Julius Randle was just over a year old when I chose to attend the University of Texas, but even if his prefrontal cortex had been developed enough to have an opinion, I doubt he would’ve cared too much about my decision—and yet yesterday when our roles were reversed, my world came to a virtual standstill as I anxiously awaited his.
Randle, the No. 2 prospect in the country according to Rivals.com, had narrowed his list of possible destinations to four schools: Kentucky, Kansas, Florida, and Texas. A dynamic, 6’9” power forward who can handle the ball and finish inside, he’s a potential program-changer, and considering my alma mater’s hoops team is currently teetering between “tipping point” and “dumpster fire,” we could’ve really used one of those.
Unfortunately, the news surrounding Randle’s recruitment had not been good for about a month or so, at least not from UT’s perspective. On his official visit to Austin in February, not only did he witness a lifeless loss to Oklahoma State, but internet reports surfaced shortly after that a current player or two might’ve intimated to him that he’d be wise to seek his higher (basketball) education elsewhere. A week later during his trip to Kansas—where the Jayhawks were, coincidentally, playing Texas—he got another up-close glimpse of a lopsided Longhorns defeat, one in which the Horns played almost as many minutes (40) as they scored points (47).
Still, just like it is in dating, it often takes the rejected party in recruiting a little longer to see what’s actually going on, which meant that, despite these unfavorable developments, I still felt a sense of hope that it would all work out in the end. And once Randle set his announcement date for March 20th at 12:15pm CST, I immediately knew I’d need to eat a little extra breakfast that morning, because I was going to be taking a later-than-usual lunch that day.
It’s been talked a lot about how these announcements have gotten out of hand, how ridiculous it is that teenagers put on these elaborate, look-at-me showcases that are broadcast on national TV and inevitably involve the innocuous-yet-annoying hat dance—and sometimes, even live animals. (By the way, what happens to the hats of the schools that don’t get chosen? Is there some organization where they get donated? Do they get shipped off to third-world countries with the championship shirts for the Super Bowl losers?)
But to me, what’s even more interesting is why these things continue to exist. To borrow from economic law, a supply of something will only continue to be produced if it’s ultimately meeting a demand. And in the case of commitment ceremonies, it’s not the kids who are creating the demand, it’s the adults—the ones who spend their free time (and employer’s dime) dissecting player interviews and staring at grainy highlight videos and attempting to interpret ambiguous posts from anonymous sources on fan site message boards to garner insights into their favorite team.
You know, “adults” like me.