Monday, May 04, 2009

A View of a Foul

Gone, but not forgotten. "Citizen Dog" is now defunct, but you can find repeats at
In high school, one of my classmates was a basketball player who went on to be a moderately successful NBA player and local celebrity after he retired. Everyone knew him in our school because he was being courted by all sorts of scouts and schools. He was a basketball star. He had the potential to be a good student, but opted to be as dumb as a post up. Still, he got a pass from a lot of teachers because he was a basketball star. He constantly got in trouble, but he got a pass because he was a basketball star. He got a complete free ride to a major university, where again got into all sorts of trouble (both legal and academic), but got pass after pass because he was a basketball star. As a pro, he got into legal trouble several times but never really got into serious trouble because he was famous. He's had a couple of successful businesses here in the city, but has lost one or two because of money troubles. He's got health issues now, some of which can probably be linked to a history of drinking problems.
Another classmate of mine was also a basketball star. I know he went on to a successful collegiate basketball career, but I don't know if he became a pro player. He attended my high school because it had a strong basketball program - and the school accepted him because he was an exceptional young player perfect for a school looking to defend it's state title. He constantly got into trouble because he was a Jehovah's Witness - my school at the time was a Catholic school - and he got into fierce arguments with our Intro to Religion teacher over the subject matter. Intro to Religion was a requirement for all freshmen, but the school decided to waive it for him after about a month of constant "class disrupting" debate. The school described it as "a recognition of freedom of religion," but many of us knew he would've been expelled had he not been a strong basketball player.
I've thought about these two men after reading stories about troubled high school student athletes.
The first was a story about John Wall, an 18 year old student and "one of the nation's top uncommitted college (basketball) prospects" facing a misdemeanor charge of breaking and entering an unoccupied home in Raleigh, North Carolina. Mr. Wall, a student at Word of God Christian Academy, was being pursued by a number of colleges, like Duke, UNC, and Memphis because of his athletic ability. While the charges may be problematic, some scouts believe this will not have a negative impact on his basketball career. The school declined to comment on his arrest or the charges against him, asking reporters to "speak with his mother."
The second story was about Jeremy Tyler, a junior from San Diego who recently announced he plans to leave high school, skipping his senior year, to play professionally in Europe. He plans to return to the U.S. in time for the 2011 N.B.A. Draft. He hasn't signed with a team yet, but several teams are interested. He's the first student to skip high school to play professionally overseas, but he's not the first prep to pro player. That path was forged by players like Tracy McGrady, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Dwight Howard. The N.B.A. passed a rule back in 2006 that established a minimum age for drafting players. It essentially makes a player attend one year of college before being eligible to play in the pros. Mr. Tyler has decided to go his own way and find away around the rule - seemingly with the blessing of his family.
The third story was about Renardo Sidney, a basketball All-American from Los Angeles, who had announced his decision to attend the University of Southern California (USC), only to end up signing with Mississippi State after USC rescinded its scholarship offer. Why? The school believed that the family was playing games with their money. The family, according to reports, "...moved multiple times and resided in upscale homes during Sidney's high school years; and steffather Renardo Sr. directed a club basketball team with financial backing that was unclear beyond a relatively modest shoe company sponsorship." Another source in the report said university officials felt the stepdad was expecting some form of compensation for his son to sign with the school. When asked to comment, the parents declined. Their lawyer spoke for them instead.
These stories bother me a great deal. Why would a young man with a promising future risk damaging his potential career by committing a crime? Why would a family willingly encourage a child to end his education? What kind of parent would use his child for his own financial gain? Or allow someone to use her child for personal financial gain? Why are we so willing to neglect the development of our children's character and integrity in the name of sport? Why do we not encourage the all around development of student athletes? Must the choice be academics or athleticism? Why can't it be both? How come our culture doesn't see the decisions made to promote sport over intellect in these young men, and the impacts of these decisions, as detrimental to their development? How come the families don't see this? Why are the adults in these situations not looking out for the best interests of these children?
I don't know much about basketball, but I do know a foul when I see one. More later, after a brief time out.

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Anonymous Blogs Browser said...

I like it that young people are not buying into the wait-till-after-you-finish-school line. What is the point of learning all about the id, ego and superego and miss out on NBA's millions while you can pursue the milions and buy a $50 book and learn yourself those things. I'm just saying that a black man in the hood better get something for himself b4 he gets old and unneeded.

1:47 PM  
Blogger TEM said...

While I'm all for young men getting ahead, I can't reconcile that desire to move on up against the cost of sacrificing education. The point, to me, of learning about the id, ego (which many of our young man have in excess), and superego while missing out on the promise of millions, is that we're teaching generation after generation of young black men their only worth is in their athletic ability - not their mind. Not only that, it reinforces the age old and tired stereotype of the black buck good only for physical strength and lacking in intellect. It's possible to have both and we as a community should do all we can to encourage, if not insist on, a balance between athletic ability and education. Dropping out of high school - high school - to play a sport should be unacceptable in any community, especially ours. Our children deserve better than a mom and dad grinning as a child opts to leave school before they are an adult to play at being one.

As always, I love it when you comment. It makes me think and keeps me on my toes. Stay strong and thanks for reading.

12:36 PM  
Blogger The Old Man said...

Dropping out of High School?

Heck, I wanted to be a cop -- but I decided to finish high school. Now look at me, 50, unemployed, and disabled. Life's a B**ch, and then you die!

1:16 AM  

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