Polls, polls everywhere — and who knows what to think?
I have nothing against polls. They get people talking and fuel debate. Coaches use them for the psychological part of preparation, choosing either of these two tactics — a) these guys don’t respect you, or b) don’t let this stuff go to your heads, you haven’t won anything yet.
And I have all the respect in the world for the folks who put these polls together. It’s not easy.
I’m just a little polled out. USA Today has a prep football poll. So does ESPN. So does Maxpreps. So does everyone else, it seems, because every time I come to work, I find a new poll waiting in my inbox. And the funny thing is, they are all different.
ESPN, for example, considers Manatee the No. 3 team in the nation. The state poll, however, believes Manatee to be the No. 3 team in the state.
USA Today thinks Manatee is the country’s fifth-best prep squad. Those polled by Beef O’Brady’s believe them to be seventh-best in Florida.
Conventional wisdom says the folks who follow football in Florida know more about Florida football than those who cast votes for national publications. That argument has merit.
But really, does anyone really know? There are no Class 6A teams in Manatee County, so who am I to say who has the best Class 6A team in the state of Florida? Send me all the records, capsules and list of lettermen that you want — until I see the products clash on a Friday in the fall, I can’t give an educated opinion. And since I can’t clone myself, I can only see one football game on a Friday night.
(Though I have covered my share of day-night double dips.)
Was Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas the best team in the country last season? I don’t know. What I do know is Manatee, which at the time wasn’t ranked in the top 100, dominated the Raiders from the opening kickoff to the final buzzer during the Class 5A state semifinal.
Sticking with the Hurricanes, are they that much better than Southeast, who hasn’t gotten any national love at all? I don’t know. But I wouldn’t be surprised if next week’s clash at John Kiker Memorial Stadium is the closest regular-season contest of the fall.
The Seminoles may not have the rankings, but like Manatee, they have the players.
I don’t want to see all prep polls abolished. They stoke interest in high school sports and make for good conversation. And unlike college football, the debate comes to a close each December, when champions are crowned at the end of long, grueling one-and-done tournaments.
So at least there is some closure. And that, really, is the best part of the high school polls — people get to spend all fall opining and at the end, get a chance to see how right they were.
Or how wrong. The good thing is that when all is said and done, we’ll know who is No. 1 for sure.
John Lembo, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2097.