By Zach McCrite
To the regular human, there are four seasons.
And here we are, embarking on one of those seasons: summer. The sun shines (usually), the temperature is hot (most of the time) and the kids are out of school (have fun, parents).
That’s to the regular human being.
However, to most of you who would bother to flip to this back page to read the thoughts of this mind-wandering gasbag, there may be only three seasons.
Regular season. Postseason. Offseason.
And for a sea of fans wearing the Cardinal Red or the Wildcat Blue or the Hoosier Crimson who love their football or basketball, we are in the longest of those three seasons: the offseason.
Of course, it’s a bummer for most of you to not have actual games going on during the offseason. I feel the same way. The offseason drags when you don’t have something to look forward to watching.
But, especially with the advances in technology over the last decade and a half, many people have cashed in on your offseason boredom.
Offseason is now the recruiting season.
Many of you out there get so fired up this time of year. You want to know where the top prospects are going to go to school. You marvel at their ability to shake a defender or get fancy with their moves. With every “ooh” and “ahh” they make you belt out, you become more and more like a child who sees bubbles being blown for the first time.
You hope they go to your favorite team. You hope they shun the enemy.
And you create this vision of your team with that recruit on it, even though, except in the rarest of cases (perhaps like local basketball star Romeo Langford), you’ve only seen a 2-minute YouTube clip of any high-profile recruit’s very best moments from his high school career.
Don’t lie. You’ve done this. I’ve done it, too.
The offseason feels good. New players come in. Veteran players get healthy, fans get excited, and at some schools (ahem, Indiana) you get a new coach as a cherry on top. Every year, it feels like a new beginning.
And new beginnings spawn hope. Lots of hope. We hope with the “hopiest” of hopes. And it gives us the warm-and-fuzzies.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I like to hope, too. But I’m over this particular kind of hoping.
Too many times I’ve looked at that YouTube clip, I’ve looked at the recruiting rankings scattered all over the internet, I’ve imagined that awesome recruit on my favorite team. You have too.
And when that player shows interest in coming to play for our school, we tell our friends, “This is the guy.”
And like more summer beverages into summer beverage cooler, the recruiting services toss hope into our summer party. Even if our team is truly terrible, we start to believe anyway. Because “what if,” right?
Then, after the hopeful “offseason,” the best players commit to colleges all over the land and some of them may even go to your school.
And now it’s time for regular season. Ya know, actual games! And those recruits start playing in our favorite team’s jersey. And, it’s not nearly what we imagined. We were fantasizing about unicorns and lollipops and national championships. Instead, we got less than that. Almost every time.
Let me let you in on a little secret: the same thing happens with your favorite team as well.
In other words, all that chatter about those recruits coming in – it’s a ruse. It’s us being tricked into thinking that “this might be the year.” We fall for it every time.
And, hey, every once in a blue moon, it IS our year. Sometimes our favorite team got the right mix of new recruits and old savvy vets and the coach works his wizardry and — voila — we are the champions! But, it’s hard to win a national championship.
Only one team does. And come to find out, that mixtape someone threw on the internet about the recruit that ended up at your school? Well, turns out that guy, along with every other college recruit, makes mistakes on the floor (and sometimes off the floor, too). The guy who produced the video failed to get those mistakes into that mixtape, I guess (wink, wink).
And then the regular season ends, the postseason ends, and here we are in the offseason again.
And we rinse and we repeat. Because next year might be the year.
Look, if this is what you want to do, more power to you. I’m not saying you’re wrong for doing it. I’m just saying that, for me, it feels like an exercise in futility.
I’m not trying to be “Debbie Downer.” Far from it. I just have no idea what my team is going to look like even if we got every great recruit in the country to come to my team.
Newsflash: neither do you.
And in all honesty, the recruiting services out there that tell us how good each recruit is at basketball, they’re guessing too, albeit with more information.
Shoot, even the millionaire head coaches have whiffed on highly-touted recruits. Louisville fans remember Carlos Hurt. Kentucky had Daniel Orton. Indiana and Hanner Parea parted.
Yet, here we are, having seen very little of these college-bound kids ever shoot a basketball or catch a football, and we’re convinced that we’ll go far if they sign to play with our school.
Combine all of this with the fact that we’re grown adults following around kids who are barely old enough to drive.
Ah, you smell that? That breezy morning air? That fresh coffee? It’s that time of year.
There may be four seasons for Jane and John Doe and family. But, for the basketball- or football-crazed fanatic, there are only three.
And we’re in the longest season right now. The offseason.
It’s hopeful. And annoying.