In The Locker Room: Their decisions aren’t yours to criticize

Enjoy National Signing Day.

Admittedly, that’s a little hard for me to say. The idea that, just a few days after watching a highly competitive game amongst grown men in the Super Bowl, we turn our attention to high school kids who are barely (if at all) legally considered adults yet seems absurd. But with the way it’s set up, it is so easy to get lost in the process.

With all-day coverage on ESPN, individual athletes with star rankings, and overall class rankings for each university, it’s easy to get sucked into all the hoopla. Not only if you’re a sports nerd, but for the casual fan who doesn’t follow a team religiously, even they can get caught up in it. Who cares if you’ve never heard of Matthew Thomas before, the five stars next to his name have to be good right?

Plus, the actual day where high school athletes are allowed to commit to a university is always a flurry of seeing who signs, looking up old grainy high school highlights of him, judging where he fits with the program, and envisioning them winning the Heisman sometime in the next three to four years. Realistically, you never know what you’re going to get from an athlete once he actually hits the field, but that won’t stop fans from imagining.

That being said, I realized late Monday night that I had a major problem with the way it was all set up. Or, rather, the way people reacted to certain decisions. On Monday night, South Plantation High senior running back Alex Collins, a five-star running back who was committed to the University of Miami for much of the recruiting process and was the favorite to sign him, announced publicly that he would be attending the University of Arkansas.

As a Canes fan, I can completely understand being disappointed in the decision. Collins had remained committed for over a year before decommitting and opening up his options again. Even after he did that, it was believed Miami had the upper hand in sealing the deal. Having been able to watch him during a high school game in September, I can say he would have been a nice addition to the Hurricanes’ roster.

In that regard, I can understand the disappointment for Canes fans. What I can’t understand, whether it be for Collins or any other athlete, is the social media/twitter warfare that goes on shortly after a recruit of this caliber makes his announcement. Disappointment is one thing, but to go out and attack, insult, threaten, or otherwise go out of your way to berate them is unacceptable.

What people fail to realize is, these are still just kids. They’re 17 and 18-year-old kids who for the better part of their high school careers have been hounded by athletic programs from all over the country trying to get them to sign with their school. Getting so much attention all at once, having all-expenses paid trips to visit campuses all over the country with free meals and entertainment, at that age, who wouldn’t want to drag that out as long as possible.

But when it comes down to it, the kids still have to make a decision, and most of the time it’s not an easy one. They can only choose one, so there’s always going to be a disappointed party in the end. You’re more than welcome to disagree with the decision, but the decision isn’t yours to make. Whether it be for one reason or several others, Collins believed Arkansas was the right place for him to be, much like you might prefer to be at one job over another. Tweeting that you hope his career goes nowhere and he gets injured accomplishes nothing other than showing your ignorance.

Am I disappointed in the decision? Yeah. But personally? I wish him well.