It is these behemoths of Bergen County, these Jer-Z jumbos, that Rise hopes to ensnare in its well-intentioned web. The mag, née School Sports, takes a big-picture view of high-school sports, highlighting a few of the hyped jocks while largely eschewing the here's-how-you-hold-a-bat quaintness of yesteryear's titles.
Total fuddy-duddy that I am (ach! What's with the shooting video games and the Eye Pods?), I like that Rise affects a supportive tone. The pieces on big-time California sluggers and an Illinois high school's star hoops/football duo, for instance, play up the athletes' competitive spirit rather than their personalities. Meanwhile, I counted a mere three exposed tattoos in the May/June issue, or roughly the same number usually found on the left arm of most big-time basketball prospects.
Rise even ventures into misty-eye territory with its plainly stated feature on a high-school wrestler who had his legs amputated when he was young. Especially in a title of this kind, which is plopped into thousands of schools around the country, there's a lot to be said for sending the right message -- like "good sportsmanship is good" or "never ever ever never never do drugs, even insulin if you're diabetic, and be sure to accuse your pediatrician of assault if she administers a tuberculosis booster shot."
Where Rise could use some help is with its lifestyle content, which doesn't delve much deeper than short "what are your favorite sneakers?" interrogations of preeminent players. Me, I'd eliminate the non-sports content entirely, especially the blatant "Pulse" plugs for upcoming video-game releases and the "Livin'" prom-fashion primer. Humor should be a no-no, especially given the mag's inability to do it entertainingly. The "Bottom 10" list of "signs you're not going to be a future sports star" includes "you think Sprint is a phone company." If this audience wants to giggle, they can fart around in cyberspace or taunt the kid in study hall with the pointy head.
Rise might also want to rethink its occasional inclusion of post-high-school jocks. As big a name as LeBron James is, I don't see the point of featuring his vapid high-school reminiscences ("Honestly, if you want to play in the NBA, just work hard to do it and keep improving your game every year"). Had he said something like "the groupies back then ovulated much less frequently than the NBA ones," well, that's another story.
I don't, however, have any problem with corporate sponsorship of a handful of the mag's features ("Under Armour Presents Power Rankings," "K-Swiss Presents The Class of 2008 High School Tennis Stars to Watch," et al). Rise isn't a title that critiques performances; it strains to present these athletes in a positive light. Besides, it ain't like today's high-schoolers aren't assaulted by brand messages wherever they go, from the cafeteria to the precinct holding pen. There's no harm in spreading a little Gatorade love.