Monday night I rolled home from work late -- as per usual for a Monday -- and loaded up the old interwebs for my daily ritual of reading inane crap on the internet and drinking beer before passing out (#bloglife). About that time a certain subset of the internet (that small part that reads things about the college decisions of athletically inclined minors around midnight on a random Monday in January) was trying to make sense of something. They* weren't analyzing something, or even reporting on it. Those things come easy these days. Recruiting news happens very nearly in real time, as not only do the guru's know when a commitment might happen (because of scheduled visits, calls, school drop-ins, etc.), but they are actively connected to those recruits giving quick access to any piece of news. After news breaks** comes the reaction. What does this commitment mean, why is this a big deal, is this kid the future of the program, and on and on and on. We do it here too. Recruiting is business, and business is good.
No, what happened last night wasn't any of that. It was more akin to a lot of confused head scratching. Nobody really knew what the real story was. Rodney Davis, a 2014 recruit (a specious bit of nomenclature in that this label really doesn't apply to someone who isn't actually being recruited) had committed to Michigan. The question was, did Michigan commit back?
I wrote a few words on it, scheduled the post for the early AM with the knowledge that its shelf life wouldn't be long for this world, and went back to that nightly ritual with another can of beer.
I was right. The whole thing was quickly debunked and everyone went on their way. Still, Big House Jack brought up an interesting point -- albeit indirectly -- in the comments: why should we care?
I don't know if I can answer that, but I can answer why, in this particular case, I do care. Hopefully that will shed some light on the more important question.
When I was in high school I was on the football team. In this case, saying that I "played football" would be a bit of a truth stretcher. I was on the team. I wore pads and a jersey to the games (an immaculately clean jersey from stat to finish, I might add) and showed up to every single practice from freshman to senior year (I even got an award certificate for that).
My senior year two new schools joined our conference which was a collection of small city high schools, bigger suburban high schools, and a few farm town high schools that were in most cases less than half the size of the rest of the conference's member schools. One of the two schools -- Mt. Morris High School for those familiar with the greater Flint area sports scene -- immediately became the biggest school in the conference upon its entrance, and despite our football team consisting of just enough people to run a full 11 on 11 scrimmage in practice (and yet I still didn't play. I was bad, yo), we were pretty good and had our eyes set on a conference title after losing it the year before in back to back heartbreaking losses (long stories I won't bore you with).
One of Mt. Morris's players was a big kid who was about 6'5 300lbs. We spent all week in practice hearing about how good he was, how the team used him not only on the lines but as a goal line running back, and how Joe Paterno was interested in bringing him to Penn State to play football.
Now, at the time this sounded believable (in high school I was as gullible as I was bad at football). Why would our coaches lie? And even if they were lying, how the hell would I ever know the difference?
I don't know if that kid ever played college ball (I doubt it; we found out in the game that he wasn't all that dominant after all), and for the life of me I can't even remember his name despite putting a good ten minutes of thought into it. That was a decade ago. A lot has changed in the last ten years.
If there is one thing that this whole Manti Te'o saga has taught us -- other than: all the bad things in the world happen to Notre Dame and Notre Dame alone -- it is that despite being so wrapped up in the internet and the vast opportunities it presents to us on a minute by minute basis***, we are still pretty pathetic and gullible and naive when it comes to dealing with the stuff we find on there.
The internet keeps on presenting us with news and pictures and stories that we lap up at first, then try to talk our way around later when we find out it was all just a joke or lie. Sure, there were people like DGDestroys (yes, I just referred to him as a person while using his twitter handle as the name. This is pretty much where we're at as a society) that questioned it from the beginning, but there were plenty of others who offered supportive words and hearty welcomes to Rodney. Say something outrageous on the internet. Odds are pretty good someone will believe you.
Now, of course the internet didn't usher in the dawn of the "age of gullibility" -- we as a species are quite adept at getting bamboozled. What the internet has done is amplify the problem. We come across vastly more alien information (i.e. things outside your normal sphere of existence, or in layman's terms: the shit that doesn't directly happen to you), deal with it in most cases out of context and/or out of our area of expertise, all the while trying not to get suckered by our natural inclination to lend credence to things we read.
The half hour or so Monday night that I spent trying to make sense of the Rodney Davis "commitment" may have been a waste of time in narrow sense -- he isn't a commit, won't play for Michigan, and therefore has about as much real world impact on my life as Lennay Kekua -- but it was just another chapter in the long, strange tale that is still being written about mankind's rapid adjustment to a form of technology that opens us up to a world of information that it is increasingly clear we aren't really equipped to handle or properly judge. The misinformation is still there. It just comes in a greater volume now. It is faster too.
So, in summation, don't trust everything you read on the internet. You can trust me. I'm almost certainly a real person and not a beta version of a automatic Michigan blogpost generator or a collection of cats mimicking human form in a trench coat.
Wait til Deadspin picks up that one: "college blogger actually a collection of cats with a penchant for sarcasm."
*(My lame excuse for pronoun-ing the various internet voices that range from big and trusted names like our own DGDestroys and formerly Tremendous' Mark to that one guy that spends too much time re-tweeting shit recruits say and tweeting different hashtagged forms of "go blue" at said recruits).
**(And it is times like those when something breaks that make "tweet" the kind of spot on onomatopoeia that it is: a flurry of structurally similar but tonally different factoids coming from all directions. The internet equivalent of walking through you're local zoo's aviary and listening to the disembodied chatter from the trees).
***(People don't often think about the fact that there was a time when I couldn't ask myself some random question and have the answer within seconds; those simpler days when "google" was mostly gibberish and certainly not a verb).