Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Celebrities and Athletes and Life's Nastiest Recruiting Wars 

When it comes to recruiting, we all know that athletes choose a college based on the fine education they will receive from their chosen institution of higher learning. Similarly, it's well known that celebrities are recruited to the practice of a particular religion based on the rewards inherent in observing it's various rituals and lifestyle constraints. Yes, a carefully placed physics book, or the gift of some well-worn prayer beads can make all difference.

Recruiting is serious business. Or at least it's business -- seriously.

Back when I was a kid the newspaper's sports section would carry a roundup of the year's college recruiting class for any given sport just once a year, right before the season began, and that would be it. But nowadays recruiting is big-time news year-round, with high school kids holding press conferences for the national media on a regular basis.

And it's not just the athletes anymore. Anyone who follows the hotly contested celebrity-religion competition will realize that big time recruiting is part of that holy game as well. Take, for instance, MSNBC's latest very important celebrity recruiting news:

...not long ago, [Britney] Spears publicly ditched the mystical offshoot of Judaism, writing on her Web site: "I no longer study Kabbalah, my baby is my religion." Spears, who was raised a Baptist, has allegedly been consulting with a "Christian Life Coach" about her troubled marriage to Kevin Federline.
Apparently Britney has been tempted off the path, the sublime benefits of red string bracelets and bottled holy mineral water so quickly forgotten. But "Kaballah's" loss is Britney's baby's...er...gain. Are these stories really that important though? Do they actually affect anyone other than that particular spiritual celebrity seeker? Absolutely:

"Madonna spent months teaching Britney the Kabbalah system and splashed out thousands on the ancient scripture for her," according to a source quoted by Virgin.net, which is further reporting that Madonna is demanding that Spears return the twelfth-century book on Kabbalah that she gave her as a wedding present.

Madonna's rep had no comment by press time, but the source said: "She feels she has wasted time, money and precious gifts on Brit."
You see, there is a lot of time and treasure involved here. Madonna has to be fuming as she realizes how she wasted her precious recruiting resources on Britney, when maybe she should have been chasing Christina Aguilera or Paris Hilton instead. (update 6/15: looks like Lindsay Lohan will be the lucky one to catch Madonna on the religious rebound). But all's fair in celebrity love and recruiting wars.

Meanwhile, later in the same article we find even more Earth-shaking celebrity recruiting news:

Catholic officials are crowing over the return of Nicole Kidman into their fold. Tom Cruise's ex dabbled in Scientology when she was married to the Top Gun star, but never fully embraced the controversial religion. Now, preparations for her wedding to country crooner Keith Urban have "helped guide her back to the Catholic Church," according to the Catholic News Service. "For Nicole, you know this is a spiritual homecoming, coming back to the church and her faith in her old parish," the service quoted Jesuit Father Paul Coleman as saying.
Signing Nicole Kidman to a letter of intent is huge news -- HUGE news. I'm sure the Church is expecting a big season out of Nicole, perhaps even envisioning a comeback prayer of the year award. Who knows? But a high-profile signing is always newsworthy, trumpeted to the media as a means of tempting other fence-sitting would-be celebrity faithful into the fold.

Please people, don't scoff at this. It might just seem like a superficial media fixation on the pandering of ancient religions to attract the blinged and the beautiful. But it's not that simple. It's exactly like the life or death situations seen in college athletic recruiting EVERY DAY. Every one knows that once a school's sports team loses a star player or coach, it can have a domino effect that makes it all the harder to bring in more fresh high-quality meat -- and meat is money. For example, look at the similar situation in Oklahoma, where a new coach is only now struggling to recover from the loss of the previous coach:

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- University of Oklahoma basketball coach Jeff Capel announced Friday the signing of his first recruit.

Bobby Maze of The Patterson School in Lenoir, N.C., signed a financial aid agreement to attend OU, Capel said in a statement. [...]

The Sooners lost three top-ranked recruits after former coach Kelvin Sampson left OU for Indiana.
And you don't think Jeff Capel would love to have had Britney or Nicole to help lure in those new recruits? Getting over the hump with that first signing is a big, BIG deal.

Ok, so let's add up the points and announce our recruiting winners and losers.

University of Oklahoma


Could Go Either Way:
Britney's Baby Religion

Maybe Britney can recruit Brad and Angelina's new baby to help drum up interest her own baby's religion -- it could really take off with a good recruiting class.

If you really, really liked this -- or even really, really hated it -- there's lots more: