A Viral Obsession With A Stranger’s Decision

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Patrick PattersonMy latest article for theSabre.com (), closing the book on the Patterson saga.

Yet again, the obsession with another young man’s college choice came to a careening halt, a basketball player miles away, who could have been a “savior” for yet another new coach made his decision regarding whether or not he’d be a Wahoo. Patrick Patterson, the 6’8″, 210 pound, 5-star power forward considering UVa, Florida, Kentucky, D*ke, Wake Forest, and West Virginia, trimmed his list this week to a top three that did not include the Hoos. And despite my promise to the contrary so many years ago when another young man spurned the Hoos, another season of obsessing about a stranger’s choice about where he’ll be taking CHEM 101 and ogling tiny skirts broke like a virus-induced fever.

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A Viral Obsession With A Stranger’s Decision

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Patrick Patterson

Years ago, I obsessed about a young man’s college choice. He was a basketball player, and he was going to be the savior of our new coach’s program. Virginia was a finalist, so I dutifully checked Web sites – newly discovered orange and blue message boards along with other Internet whatnots – every day about the latest tidbits. What did this young man say today? What did his coach say? His neighbors? His garbage man? Anybody catch what color hat he wore today? Did it have any orange in it? Did it?!

Well, young LaVell Blanchard ended up staying near home, choosing to toil away in mediocrity in Michigan rather than play for the NCAA Tournament juggernaut being constructed by Pete Gillen in Charlottesville. And I remember thinking after the whole drawn out episode: “My, this obsession about the college decision of one young man who lived hundreds and hundreds of miles away seemed a tad unhealthy! It’s only basketball and a complete stranger. I’m not going to let this happen again.”

Oops. Fast forward to this week. Yet again, the obsession with another young man’s college choice came to a careening halt, a basketball player miles away, who could have been a “savior” for yet another new coach made his decision regarding whether or not he’d be a Wahoo. Patrick Patterson, the 6’8″, 210 pound, 5-star power forward considering UVa, Florida, Kentucky, D*ke, Wake Forest, and West Virginia, trimmed his list this week to a top three that did not include the Hoos. And despite my promise to the contrary so many years ago when another young man spurned the Hoos, another season of obsessing about a stranger’s choice about where he’ll be taking CHEM 101 and ogling tiny skirts broke like a virus-induced fever.

Too Late To Get Immunized

To be fair, these obsessions often build up unsuspectingly, at least for me. At first, I’m telling myself that there’s no way we can beat a Florida or a D*ke or Kentucky for a prospect like Patrick Patterson. Early on, he says some vague things about UVa, something like “ Virginia is under consideration” – definitely nothing to get excited about. So, it was certainly not time to get too excited about a young man who didn’t sound overly enthused about becoming a Wahoo.

But, the recruiting process is a drawn out beast, unlike the battlefield of real sports. And, these recruits have a way of teasing us at times, of increasing (inadvertently or not) the obsession level of a school’s fan base. So, the illness has a chance to find its trigger point. And, I’d say that moment happened for me after I read about Patterson’s official visit to the Virginia-Arizona game:

“I really enjoyed myself. … Overall, it was just a great visit. The atmosphere there was great. There was not an empty seat in the building for the game. … Me and the players got along real well,” Patterson said. “Charlottesville was nice. I liked it. … They’ll be a team I seriously consider. Like Coach Leitao and Coach Seymour told me, I could help them with winning a championship. … Me and my family like Virginia. It’s right there in the middle. We have family in Maryland and in North Carolina.”

And what about maybe visiting UVa again? Patterson emphatically stated “I look forward to going back.” And even though he was just talking about another visit, those words sunk in. “Looking forwarded to going back?” Now that’s praise! We had a legit shot at this kid, right? We really did! In fact, was he talking about looking forward to another visit or looking forward to going back as a first-year student, strolling down the Lawn to his first Intro to Writing class while he eyed some cuties sunbathing in the grass? That’s what he’s talking about, right?

Yes, the obsession had taken root. Sometimes all a virus needs is for its host to stand in the pouring rain without a coat on.

Making Everything Out Of Nothing

Given that the recruiting game is fundamentally an information desert, every bit of data, rumor, and speculation becomes magnified. So when Patterson tried but failed to schedule that second trip again to Virginia the following February, which was getting dangerously close to his expected April decision time, an obsessed fan like me just had to read into that, right? I can remember the feverish internal dialogue I had with myself about this situation:

“Man, if he really liked us, he’d make time for us,” I said to myself.

