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A consumer's guide to the best and worst of sports media and merchandise. Ground rules: If it can be read, played, heard, observed, worn, viewed, dialed or downloaded, it's in play here.

March 10, 1997|MIKE PENNER

What: Student Sports magazine.

Price: $3.95.

Banking on the theory that Americans are addicted to rankings--it's a top-10 national obsession, survey says--Student Sports magazine is dedicated to giving the people what it believes they want.

Featured in February: The nation's top 25 boys' basketball recruiting classes, the top 10 remaining unsigned seniors, the top 20 girls' basketball recruiting classes, the top 100 baseball recruits, the top 50 junior college football prospects, the "Football Recruiting Hot 100 Prospects & Where They're Headed," the top 25 prep football teams, regional top 10 prep football rankings, senior-junior-sophomore football All-American lists, top 25 prep volleyball teams, top 20 boys' and girls' cross-country finishers and the cover story, "America's Top 10 Football Programs" of the 1990s, plus "25 More Schools Close To The Top 10."

Maybe this makes good fodder for time-killing conversation on the bus to the road game in Lompoc, but it also prompts a few questions.

Are national polls for high-school sports teams credible, given the fact that the top-rated teams almost never play each other and are seen only by the coaches and sportswriters in their own particular regions?

Are national polls for high-school sports teams even healthy?

The mythical brass ring of "National No. 1" promotes running up scores and running outside ethical guidelines.

These rankings, the editors concede in the February issue, are "definitely a no-win situation." But, as evidenced on page after page after page in Student Sports, they just can't help themselves.

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