'Tis the Season! By: Joshua Chamberlain Posted: January 22, 2012
I love the college football recruiting process. I love everything about it. I watch the news feeds; I read the message boards; I troll Twitter; I do it all. Recruiting season is a time when every college football fan can look to the future and see hope, and anyone who knocks the recruiting process is forgetting that hope is, in reality, the reason why we are fans in the first place. Here are five reasons I enjoy this time of year so much:
1. It is another reason for the top programs to claim dominance. While this might not seem like a good thing for the majority of football fans, it is fun to see the inevitable collapse when teams fail to live up to the unreasonable expectations that their recruiting success creates (unless, of course, you are Alabama, in which case you will somehow get away with signing 100 players a year and play in the national championship game every year). My favorite example of this is Notre Dame. I inherited my distaste of Notre Dame from my father. He inherited his distaste for Notre Dame from Lou Holtz. My father also taught me one of my more cherished life lessons: if a person or team assumes that god is on his/its side, you should immediately hate that person or team. Sound advice. Unfortunately, I am a Gopher fan so god is definitely not on my side. That leads to #2.
2. Ridiculous, irresponsible, unrealistic hope for middling, "Fringe Bowl Teams." Fans of lower-tier schools, like our beloved Gophers, sit and wait with baited breath, waiting for a big-time recruit to come along and give us hope. Gopher fans like to say things like “He will be the face of the program!” If the recruit is local, they will change the dialogue to include things like “He can lead his hometown team back to prominence!” And, my personal favorite: “He will be a legend!” While it sounds good in theory, Minnesota doesn’t have a real good recent track record of pumping out the legends. That doesn’t stop perfectly rational adults from spewing and, I think, actually believing grandiose statements. Everyone’s an expert! Sometimes the fans even choose to believe that the coaches know what they are doing. Those coaches are the subject of #3.
3. Watching middle-aged men beg high school kids to choose a certain school. Whenever you see a college coach celebrating a championship, remember that that coach was, at one time, pleading with his players to come to his school. Does the stolid, professional Nick Saban seem as amazing when you picture him slapping a fake smile on his face and telling an 18 year-old anything that kid wants to hear? I didn’t think so. It makes me happy thinking about how much a guy like Saban must hate handing power over to a cocky high school kid. That leads me to #4.
4. Seeing high school kids act like their shit doesn’t stink. I am a huge, unapologetic college football fan, but let’s be serious. These kids were good high school football players. That’s it. In late 2008, the Atlanta Journal reported that University of Florida football players scored an average of 346 points lower on the SAT than non-athletes at the U of F. That’s a pretty fantastic number. While many folks would use that number as a reason to dislike college football, I look at it the other way. I look at it as a reason to follow college football. I have heard people say that football is inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. I disagree. If it were really inconsequential, the 346 point difference would not exist. The fact that proud universities are willing to admit a large number of idiots simply because of those idiots’ physical gifts tells me all I need to know about the importance of football. I’m all in. Still, the kids' time in the driver’s seat is fleeting. That leads us to #5.
5. Knowing that the tables will turn as soon as the recruit signs his name to the letter of intent. The school absolutely owns the player once he signs. Knowing that allows me to enjoy watching an 18 year-old expect (and receive) the type of admiration and attention usually reserved for those who cure diseases. Enjoy the spotlight while you can, kids, because it will quickly end. Your head coach can change jobs without notice. Your position coaches can, and probably will, move on at the drop of a hat. And if you want to transfer? You have to sit out a year and have that year count against your eligibility. As far as I’m concerned, it is adequate payback for watching high-profile recruits parade around like jackasses for months on end. Dealing with that jackassery is made easier through the hope that the kids will eventually grow up and lead your team to a championship.
Everyone in the process is looking for some sort of hope. Parents hope for the best for their children and cling to any sliver of potential their kids display. Every recruited athlete in the country thinks he can play pro. Every unrecruited player in the country thinks he got screwed. Every coach thinks he is one or two solid recruiting classes away from competing for a conference or national championship. Every fan thinks that the latest coach to arrive will finally be the one to get “his” players in and put the university on the map. The recruiting process gives hope to all those involved.
More than anything, I love recruiting season because, like so many things in our lives, it allows us to forget about the present for a little bit and simply think about what can be. It is sometimes easy to confuse what can be with what should be, but that is a risk I am willing to take. Recruiting season allows fans to forget about their problems and just dream.