A news story broke two weeks ago that went largely unnoticed. Perhaps Kim Kardashian was showing off her butt somewhere and that drew all the coverage. Frankly, the Kardashians’ success is a complete mystery to me. So is reality TV, for that matter.
As opposed to, say, Tiger Woods, who’s holding a press conference this a.m., what are the Kardashians famous for? Their late father was O.J.’s buddy and Kim has a protruding butt. Apparently that’s enough for stardom. As for Tiger, as far as I’m concerned, it’s between him and his wife.
The “overlooked” story was about USC’s coach, Lane Kiffin, offering a college scholarship to a seventh grader! David Sills, 13, a quarterback hopeful from Delaware, was understandably thrilled, “It’s been my lifelong dream to go to USC.” At 13, however, the word “lifelong” is a bit dubious.
I didn’t know a university could even offer an athletic scholarship to a 13-year-old. Is the competition so cutthroat that recruiters are reaching out to barely teens? If so, why stop at junior high?
I can see some gonzo recruiter excitedly calling campus from on the road. “Coach, I just saw a kid who’s a surefire Heisman.”
“Is he in high school?” the Coach asks nervously.
“Preschool, but very mature.”
“Uh, he doesn’t wet the bed.”
(What’s next, recruiting in vitro?)
Trolling junior high schools for athletes is perverse. David won’t graduate high school for five years! The pressure of being under the media spotlight is bad enough for an 18-year-old, but at 13, what chance does he have at a normal childhood?
Coincidentally, tennis legend, Andre Agassi, was also 13 when his father shipped him off to a live-in tennis camp in Florida. In his best-selling book “Open,” Agassi describes the stealing of his childhood as a personal tragedy. Agassi went on to mega-millions but still doesn’t think it was worth the price.
In America these days, the compulsion to win at any cost is everywhere. Enticing young kids for college or pro sports is but one example. In the NFL a player can’t enter the league until three years after high school. Unfortunately the NFL has worse issues.
After years of concussions, a disturbing number of NFL players are incurring brain injuries. (As depicted in the documentary “Blood Equity.”) The life expectancy of an NFL player is a shocking 55 years. While raking in billions, the league has, until very recently, had their head in the sand. This, while many former players suffer dementia so severe they can’t even recall their children’s’ names.
The NBA has the “one and done” rule wherein a player is not eligible until one year after his class graduated high school. Probably well intentioned, the rule could be ruining college basketball.
To circumvent the rule, an athlete can play a year in Europe. But they will likely be boys among men in a foreign country where they don’t even speak the language. A few have made it to the NBA via this route but far more burn out and are left without an education.
The second option is where the player goes to college for one year. But that’s a sham, too, because most really don’t want to be there. They often only go to class for the first semester because by the time the second semester grades arrive, they’ve skipped to the NBA. Essentially, most are students in name only.
Because of “one and done,” college basketball squads are frequently in flux. Fans barely learn the players’ names before the kids are packing for the pros. The rule also invites cheating by desperate coaches and places external pressures on 18-year-old kids who are tempted by cars and money. Ask USC.
The Trojans face the distinction of possible sanctions in basketball and football following NCAA hearings that started yesterday in Tempe, Arizona. Among other cases, the hearings will address allegations against Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo, the latter being the one-and-done poster child.
As college basketball TV ratings plummet, I favor requiring players to spend two years in college. (Or forget the rule altogether.) As it is, each season many college coaches have to essentially start over, often with disastrous results. As UCLA alum, I sadly cite the Bruins as a prime example. You could say that I’m done with one and done.
The insatiable pursuit of money and fame consuming America has yielded us what? The Kardashians? I’m sure Kim’s a fine person but I just wish that she’d do something more than shake her butt. Then again, ex-presidents, some of whom probably belong in jail, command $100,000 speaking fees. Go figure.
David Sills says playing quarterback for USC will fulfill his dream. (Assuming SC’s not on probation.) Until then, I hope he’s able to enjoy just being a kid.
Jack can be reached at Jackneworth@yahoo.com.