Over at MGoBlog, MichFan1997's recent Facebook conversation with Ricardo Miller has rekindled the shouldn't-be-but-is awkward topic of how much access to high school athletes is necessary, appropriate, and/or healthy.
For the record, I am a 21-year-old junior at the University of Michigan; I am Facebook friends with many members of the football team, including William Campbell and Tate Forcier, who only recently arrived on campus. However, I have never made any attempt to communicate with them except Andre Criswell, who often asks his "friends" to guess his current weight. I have never posted on anyone's wall or added an optional "personal message" when I friend request them. I simply hit the friend request button and wait for a confirmation.
But isn't that counterintuitive? Am I not requesting this man's friendship because I want to be his friend? Because I want him to acknowledge me?
At the present apex of online activity and access, I would actually contend that such is not the case. I don't particularly care what Bryant Nowicki is up to or what kind of music Dann O'Neill likes. Adding a football player as a Facebook friend is simply the current generation's trading card. There is nothing in the friend request transaction that belies sincerity; the athlete in question never has to look at my name again and most likely never will. He simply hits "accept" and I get the satisfaction of listing Johnny Sears, Jr. as one of my "friends." That's where it ends. Or at least should end.
But unfortunately, it doesn't end there, because high schoolers with no obligations or commitments to a university also have Facebook accounts, and it is in these situations that the creepiness escalates.
In the comments section of the Ricardo Miller diary entry, chitownblue said:
"Every time I hear about an (adult?) fan having facebook and myspace conversations with 17-year-old kids, I get completely and utterly skeeved out, and worried for these kids. Not because you're a rapist (you're probably not), but because these kids naively let hundreds of people gain access to their lives, and the second they decommit, or drop a pass, or get arrested with weed, or anything, they have hundreds of strangers whom they've 'disappointed' with access to give them a piece of their mind."
This is a legitimate concern; I looked through the "previous posts" on William Campbell's wall and found these comments, dated December 29th, 2008--the height of his decommitment.
"Wow, bro...All I gotta say is what ever happened to loyalty?? UR not a true Michigan man, get the hell out and stay out!!!!"
-Brandon Coot Kusz of Kalamazoo Valley Community College (a true Michigan man if there ever was one)
Obviously that kind of message is despicable and Mr. Coot Kusz is an irredeemable pile of shit, but, as rude as that post was, I found the resultant comments way "creepier."
"Dude, Brandon. STFU, Big Will hasn't even made his mind up yet. Dude, Coot get a life."
"Dude So What. He shouldn't be bitched at for changing his mind."
"hey brandon get a fucking life you fucking loser"
"it unreal that u guys make these comment on here. its reall uncalled for i mean im crushed too that he prolly wont be donning the maize and blue, which by the way u would look really good in big will, but i mean hes still just a kid. tone it down with all the criticizum. Hey Big Will if u change ur mind Michigans here. Youd start right away ya no" (spelling unchanged)
Keep in mind that all of these comments were posted on William Campbell's wall, not Mr. Coot Kusz's. Campbell's "defenders" didn't want Campbell to feel better, and they didn't really care if Mr. Coot Kusz regretted his asshole comment. They believed that Kusz's comment cost Michigan ten Recruit Points and they wanted the glory of restoring them. "Gosh," Campbell said in their minds, "that Kusz guy is a total dick who makes me want to eschew Michigan for LSU, but thanks to Jordan and Dylan's reaffirming pep talks, my faith in the Wolverines is restored to an amount identical to the moment immediately preceding Kusz's comment."
These are the creepers. Anyone who friends a high school football or basketball player is doing so with the warped and fictional assumption that he can actually recruit the kid simply with the power of the internet. These are the same people who start groups like "Bring Jelani Jenkins to Michigan" and actually accrue enormous memberships.
Facebook friendships with enrolled college football players is not inherently creepy because there is no recruiting fantasy involved. They're already there; there's nothing to sell.