Published January 23, 2011 - 11:30pm
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I’m an addict. I have been since I was 11 years old. No, I’m not addicted to Booze or H. It’s nothing that cool. I’m addicted to college football recruiting.
I never had a chance at a normal life. My father was a recruitnik from way back. He passed on this sickness like other fathers passed on a tendency towards alcoholism, high-blood pressure or red hair. It wasn’t easy back then. There were only a few places to find the information we so craved. We subscribed to magazines from Student Sports, Forrest Davis and Jeff Whitaker. We’d highlight commitments, star those who were prospects and scratch through those who had already sold their souls to rivals. I hated guys long before they even attended their Senior Prom and still do long after they graduated college.
Tom Lemming’s weekly recruiting show and a few others gave us the highlight film. Apparently, it was mandatory for early footage to be taken no closer than 2 miles from the stadium and preferably on horseback. Deciphering early highlight film was like reading the scrolling green numbers from The Matrix. “Am I looking at the LB or the RB? Why is this in night vision?” It was grainy, it was shaky, and it was perfect.
Then the internet happened. Porn and college recruiting benefited most from the emergence of the internet. Each team has their own homer “insiders” to tell you that all the top talent is coming to your favorite team. Articles were written about each player after each visit to the point where you start to know these guys better than know your own family (in fairness, nobody in my family can run a 4.65 shuttle). The internet has given us up to the minute national rankings, highlight film on every player in the nation and most importantly the message boards.
Imagine Alcoholics Anonymous, but the meetings are held at a bar in Cancun and drinking is mandatory. That is what the college football recruiting message boards are like. Anonymous addicts from unknown places all gather in one spot to get that fix. Regardless of the school, each message board has the same characters.
- The “Insider”. This is usually a paid employee of the website with ties to the coaches or athletic department. He has an idea of who the team is targeting and pretends to have an idea of how it’s all going to play out. His greatest strength is providing hope to all us desperate fools.
- The Young Gun “Insider”. This guy’s job is to actually text recruits and see where they stand or how a visit went. This is the equivalent to the guy who sells crack to children on the playground. There is something creepy about the guy who texts dozens of 18 year old boys every day, but we all acknowledge the importance of their information and turn a blind eye to their stalkerish nature.
- The Wannabe “Insider”. This is 98% of the people on the message boards. They have been following recruiting for years and know how the game is played. They have no sources except the multiple recruiting sites they are members of. These are the guys who make mock classes which are basically a list of all the 4 and 5 star players who have even considered a visit. You’ll hear a lot of, “My gut’s telling me this guy is ours.” The most depraved of the wannabe “insiders” is the guy pays a subscription to the recruiting website of their biggest rival. This guy is sick. That is the guy who starts drinking rubbing alcohol when he runs out of cheap vodka.
- The Virgins. These are just dipping their first toe into these mysterious murky waters. They are the guys who get their recruiting news from the local newspaper. He’ll start threads titled “When is signing day?” Everyone hates this guy. We hate him because of conversations like this:
Virgin: “Did you hear Georgia signed this QB from Texas?”
Dickhead Recruiting Follower: Sigh. “He didn’t sign he committed… 3 days ago. His name is Matthew Stafford. He has the potential to be the keystone for this entire…”
Virgin (interrupting): “Yeah, I heard about it on the local news this morning. Sounds like the next Eric Zeier.”
Dickhead Recruiting Follower: Sigh. “Get the hell out of my office. Don’t ever speak to me again. Eric Zeier? You’re lucky I don’t rip out you larynx.”
Recruiting addicts are elitists, and I might be the biggest recruiting elitist out there. If you haven’t seen Sam McGuffie do a front flip over his offensive lineman then I don’t want to know you. Simply hearing the names Dan Kendra, Ronald Curry, Xavier Lee, and Brock Berlin make me laugh out loud and John Brantley is on the fast track to make that list. Joe Mauer might be a future Hall of Fame catcher, but every time I hear his name I loudly tell people he signed with Florida State and was the widely considered the best Quarterback in the nation. “Lobster” Willie Williams was the best man at my wedding. I’ve watched Matt Stafford progress from the doughy High School QB with a huge arm to the doughy NFL QB with a huge arm. Yeah, I know Barry Sanders Jr. is sick and of course I’ve seen his highlight film. I know it’s incredible, shut up. I hate Lane Kiffin. I hate Coach O. I know that Tom Lemming is a Notre Dame loving asshat and if you don’t know that than I hate you. Hell, I’ve attended multiple Under Armour All-American Game Practices. I’m messed up!
Why do I do this? Why do any of us do this? We all love something new. In college, guys would cruise over to sorority row during the first week of school hoping to be the first to lay eyes on the top prospects. How many divorces are results of somebody wanting something new? Every year those who follow recruiting are rewarded with 20 new toys. It’s better than Christmas.
Mainly, we follow recruiting because it’s unbelievably entertaining. It’s the same reason people watch American Idol. We love watching people make the journey from obscurity to greatness. Some careers pan out some flop. Even if a superstar doesn’t pick your team, for the rest of his Hall of Fame career you still get to say things like, “I’ve hated that guy for 15 years.”
I love following recruiting. I’ve had moments where I tried to take a step back and considered devoting less time to cruising the message boards and more time to school, or work, or my wife, but I missed it too much. I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be reading the optimistic mock drafts, watching terrible highlight footage and losing sleep over recruiting for years to come. Again, I’m messed up!