Wednesday, June 22, 2005

"AGE AINT NUTTIN BUT A NUMBER"
By Salvador Gabor


I can remember as a teenager my mother and father would make me do chores. They said that I was old enough to be responsible for taking care of certain items within the household. At that same age, I wanted to go to certain places........but I couldn't go. I wasnt old enough to be responsible for myself in these places.........so said my parents. I was confused. The SAME people told me at the SAME age that I could do SOME things but OTHER things I couldn't do. It JUST so happened that the things they wanted me to do I WAS old enough for.......but the things I wanted to do I WASN'T old enough for. I was old enough to take on responsibility and do work for THEM but I couldn't have fun. And this was the first sign in my young life that for the next several years, it would ALWAYS be like this. People want you to be a man when they need something from you but, when you want something for yourself, folks find a way to say you aren't ready.

I grew up in a place where college wasn't an ordinary piece of the puzzle for High School graduates. A diploma received in June usually meant a job needed to be found by September. You didn't want to find yourself without a job by the time the summer was over. And by that winter, some folks had their own place and maybe even a family. That has been the way of the world. Some graduates went to the army. Some hustled. And then some of us delayed our responsibilities and spent 4-6 years in college funning and running. The choices and the results of those choices varied. None of us were ready for the world but, we walked into what we couldn't avoid. We couldn't be kids forever.

So now I watch the NBA. It just so happens that Kobe Bryant, Jermaine O'Neal, Amare Stoudamire Lebron James and Kevin Garnett are among my favorite NBA players. Well what a coincidence? A group of superstars who made it to the NBA from High School. And in some of these cases, these guys came from places JUST like me.........places where college wasn't an ordinary piece of the puzzle for High School graduates. The NBA is just like life.........the choices and the results of those choices vary. And ultimately none of us are ready for the world but, we have to walk into what we can't avoid. We can't be kids forever.

I noticed yesterday that the NBA agreed on a new Labor deal. Kids will have to be 19 years old to play in the NBA now. So now there's an age limit on talent. So a kid who is 18 years old and fresh outta High School will have to wait a year to go to the NBA. That's cool. He'll just pick any school, pick any major and play ball for a year. He wont go to class, he has 3 tutors and they'll do his work for him. He'll get about $25,000 from boosters and an SUV with a few platinum chains to go along with it. A great "COLLEGE EXPERIENCE" as Bill Walton would like to say. That aint what I got when I went to college. There's no piece of paper that certifies that a kid has the skills set to be an NBA player. Its a judgement call. If you are GM, they pay you big bucks to make the RIGHT decision. NBA Commissioner David Stern says that the young kids are messing up the league and themselves. The league isn't messed up and since when has he or anyone else worried about a kid's well being? Dont worry about a 6'9" 250 lb kid. Worry about the 5'7" 150 lb kid who will be working at Verizon climbing poles or the 18 year old that might GO to Iraq but him coming home is UP in the air. If you wanna worry about the well being of kids, focus on THEM and not the one who has a 42 inch vertical. Im pretty sure he'll get a job SOMEWHERE.

The problem isn't kids messing their lives up.......its kids messing up the lives of others. NBA games were once an arena full of non-athletic rich people in high-priced seats watching players with half of their prestige, half of their money and half of their power entertain them. Now these players have double their money, double their prestige, double their power and they are half their age. THAT's the problem that people have. But they disguise it as "helping kids to not make a mistake and come out too early". No one complains when baseball players are drafted at 16 years of age. Hockey players are drafted as teens. We've got several underaged Tennis players. And a host of underage Golf players. No one complains. I guess cornrows, bentleys and white tees for 18 year kids with a "permanent tan" maybe a little too much for our good Commissioner to stomach. Let the kids, their parents, their professional representation and the General Managers of the franchises make the decision on whether or not they are ready to compete. And if they aren't ready but they try, its no different that any other job. But see the guy climbing poles at Verizon wont hop out of a Bentley with a chain on so no one has a problem with him going to work right after High School. The guy who might not make it back from Iraq, no one cares about if he is "READY" for the army. IN REALITY, THAT's the place of work that needs an increase on the age limit. But you know the saying "What can you do for your country?" I guess........People want you to be a man when they need something from you but, when you want something for yourself, folks find a way to say you aren't ready.