James Leroy Wilson's blog

Friday, May 01, 2009

The Separation of Sport and School

ESPN anchors sometimes provide commentaries on ESPN radio. Dana Jacobson provides one where she says she's "steamed" at Jeremy Tyler, a high school junior who is quitting school to play pro basketball in Europe. Jacobson stresses the importance of education, and says that if Tyler's high school is so crappy, he can always transfer.

My first reaction - so spending a couple of years in a foreign country is not a good educational experience for a young man?

Second reaction - why is Jacobson so angry about this? Who's the guy hurting?

Third reaction - graduating from high school and "getting an education" are not the same thing.

And then there's this statement from an NBA general which manager, which gets to the heart of the matter and vindicates Tyler: “His game will be picked apart [by scouts], but long-term it’s much better for his development as a player . . .It’s a bold move, but I’ve seen tape and that kid could play in the NBA right now. He’s an incredible talent.”

That's the point.

The U.S. doesn't have anything similar to the Canadian junior hockey leagues where youths 16-20 with real pro potential can develop by playing against quality competition - i.e., each other. They are instead stuck playing with and against amateur talent in high school and college.

And it doesn't make sense for sports participation to be tied to educational institutions anyway. To the extent tax dollars should be involved in youth sports at all, it makes far more sense for them to be administered through Parks & Recreation rather than through the School District. (It's simply insane that the School Board must choose in its budget between a better science lab and a better-maintained football field.)

In any case, Tyler could instigate a revolution, and it's a positive sign. I have no expectation that schools and universities will break their relationship with sports any time soon. Nor do I expect them to pay their players, because if you pay the men in profitable sports, you have to pay the women, etc. But the least that can be done is to allow young athletes to make money as they can on their own through endorsements, blogging, etc. Heck, even allow boosters to give them cushy summer jobs.

If such economic opportunities were available, perhaps Tyler would consider staying. Even then, however, he probably wouldn't be able to develop as a player. Why criticize him for going to a place where he can develop his talent and make money doing it?

Because our culture won't break apart the destructive relationship between Sport and School, it will take young men like Tyler to make the separation themselves. Good for him.

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