Every once in awhile (or maybe more) I get woke up to what is really going on in the sports realm. I often fall back into the world when sports were for fun and they were an escape from the world at large rather than a part of it.
The strange story of LeBron James was the latest story I have seen to shake me out of my 1950's thinking.
James, is a senior this coming year at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, in Akron, Ohio. He has been named Mr. Basketball in Ohio for the last two years and was named player of the year in America as a junior by USA Today after last season. He has already appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated who has claimed he is the "chosen one"; in other words the next coming of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant.
What does this kind of hype do to a 17 year old kid? Well to be honest it didn't protect his wrist from being broken in an Amateur Athletic Union game in Chicago a couple of weeks ago. But that accident did bring a situation, which for the most part unethical sports writers invented, to a screeching halt.
A year ago it had been rumored that James would quit high school and either play in one of the minor basketball leagues in this country or go over to Europe to play.
Another rumor, one that if you know the way his parents feel you will also attribute to an over anxious sports writer somewhere, had he and his parents suing the NBA to let him enter the draft for the big time this summer. Presently the NBA has a rule about letting high schoolers enter the draft until their class graduates.
But they used to have that same rule about college too, and they changed that. Of course there is a big difference. Generally people whose class has graduated from high school are over 18; adults in most parts of this land. This young man is still a minor.
James has already had a storied career. His high school is inundated with requests from season ticket holders for next year's games (yes that's right; St. Vincents has season tickets and as of right now they could sell the gym out many times over for every game next season.)
Every time he plays he is greeted by thousands of fans and even has to avoid autograph hounds who wait outside the locker room. And of course it has been written ( and so let it be done) that he has some "secret deals" with Gatoraide and one of the shoe manufacturers. Pro-scouts are salivating over his abilities and I would guess there are some agents that are falling all over themselves to talk to him.
When I initially heard all this I wondered if it was true. I wondered it the world of sports was now going to sink to a new low and soon would start going after the best rebounder in the Creative Child Care Centers five year old league. I wondered if I would ever want to watch another NBA game. Okay , I admit it. I already sometimes wonder that without considering this subject.
Then I read an interview with James' parents. They said, he's a kid; he will finish high school; we never had any intention of suing anyone or letting him leave to go to another country to play basketball.
Thank goodness there are still some people with common sense still around. It shocked me back to the 1950's brain set.
But I'm still a doubter overall. I think it is just a matter of time before greed gets the best of professional sports.
On second thought, maybe it has already.