Caleb Swanigan is a 6' 8", 275lb power forward out of Fort Wayne, Indiana. He's very good at basketball. So good, espn 100 has him ranked as the ninth best high schooler heading to college this next fall.
We are Purdue University. A Big Ten school who just went from worst to tied for third in our conference. This warranted us a nine-seed in the last national collegiate basketball tournament where the winner gets a very pretty crystal ball.
Nine's should stick together.
Caleb's legal guardian is a Boilermaker.
He wants to play the four, and we are very set at center.
Fort Wayne is very close to West Lafayette.
These are the sentiments that Boiler fans have been latching onto since Dan Dakich broke the news that something was "done." We almost got there, too. We almost believed that we would land our first All-American since the Mike Robinson (thank you readers). For a day, we weren't asking the question, 'Why us?' but asking, 'Why the hell not us?'
Of course, a lot has changed since then. Cuonzo's bears(Perhaps someone should take Caleb downtown and show him that Lafayette, too, has bears) has become the favorite. Kentucky has stepped in again. Purdue has faded to the shadows. Dakich has called a lot of people dumb.
Sports is a weird world. Professional athletes are paid a lot of money to do very specific, very athletic things on a nightly basis in front of a large audience. Coaches are fired daily or put up on pedestals or burned at the stake until enough time has passed for the ashes to spread and for people to recognize the thing he's paid to do is something he's actually really good at. We hate and love coaches, owners, athletic directors, and players in ways that should make anyone close to us uncomfortable.
If we googled our neighbors, our blind dates, our friends, and our family as much as we did our athletes, would we even be able to leave the house?
This isn't a condemnation. For the most part, these relationships are healthy, momentary flings of joy and rage and pain brought on by final scores and uneasy seconds. We form a bond with people through the colors on our jerseys, we share in the joy and so it is more, and we commiserate in the pain to make it less.
In the end, it's all a game.
Through all this, nothing has changed. A barely eighteen year old kid, who caught cold feet once in a decision that will help decide the rest of his life, is wanting to take just a little more time to figure out his future. Or maybe, he doesn't want to figure out anything at all. There's a deadline for him in the future. A clear X on the calendar that he must commit by. When he does, he will become something.
A Golden Bear.
But until he does, he's just a kid, and if we could all hold onto our youth for a few more days, wouldn't we?
So I applaud you, Boilermaker fans, for keeping your cool. For reserving your vitriol for adult members of the media leaving cryptic pieces of someone else's future on the internet and not to a kid who may or may not become a part of us.
But that doesn't mean we can't keep rooting that he does.