Saturday, April 07, 2012
DODGING THE DRAFT
A writer for TheRoot.com offers the opinion that recent talks in NBA management are looking at the possibility of requiring college players to stay at the amateur level until 20 years old: http://www.theroot.com/buzz/nba-draft-age-limit-high-enough-already
This is ridiculous. The writer, Deron Snyder, skirts dangerously close to making a "college is annoying, so why bother?" argument. Long-term NBA "stardom" isn't remotely guaranteed for anyone. The writer seems to still be fascinated with the narrative of working class black American boys becoming millionaires before the age of 21 based on their ability to drive the lane, and how restrictions on joining the draft straight out of high school amount to "player hating" or even racial bias.
Has the writer produced any stats on people who have finished at least an undergraduate degree since leaving college early to join the draft? The American major-league baseball system has had a longstanding intriguing setup, where scouted folks can go to the minor leagues right out of high school or play in college. The minor league system offers a liveable (though not millionaire level) salary, and the players work on fundamentals in smaller-market venues before they can be recruited to a major ballclub.
But in today's "instant gratification" culture, such a system seems quaint-- witness how black Americans have a much lower presence in the major leagues compared to decades ago (you will see a more consistent presence of Afro-Latin players from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, etc.) Aside from urban-infrastructure issues regarding baseball (availability and quality of local parks, lack of funding for baseball programs at the middle and high school levels) part of this is that contemporary black American youth (and sometimes their parents) don't see baseball as leading to "instant big money" down the line. In contemporary black culture, professional sports club aspirations boil down to football and basketball now. Would it make sense for high school football players to join the NFL draft, and right away start going head-to-head with the bruisers that exist at that level? Whatever the frequently self-serving decisions that have been made over the years by Stern and the NBA team owners, people need to be less concerned about this than about the increasingly marginalized presence of black men in college settings.
Snyder offers that ex-college players can always go back. While technically true that "anybody" can put off going to or finishing college, the reality is that when a person is older and in the "working world", life responsibilities evolve from what they were when you were 18, and scheduling becomes a major issue depending on what your "day job" (or night job) is. Also, no one ever stops to examine just how college-aged men who have shelved their formal education tend to manage their money after becoming wealthy "overnight."
Young black athletes being recruited by colleges need to realize how privileged they are, and how the decisions they make now can affect them for the rest of their lives. There are thousands of black youth who would love to get to go to college for free based on playing a sport they love, but it doesn't happen for the vast majority. "Making it" to the NBA is quite literally like facing the odds of winning the PowerBall lottery. People can invest time and major money into the effort of asserting themselves to make the cut, but it still may not be enough.
Most disturbing in Snyder's article's subtext is the trend of encouraging young athletes to treat college as just as onerous, grudging obligation before segueing into a presumably worry-free existence of championship rings, mansions and endorsements. This is patently reckless and continues the anti-intellectual subculture that is curtailing American leadership in industry and commerce. Particularly for African-American culture, it continues to uplift the stupidity that "instant" wealth (typically, without the budgeting/management skills to maintain it) is always around the corner for those who pursue entertainment and athletics as careers.