By Jim Weber
As college football recruiting and National Signing Day draw more attention each year, nothing is targeted more by those who hate the adulation over teenage athletes more than the “hat dance.”
You know what I’m talking about: When a recruit makes his announcement by torturing college football fan bases while playing with the hats of his final schools before finally doffing the one of where he’s committing.
Josh Jarboe, take it away:
The former four-star wide receiver, by the way, never played a down for the Sooners and just finished his senior season at Arkansas State with a whopping 570 yards receiving last fall.
Sporting News and Grantland have already talked about the hat dance at length in recent months as the debate rages on about whether the ridiculous tradition is just kids having fun or a dangerous sign of the massive egos that society is helping 18-year olds create.
Me personally? I don’t have a problem with it as long as recruits do it in good fun and recognize the absurdity of it all instead of turning it into their version of “The Decision.” Unfortunately, entertaining hat dances like when Isaiah Crowell produced a Bulldog puppy after committing to Georgia two years ago are heavily outweighed by nauseating hat dances like Jarboe’s.
I worry about the creativity of Generation Text if they can think of nothing better than hiding one hat underneath another during their hat dance. That’s why I’ve devised three original hat dances I’d like to see to bring some originality to recruiting decisions and National Signing Day.
#1: The Three Shell Game
This hat dance would show immense dedication to showmanship by bringing a flair of magic to the recruiting trail. Instead of bringing out three hats, a recruit would bring out three blank cups. He would then perform the classic three shell game with a pint-sized football, pausing an agonizing 15 seconds by placing a school logo on each of the cups before finally lifting the shell with the football underneath and the school logo of his future program on it.
Bonus points for putting the cup on his head afterward and/or using a wily cat to select the winning cup and making the announcement for him.
#2: The Punk’d
We have seen a fake recruit commit to a football team but we haven’t seen a recruit commit to a fake football team. In this hat dance, a recruit would shun the three hats laid about before him to produce a “University of Phoenix” hat to fake commit to the highly-publicized online university.
The recruit could further sell the hoax by explaining he loves the idea of taking classes from home, praising the facilities at University of Phoenix Stadium – where the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals play – and pretending to think the Cardinals are the University of Phoenix’s team. This trick would be especially awesome for a quarterback, who would talk about how he grew up dreaming of throwing passes to Larry Fitzgerald in college.
If the recruit was really dedicated to this punking, he would never reveal it was a prank and just send a signed letter of intent to his real school of choice later on.
#3: The Houdini
I saved my favorite hat dance for last.
This would bring back an element of magic, as a recruit would sit at a table with three hats in front of him. The school he’s actually committing to would not have a hat on the table, causing fans of that program to go into instant panic mode. After thanking his family and the schools for recruiting him, the player would then take turns lifting each of the caps while a friend slowly lowering a fourth hat via fishing line from the rafters of the school gym.
Just imagine the visual of a recruit on national television doing the typical hat dance as a hat magically lowered onto his head. Looking bewildered as to why a hat just landed on his hand, the recruit would say, “I guess it was meant to be” and commit to that program.
OK, it’s not exactly Houdini-esque, but it sure would be entertaining.
Look, these are just starting points for recruits meant to generate new ideas and creativity. Because all I ask from an 18-year old wasting my time with a hat dance is to be original and funny when he does it.