Thursday, March 6, 2014

Shockingly, Larry Brown Thinks The System That Benefits Him Right Now Is Best

Can I Get This On A T Shirt?
This week in basketball people who enjoy the sound of their own voice and are right about everything, it's Larry Brown refuting Mark Cuban's idea that the NBA's D-League is a better place to be an underaged basketball player in America, rather than at an NCAA franchise. (I'm not calling them colleges any more; it demeans the idea of education.)

Now, let's move past the idea that you can be 16, 17, 18 or 19 and play baseball for money, but not basketball. Also tennis, golf, soccer, gymnastics and lots of other things that, um, white people play more than minorities. Whoopsie daisy, was that out loud? Why, yes, it was, but we'll take it on faith that what's going on here is that since basketball and football are contact sports, everyone involved has the kid's best interests at heart.

Sorry, I need a moment here.






Hoo, boy. That's some comedy.

Anyway, back to Old Fussypants here.

"They don't teach guys how to play, in my mind," Brown said of the D-League. Ignoring the fact that dozens and dozens of players in the NBA, and an ever-increasing amount of the bench guys, are D-League graduates.

"If you didn't go to one class and just live in a college environment, then you're way ahead."

Um, Larry... why, exactly? Is the trembling hand of the dorm RA really that influential? Or looking up at the tens of thousands of eyes looking down on you, knowing that they paid through the nose to see you play, but you won't ever see a dime of it? Is that the key experience?

"How about being around Eric Snow and George Lynch? Those two guys played 13, 14 years in the league."

So the college coaching experience is more or less indistinguishable from a low-rent basketball camp. Good to know!

"Life after basketball is a real long time."

Look, I'm not arguing for a sports-free college experience. I went to Syracuse, and going to games was some of the best times of what was otherwise a frigid forced march to adulthood. (Here's something they don't tell you about college: it's a lot less fun if you are gaspingly poor, especially when you are surrounded by the children of the idle rich.) But we didn't *need* world-class NBA-ready athletes to go to the games and have a good time. We just needed to be better than Georgetown. When I was in high school, Villanova went on its miracle run to win March Madness. It really doesn't matter that none of those guys went on to starring roles in the NBA. If the game is good, the players don't really have to be.

For the very, very small percentage of players at the top of the sluice who can expect to make money from hoop, making that money as soon and as often as possible? It's a really damned good idea. The danger of sudden cataclysmic injury isn't as bad here as it is in football, but it still exists, and when that happens, the player gets squat. This isn't a hobby they are losing; it's an avocation that they've pursued, probably to the detriment of everything else in their life, for the better part of a decade.

And if the ball was smaller and dimpled, or fuzzy and hit with a racquet, or stitched and thrown as hard as possible, no one would need to pay any attention to any of this. There would simply be a minor league for hoop-only savants, college for those who wanted a different experience, and a whole lot less of Teh Stupid polluting the airwaves.

Normally, this is where I trail off into ellipsis, having made my point and not really knowing a good closer, but I've got a tangent to add to this. The Shooter Eldest is knee-deep in eighth grade, finishing middle school, and starting to sweat over which courses she will qualify for in high school. Because, well, everyone thinks way too soon about The Future, and it is what it is. She's got dreams of schools that may be beyond our reach, but she might be able to get there, because she's a bright kid with a fair amount of tenacity. But since she's not straight A's and devoid of any flaw, she then said the following:

"I don't know why a college would want me. I'm not special."

This was, of course, quickly demolished with facts by me, but while I was doing that, all I could really think was...

"Of course they will want you. It costs money."

Because, well, after my own college experience, and 20+ years of NCAA malfeasance, I trust the concept of college no more than any other sordid and squalid money grab of a business. And keeping that cynicism away from the kid, so that she can actually go to school with something close to a clear mind that focuses on classwork? Quite a challenge.

So, well done, College Sports Complex!

1 comment:

David said...

Speaking as a college professor, I heartily support athletes skipping ahead and getting paid for real in their professional leagues.

Even if you grant that NCAA sports are on the level, fair, and covered in the Pure Gold Fairy Dust Of Wonderful Wonderfulness, the fact is that most professional athletic careers last less than five years.

And you know what? Five years from now the university will still be here. I guarantee it. If the pro career doesn't work out - and even if it does - they can take all the classes they want, get their education, their degree, and their good times, and not have to squeeze around practices and road trips. They'll probably be better students for it, having more time, fewer distractions, and more incentive to get their next career right.

Ads In This Size Rule