How vain it is to sit down to write when you haven't stood up to live?
A message to Thomas Tyner: do what you gotta do, young sir.
The headline hit me last night like a blunt force object to the dome: #1 running back in the nation, Thomas Tyner DECOMMITS from Oregon. In the sports dictionary, there are few words that carry a more impactful punch than when the bold, villainous decommit hits the web. It’s a congregation of letters that even Microsoft Word warns against using in a sentence, applying a red squiggly line out of protest. It implies betrayal, withdrawal from an obligation, an exercise of promise-breaking. But what is it, and what does it really mean? …
When hometown fans catch wind of a recruit—especially one with deep local roots—that chose to decommit, it truly challenges the ugly alter ego caged inside a loyal sports fan. You know, the one that roars when an opposing receiver gets obliterated, hung out to dry with T-Rex arms over the middle. The liquored up dialogue triggering in our brain is fairly standard:
The Good Son: [cart enters field] “Goodness, the young STUDENT-athlete is not getting up—I think I saw his leg moving though.” **inhales, clasps hands**
The Otherside: [paramedics leaving field] Says absolutely nothing, yet buddy in the adjacent seat over is thinking the same thing, same diabolical brain pattern. **pictures highlight clip in future Nike BOOM commercial**
That’s football. It’s in our nature as sports fans to be inconsiderate, selfish assholes when it comes to the straightforward objective of winning the day. This basic ideology is what mends individuals into a dense unit, a piece of the formulaic home field advantage. Yet, even the loudest and proudest sports fans know when to mute their thoughts out of respect for the unwritten rules in athletics. No, sports are NOT just a game, but it should never ultimately mean that a narrow-minded diehard is incapable of stepping back to view the bigger picture. Duck fans must do as such with Tyner, just soak in the view from his soles.
Having the bigger picture resonate is no easy task for the backers of an arrogant football program. There is reality, and then there is the fantasy world that is college football. Where teenage-recruits-turn-stars shape the happiness/dreariness of our Fall weekends, with a daunting role of heroism at stake. All it really takes is a Kyle Williams-esque blunder to transform one’s acclaimed celeb status into dehumanized collateral damage, facial features disappearing behind the tint of an armored Riddell face mask. Then there is Kenny Wheaton who in my mind has only been involved in one single snap in his entire football career. A mortal that became a God overnight.
Where this football fantasy and reality intersect is clear as day, BUSINESS: Economics, and the tremendous widespread pressure of sustainability. It’s the universal measurement of currency in this great game. The transaction that pays for success.
Business, economics, sustainability. College football as American big business is not a groundbreaking subject. So when a young stud like Tyner decides to make a business decision catering to his best interests as a man and a budding entrepreneur, it’s about time we stop scoffing at these type of announcements that jolt and rub us the wrong way. This is not on the scale of LeBron James’ “Decision” nor is it even close to Lane Kiffin’s savage flip flopping. We build this up in our heads like Stone Cold Steve Austin just faked a boot-stunner on Vince McMahon, and dropped one on us instead. While we were laying there half dead, Tyner didn’t sign with any Corporate Ministry either, so let’s chill out for a second and respect his decision…a choice that has always been HIS OWN. As much as I’d love to have him remain a Duck for life, I respect the fact that he is weighing his heart right now. Better now than later, right? **lists off Oregon transfers**
When I first heard the news, my immediate thought was, this is why it’s stupid to commit farrrr too early. Then I took some time to dwell on it. Tyner’s situation is vastly different than your typical blue chip recruit from Texas, Florida, SoCal, etc. The Oregon Ducks—college football’s newest Running Back U, the University of Flash—are brand new to this platform of sexy elitism, and it couldn’t contrast any further from his current situation as an OSAA athlete. There are no phenom factories in this state, especially when it comes to pumping them out at the RB position. It’s why we built a pipeline. He stands alone; it’d be so much easier if he didn’t.
