An 18 year old in middle america picks a college or university. He has dreams of one day being a teacher. Not just a teacher but one of the best. He’s beyond his years in maturity, understanding, and ability. Reminds people of some of the best ever. Top schools around the world begin to take notice and after just one year he has the opportunity to accomplish and expand his dreams. He takes the job and begins a new journey and dream. We’d celebrate his amazing rise to success, use his story to inspire others . No one questions the decision, how could you? He reached his goal.
At the same time on the west coast, a 17 year old graduates high school early. She has the voice of an angel. Singing is her passion. She dreams of one day being on broadway. So she decides against college, choosing instead to travel the country auditioning for things like American Idol and Musical productions wherever she can find one. 7 years go by. She’s mostly unheard of, with few exceptions. She cut her teeth doing low budget shows, moonlighting at random night clubs. But she’s grown, not just as a vocalist, but as a woman. Learning things only taught by experience. She gets her big opportunity and, thanks to her growth through adversity, seizes it. She’s the biggest star in years on broadway. We write books about her, give her a star on the walk of fame, admire her courage for going against the grain, and strength for surviving. But we don’t question her. It was her dream.
It’s early spring on the east coast. A soon to be 18 year old high school student-athlete, fresh off an appearance in the McDonald’s All-American, chooses a school in which he will represent. He knows that by doing so he gives up a large portion of his private life. Mistakes will be consumed publicly. Scrutinized like never before. He knows he will have media obligations for the first time probably ever. He’ll receive hate mail through twitter and Facebook. But it’s all to chase his dream, so he doesn’t give it much thought. Fast forward to almost a year later. His first year of college hoops is nearing an end. The questions about his future are coming fast and furious. He’d be lying if he said he hadn’t thought about it. He’s heard the talk, ESPN’s Chad Ford has him projected as a lottery pick. He’s dreamed of the opportunity his whole life, not to mention the payday. He can finally help those who sacrificed so much for him to get there. He chooses to turn pro. He thanks his coaches, teammates, and university. By everyone’s account was a good student and teammate. But not 5 minutes after announcing his choice to chase his dreams, the hate begins. People cursing him and others of his “ilk” as the problem with college athletics. Somehow his decision to pursue his career(why we all go to college right?) is morally wrong and a sign of a larger issue. He’s unfairly labeled things like self-absorbed, me first, or selfish. He’s slightly disheartened but focus’ on the task at hand saying to himself, “I’m just chasing my dreams”.
This time of year bothers me so much as a basketball fan and fellow dream chaser. The need to bash the decisions of these young men is beyond saddening but also interesting. We are very loud about our young basketball players leaving college early. But not nearly as loud about the hundreds of High School Baseball players who go pro every year. Or the 17 year old professional gymnast, figure skater, or tennis player. Many believe that there are racial factors underlying this reaction to college basketball players. I try to avoid injecting race into things. But I would say major college athletics is like modern day slavery masked in “amateurism”. A system where everyone involved is allowed to profit except the ones doing the actual labor. And when one decides he wants to cash in on his efforts before he’s told he can, it’s met with immediate cynicism and backlash. But I’ll get into college “amateurism” in a later post.
I’m really interested in hearing opinions on this. This topic can be extremely divisive and passionate so I only ask that if you comment be respectful to myself and any who disagree with you. I’d love to throw some facts and opinions back and forth with you. So subscribe, follow, like, share, and comment. Thanks for checking out Life of A Basketball Addict! I’ll be back later tonight.