“Uh, what? I think you’re losing it,” I responded.

“Seriously, we’re not that far away. Basketball is his life, and he’s picking his college basketball coach, program, everything. He should be jumping at the chance …,” I continued.

“Shut up you freak! He’s some kid you don’t even know! Who cares?!

Of course, I immediately bound and gagged the more rationale half of my brain so that I could continue obsessing about this stranger. Who had time for emotional balance and rational thought when I could worry about something I had no control over for the next several weeks?

Unfortunately, the promise I made to myself in the LaVell Blanchard aftermath had been forgotten. Or, more accurately, that promise had been riddled with caveats and exceptions: That promise now only applied to the Gillen era. Wasn’t it only fair that Dave Leitao was allowed at least one obsession from me too?

The Homestretch Of Insanity

Several weeks turned into several months, as Patterson’s world was turned upside down with Tubby Smith’s departure from Kentucky. During this period, my fever-pitched mind became convinced that one of his top choices wasn’t so appealing anymore because its exponentially-more-obsessed-than-me fan base had tossed their extremely successful coach out on his hide.

And why shouldn’t I have been convinced? In fact, his own mother told me to be. She used words like “hurt,” “sad,” “shocked” and “mad” when she described how her son felt about Tubby getting exiled to Minnesota. “Like a family member had died,” she said – providing an ample supply of the hyperbole that the fanatic-recruitment-obsession virus needs to reproduce inside the host body.

I could just see Mrs. Patterson looking at that Wildcat and saying in her best Corleone voice: “You’re dead to me.” (Yes, now my mind was hallucinating, as well.)

And, as if it couldn’t get any better, the top candidate rumored for the Kentucky position was none other than the coach from Florida. Indeed, rumors and interest were coming from all sides for Billy Donovan, including the NBA, and the anti-Donovan scenarios in my mind were just too seductive to avoid.

  • Should Donovan have left for Kentucky, this act of treason should have crippled his chances for ending up with the top recruit. The irrational fans coupled with an untrustworthy coach would be too much for Patrick to accept.
  • Should Donovan have stayed in Florida, Patterson at the very least would have to be wary of always doubting whether his coach might ditch him to become the next coach of the Memphis Grizzlies or Houston Rockets or Washington Mystics or whoever was willing to give him enough money and control.

As if this recruiting obsession needed another event to supercharge it, Tubby Smith walking the plank and the ensuing chaos that enveloped two of Patterson’s top choices naturally vaulted our chances in my mind. And D*ke? Screw them – who would want to play for that self-promoting whiner and his weird assistant coaches anyway? Yes, these arguments were rationally sound and without logical flaw to my obsessed and feverish mind.

Into The Breach

Unlike the real world, the object of the obsession usually ends suddenly in the recruiting game. And so it was with Patterson. This week came three bits of sudden news in rapid succession in the same night. The first data point involved whether Patterson would pick the same school as a fellow top recruit, Jai Lucas. Bob Gibbons reported that “it does appear that Patterson and Lucas will likely end up at separate universities rather than signing with the same program as was earlier predicted.” My obsessing mind kicked into overdrive: since Lucas wasn’t considering us, that meant that the Lucas-Patterson package we all feared would not come to pass.

Almost minutes later, Chris Horne posted a news update that Patterson had trimmed his list to three – though the recruit hadn’t told him which schools had made his final list. My thoughts were polluted by Gibbons’ report, and I was irrationally hopeful.

But the rumors burst forth minutes after that throughout the Internet world, including on our message boards. Not us. At first, it looked like speculation. But soon enough, the legitimate media reports were up, with quotations from the man himself praising his three remaining schools. Not us.

And just like that, months of obsessing had led to this insignificant moment. We were just another one of the hundreds of schools that Patrick Patterson rejected.

Ed Davis

Moving On

From reading the basketball message board in the days after the announcement, it’s clear that fans handle these rejections in different ways. A few cast around for blame. Others seek to defend the young man’s decision. Some move on immediately to the next recruiting battle.

Not me. I’m out, fellow Hoos. I’m reinstituting the LaVell Blanchard promise. I don’t have it in me anymore. I’ve given Dave Leitao one unhealthy obsession with a teenager’s college decision, and that’s all I’ve got to give. So, aside from checking some Chris Horne updates from time to time, this entire Patterson episode has immunized me forever from this whole recruiting obsession virus. At some point in life, it is simply time to stop caring so much about the life choices of absolute strangers.

Wait a second. Who’s this Ed Davis kid?

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