It’s easy to think Tyner would be foolish to spurn his native home, where he’s destined to carry the load and the state flag on his back. He has to choose us—we are peaking at an altitude where a charming Chip Kelly perches like some wise visored oracle at college football’s mountaintop, a turf cloud deck rolled out at his feet. Suited and booted like a boss.
Surrounded by Duck fans everywhere he goes, why not commit early and breeze the tension for the time being? Just picture the alternative if Tyner chose the mum route:
Reporter on Aloha sideline: “Thomas, you just rushed for a state-record 643 yards and an astounding ten touchdowns on your 18th birthday, [that being said] have you narrowed your choices, have you picked out your hats you’ll bring to the table? Oregon or Oregon State in the mix?!”
Tyner: ”Translated”: Avoids question in intro ____ thanks God ____ teammates/coaches ____ focus on next week ____ basically a Derek Jeter cookie-cutter answer.
Meanwhile, when the reporter looks back at the camera:
His PR skills are already as level-headed as a Chip-ism, but wouldn’t it get a little old hearing the same repeated question asked differently by different people when you haven’t even finished your junior year in high school yet?
How can we hate on that? Chip wouldn’t. I see you, Tyner, I see you.
By committing early, Tyner shed months and months of annoying inquiry without having to stiff arm his state nor his friends, leaving journalistic vultures without a pitch like a pre-Ambien Tiger Woods presser. Blue chip prestige I imagine is far more peaceful when the hype and buzz is left as dormant as possible. Just ask Kevin Love. How to ever leave home without returning to this?
As is, Tyner already has enough defensive schemes plotting to bring him down on the field, it was a smart tactic to avoid fueling any fires of those set on tackling him off it.
But why now? Why, when Aloha is in the heart of a heated state championship hunt?
Isn’t it slightly selfish to bring controversy into a focused locker room? ….
Absolutely not. He knew he was running short on time to take advantage of his official visits, tweeting statements on the eve of his announcement as if he knew a backlash was destined to whip through his stomping grounds:
Damn straight. Gotta do what he’s gotta do is spot on. What?! We can go and fall in love with cliche Hallmark BS like you never know what you have until it’s gone and everything happens for a reason, but we can’t hop on board with a teenage kid’s soul searching in one of the biggest business and life decisions he’ll ever make? Did we already forget how this guy pictured below ended up here? Anything can happen in the 11th hour, we know that better than any school.
The fact is, we were naive on how “committed” Tyner was in the first place, and now we have no idea how far he’s veered away from his desire to bring Oregon a national championship…in football and on the track. All we really know is that damn word commit and it’s evil twin decommit blew this entire fiasco out of proportion, putting a home town legend in an awkward position. I feel for him. It could’ve been portrayed in media as a smart kid “reopening his options” like a student deciding to apply to several extra business schools across the country, but no. It comes across as this:
Instead of this (at least somebody assessed it fairly!)
Back to my allegory. Just imagine if those five business schools you were applying toward not only paid for your application, but comped your airfare for you and your parents, brought you to a crazy college environment, free food, room and board, and to top it off, the chance to experience a creative spectacle that comes along with each unique visit. Already halfway through the college football season, the time was now for Tyner to buckle down and admit he wasn’t ready to set anything in stone yet. Meet potential teammates, see how the game day aura unfolds, get a taste of the different traditions, see the talent, etc. The list goes on and on…
And I quote,
“Those all-expenses paid business trips sound enticing, but I’d rather hang out in suburban Aloha and wait for the rain to return…Oh, and He Got Game was a terrible movie.”
—said nobody, EVER
Let the man be Jesus Shuttlesworth for Halloween if he wants to be, he’s earned it.
In conclusion, let’s all be careful with how we implement commit and decommit in interpretations moving forward. Athletes, media, fans, all of us. You never know, Jeff Tedford might just end up following you on twitter. Who wants that?!
[click images for photo credit/origin]