Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Andrew Wiggins Decision Says More (Bad) About Fandom Than Anything

Recruiting is different now.  There's always been elite players (think how Lew Alcinder's recruitment would be handled today) and great coaches selling great programs (imagine UCLA's John Wooden, UNC's Dean Smith and Kentucky's Adolph Rupp going after you).  But today there is access to it unlike any seen before. 

Sure, there is the media that's greater.  That's a given, but there has been massive media for quite some time.  No, there is the availability of fans to (a) the media and (b) the information or misinformation that has gotten this out of hand. 

In Andrew Wiggins' case, it was bad.  Here was a kid that did the exact correct thing in each and every way.  He never promised any fan base -- he was considering Kentucky, Florida State and North Carolina before ultimately picking Kansas -- that he was leaning their way.  He never lied to anyone.  Never showed his hand.  When asked about it, he either deflected the question or gave a blunt "I have no idea" response.  He took his time so he could make the correct decision for himself.  He actually signed the letter in virtual privacy and not on an ESPN set or in front of a packed gymnasium filled with cameras where he put on a hat (like they did in the old days) or via Skype (as Harrison Barnes did) or even with a school's mascot.  He did this thing perfect ... which may actually did more damage in the social media-sphere. 

Kentucky fans were convinced he was coming to Lexington.  I mean, they are "Kentucky".  They have this awesome class coming in.  Their fans will elevate you into a star even though you really aren't one (right, Josh Harrelson?).  Despite all the signs, Kentucky fan knew he was coming.

So did Florida State fans.  I mean, his mom and dad went there.  It is in the state of Florida ... which is a lot more fun than Kansas, Kentucky or North Carolina.  And why else would the Seminoles be on a recruiting list along with those three heavyweights?

Kansas and North Carolina fans also had their own factions who were convinced that Wiggins belonged there.  Great coaches, great arenas, great traditions and great rosters were waiting for them in Lawrence and Chapel Hill, respectively. 

But if you were a Kentucky, North Carolina or Florida State fan ... Tuesday was a tough day.  Wiggins used that day to select Kansas as his stop gap to the NBA and those other fanbases didn't take very kindly to it.  Sure, there were many fans who moved on without vitriol, but there were also tons of them who took it too hard.  Hard enough that some even went to Wiggins' Twitter account with some very harsh things to say to the 18-year old.

Given what we've seen about Wiggins' maturity in a very wild world of both recruiting and college athletics, I hope that he understands that this is just a bunch of scum who have no self worth in their lives aside from the success of their teams.  He should also know that those people reside in every school's fan base ... though some schools have more than others.  He should also tell himself that those same people would fawn over him if he attended their favorite university ... meaning that those people don't have HIS well-being at heart but that of their school.  To know that you won't represent those folks at all should make him feel even better about his decision.

The fact of the matter is that fans can get where the feel soooooo close to the recruiting scene than they really are.  And people who are in that scene are way more media savvy than you realize.  Every other day, somebody was going on Kentucky sports radio stations and giving hope to Big Blue Nation that Wiggins was a lock to go there.  That same guy could go to a station in the Triangle and sell the same plot to North Carolina fans.  Then head down to North Florida and say he's following his parents' footsteps to FSU.  From there, fans hearing that get on Facebook or Twitter or their blogs and buzz it around.  If you hear it from enough "sources", then you start to actually believe it.  I mean, why else would four fanbases enter Tuesday feeling as if Wiggins was set to sign with their school?

Wiggins just did what millions of kids do each year: choose the college that best fits them. 

Which is also what fans usually do as well.  I mean, why are you the fan of the school you are a fan of?  Maybe you attended that school?  Maybe someone close to you went there?  Maybe you happen to be born in the city or state that the school hails from (or in Wiggins' choices, were the Big State School)?  Maybe you are just a bandwagon fan that just picks the best or most popular team?  Maybe daddy passed on the love for that school ... just as Wiggins' daddy had done for Florida State. 

And if Wiggins' mother and father can support his decision to attend Kansas, then why in the hell can't you?

No comments: