Who Needs an Education When You Have Sports?

I had an ambition to take a break this week. I was going to take the week to myself, play some video games (which I am doing by the way) and just relax. I was calling my mental health week. I had even titled it Mental Health 09′. There is a logo in the works. OK, there is not a logo, but I thought it might be nice to have the branding match the cause.

But when I saw this story the other day my mind went through the roof. I meant to write about this last night but wanted to see if there were any changes in the decision. But there were not. It is official.

What were you doing when you were sixteen years old? Were you working after school, high school mind you (keep that in mind, it will play a crucial role in this story), trying to save up enough money to buy a car? We you headed to practice after the bell rang to work on your swing? Or were you planning your weekend out at the movies with your friends? Or were you like Bryce Harper and planning your retirement from an education and planning on your trip to the MLB draft?

Well, that is what Mr. Harper is doing. He has quit school, with his parents blessing all along the way, and has decided to enter the 2010 MLB draft. He will likely go first, experts say, and will be drafted by a waste of a club in Washington. (Just for the record no one man can bring an entire ball club up from where Washington currently sits. I am not sure a handful of a guys can.) But Mr. Harper is only sixteen years old. And that is where I get angry.

Certain sports have certain rules that discourage this sort of behavior. But let me take you back for a second. This is coming from the way I know it. Here is how life is supposed to work. (This is simply an opinion. Not everyone falls into this category.) You are born, and spend the next eighteen years under the care of your parents. All this time they are responsible for you and your actions and you learn all that you can. You turn sixteen, you get a driver’s license, and have some added responsability that you might not have ever experienced before. You drive for a couple of years, through your glory days of high school, all this while trying to figure out if you are going to go to college and if you are where, what for (sports, biology, medicine, etc.) and begin the application process leading into your senior year. You hit the age of eighteen and now you can smoke. You have seen people doing it your whole life and now you have the power to take eight minutes off your life one cancer stick at a time.

Then you graduate. You walk down the aisle with your parents in the crowd as proud as you have ever seen them. You spend the last summer like it’s your last and you head home to pack for August when you head off to college. (Have you ever seen the break down of what people who have a high school education versus a college degree make per year? It would boggle your mind. Go ahead, Google it.) You start your college days like most by drinking too much and going to frat parties, kissing all the cute girls (I have to keep this PG for the younger readers) and sleeping all day through classes and labs. You finally wake up a couple of years in and realize that you need to start focusing on your career if you want to make anything of yourself. You know that you can not flip burgers for the rest of your life. So you start going to class, get your grades up and start to focus on the important things in your life.

Then you walk down another aisle as you head toward what most call the real world. (I did not walk down this said aisle. I felt that after six years and three degrees did not deserve me to walk down anything.) So you get out, grab an apartment on your own if you have not already, and start looking for your career path in the classified. You start checking Craig’s List, Monster, and Career Builder (we are a digital market, you are probably not even going to look in the newspaper) and send your resume to every email address that you can. And you wake up six months later thinking this was harder than you thought. You are serving tables a couple nights a week to pay for drinks and rent and you are going nowhere fast.

I will stop there. And I will stop there because I am at the age of twenty, twenty-one and way ahead of myself. Because Mr. Harper will not go through most of that. He is stuck way back at the beginning of this story. (The story finishes with you getting engaged, married to the “love” of your life, having babies, and starting the process all over again.) He is only sixteen years old and is not only skipping the entire college experience all together is is cutting off half of the high school one too. He will be entering the said real world (I hardly think that MLB is the real world) before he can even smoke a cigarette. And people, his parents, are encouraging it. And all I can ask is what the hell is wrong with you people?

I am not saying he will, and he probably won’t, but what if he gets hurt? What if three or four years from now he breaks his leg, or strains an irreplaceable muscle? Then what will he do? Baseball doesn’t want him anymore because he is injured. And he can’t quite go out and get a job worth anything more than working in fast food because he doesn’t have a degree. He doesn’t even have a high school degree!

But his parents have this covered. They are going to make him, while he is training for the draft next year, get his GED. Oh, because that will make everything all better. Give him the almost counts diploma. (I know, those of you who are reading this that have a GED are yelling at me and saying that your degree, in fact, is a degree. That it is the same thing as a high school degree. Well, maybe so, but explain that in an interview. “Oh, yes, I had, a, uh, I had to get my GED because, um, hmm.” Yeah, you see where I am going.)

And the media plays it up as the best thing since sliced bread. He has already been featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. (My arm is on the cover a Sports Illustrated. It was taken at the 2000 PGA Championship that Tiger Woods won. Long story but I can honestly say that I have been on the cover of SI.) They are filling his head with all sorts of propaganda and giving him attention, which a sixteen year old thrives on, about his ability to play baseball. He is being called the, “Chosen One.”

But all of that aside I would like to see someone in power take a stance. I think a perfect solution, and this goes for every professional sport out there (golf included) that a player should be forced to go to college for a minimum of two years. They can play his or her desired sport and prepare themselves with a new level of competition and force themselves to prepare for the next step. I am sorry but there is no way players in the big leagues as at the same level as any high school kid. Even the “Chosen One”.

This would allow the players a chance to hone their skills and be ready for that jump. And the two years is a compromise. It should be a degree in my opinion. But even if a player comes out after two years of college they are in a much better position for what the world will throw at them. Tiger Woods is a prime example. He spent some time in school, an Ivy League school at that, and then decided to make the move to the PGA Tour. He is what I like to call the exception. (Are there others that have left high school or college early to become great starts? Sure there are. But does that mean every player has that set of skills to do that?)

Stay in
school. The advertising campaign is either failing or it needs more funding. This is a big deal. He is the generation of our future. If he is going to quit and play sports do you think this is sending the right message to your children? Will he succeed? Maybe. But if he doesn’t then it is nothing more than an, “I told you so.”

So what were you doing when you were sixteen years old?