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“Don’t Be Surprised”: Coaching Carousel is Absurd Theater

Why can’t we get enough of this?

NCAA Football: Clemson at North Carolina State Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a guilty pleasure. It feels as nonsensically creepy in intensity at times as recruiting, but with the notable difference that it’s crammed within a much shorter window and deals in the trafficking of adults. If you fall down this rabbithole far enough and read deep into the message boards, you will come away convinced that there are people who enjoy this more than the actual games. Lord, is it a shitshow. It’s nearly impossible to not be enticed by this: not, for me, because of any interest in what anyone on the Internet has to say or why they think who is going where.

It’s how they say it. Suddenly, anything is fair game and there are no boundaries.

Take this headline from yesterday: packaged and spit out into the hungry and yearning maw of a Monday afternoon following a blowout of a MWC team as the Aggies prepare for a two-week SEC West road trip. It is a collection of meaningless phrases prefaced by a lazy throwaway disclaimer that is cobbled all together into a collection of words intended to exact an immediate response: defensive, curiosity, or in this case (rightly) mostly disdain. “Don’t be surprised?” The only mild surprise here is that ESPN was the culprit, which speaks to the degree of insanity surrounding the coaching search frenzy.

So who can you trust as a source? How about someone who posts a lot on the ol’ web?

Now we’re just making it up as we go, folks. This is a screenshot of a forum post presented as news. If we’re claiming post volume as an indicator of reliability, then some very dark corners of the online psyche are about to be paraded around in front of us as fact. If you want to learn how to flush out your radiator yourself, then sure, you watch the YouTube channel with 17 million views. It doesn’t work the same with internet comments. The only things that TexAgs user with 55,000 posts is going to be versed in are alt-right memes and bulk Columbia fishing shirt sales.

At some point, a few weeks into the carousel season, we hit a point where works do not need to be cited, or arguments made. The flames are now licking hungrily at the giant heap of internet taeks, so that each tweet just becomes another cupful of gasoline that causes the entire thing to flare up momentarily and burn a bit hotter.

This is nothing. There is no link; no story. It’s a Tennessee beat writer saying something on a show. It’s an innocuous sentence, because OF COURSE Tennessee would like to get Jimbo Fisher. But couched in this medium it’s an instant lightning rod for mockery, scoffing, and general mirth among those in the media who “know better.” Five years ago, you’d see more positive rumors flying around within a fanbase’s social media circles. But we’ve adapted and realized that disdain is a far more powerful online tool than hope. These little nuggets are designed specifically to rile people up until the water is so muddy that no one even notices what’s real or not.

This is not all necessarily a bad thing. It is riveting entertainment, if consumed responsibly. By watching from afar with a sort of disengaged fascination instead of actively investing in the absurd antics of the players involved. No one is anything they claim to be, and the background noise has become its own feature. It is Bravo TV for the sports fan, and it is not going anywhere soon.