Thursday, May 13, 2010

Minimum age requirement in sports = problematic athletes. Wait a minute...

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar recently came out with a statement that is sure to be met with anger and frustration by basketball phenoms across the country. His idea is to raise the minimum age of entry into the NBA to 21 – up two years from the current minimum age of entry, 19.

To quote the 63-year-old Lakers great, “The attitudes have changed, and the game has suffered because of that, and it has certainly hurt the college game.”

I see both sides of the argument, and to the players credit, I would be pretty upset if someone told me I wasn’t allowed to make a living doing what I do best, regardless of how many years I’ve been around. If a team is willing to take the risk of throwing $15 million at an 18-year-old kid, they’re the ones who have to live with it and try to sleep at night.

But Jabbar’s statement brought a troubling thought to mind: football and basketball both have minimum age requirements, yet seem to be in the spotlight for undesirable reasons more so than baseball (steroids notwithstanding) and hockey.

Additionally, basketball and football drafts its talent almost exclusively from colleges – meaning the players have at least one year of higher education. For the most part, hockey and baseball players seem like they’re drafted on or around their 13th birthday.

So what’s the issue here? Who or what’s to blame in these two sports? Is it the colleges and universities? Is it the parents? Is it society? Is it the leaders of the respected leagues?

Or are the athletes themselves just becoming greedier, more entitled, generally crappier people?

Just off the top of my head, I can think of at least five athletes in the NFL and NBA with major behavioral problems: Ben Roethlisberger, Gilbert Arenas, Matt Jones, Pacman Jones, Ron Artest… In baseball and hockey, well, I actually have to think about it. Sean Avery is kind of a jerk… There are dozens of baseball players who have cheated by taking performance-enhancing drugs… John Rocker was pretty racist…

Maybe I have blinders on, but something doesn’t seem right here: the guys who have some formal education are getting in the most trouble, while the guys who go straight from high school into “the system” come out relatively squeaky clean.

Full disclosure, hockey and football are my favorite sports, in that order. And this is just an uneducated observation.


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