful lawyer, two people who know the value of an education, and they’re willing to piss away time and money for the increasingly futile pursuit of their son’s athletic glory and the exorcism of their past athletic demons. No wonder the rest of us feel the need to have to pay so much to put our kids in competitive sports, what with rich obsessives like this.

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