Saturday, June 28, 2008

Nurse the Hate: Hate Kid's Sports

When I was a kid we used to have Little League. Every summer six teams were formed from the neighboring communities. We'd get some boring sponsor, a logo would be placed on the back of the jersey, and the Shannon's Auto Wrecking Pirates would hit the diamond. We'd win some games, lose some games, and have fun. About six weeks later there would be a championship game, a few kids got trophies, and everyone would go home. Good fun without a lot of hassle...

I am shocked at the current state of kid's sports. When did this shit get so out of control? I've got friends of mine getting up at 5am on a Saturday to drive four hours so their kid can play in a double elimination tournament all weekend. Another one cuts a check for $1500 to their 9 year old kid's team manager. What, is this guy the pre teen version of Joe Fucking Torre? "Listen Brendan, I know you like to chew gum when you bat, but if I let you chew gum, the next thing you know Dylan and Tristen will want to chew gum too. You and I know those kids can't hold your tiny little jock strap, but still, we're building a championship caliber team here. I need everyone on the same page. I need you to lead these kids out there. Now...let's get those shoes of yours tied and go beat the crap out of the Bay Village Lil Rockets."

The source of the problem appears obvious; unfulfilled dreams of the parents. They figured the only reason they flamed out was because they just didn't have the right coaching. Or maybe if their parents had only pushed them into more practice. If only I could have attended a specialty baseball camp for $5000! Well, if that had happened, that might be me out there right now hitting fourth for the Red Sox fist bumping Big Papi in the dugout on Fox's Game of the Week!

This just in...the reason you and everyone you know doesn't play professional sports is because you are not a freak of nature. When scouts go to look at kids they want to know the following: how tall are you, how much do you weigh, how fast can you throw the ball, and how fast can you run. Do you think these guys give a shit if Brendan was MVP at the Twin Oaks invitational when he was 14 years old? Do they look at batting stats and measure the level of competition? Nope, they want to see if that awkward 6 foot 4 inch kid on the bench nobody pays attention to can chuck a ball through a wall. If he has the genetic gifts, they'll teach him how to pitch/hit later. The Giants starting center fielder went to something called Mississippi Shores Community College. If you have the gifts, they'll find you. Don't worry. They'll find you.

So, are you going to teach your kid how to run a 4.4 forty? Maybe teach him to grow out of that 5-10 frame? Sorry kid...maybe you can walk on at Ohio Dominican. The good news is that the payoff of that decade your entire family spent driving around the Midwest to kid baseball tournaments from age 8-18 is that you can now play college ball in front of 19-37 somewhat interested onlookers in lawn chairs. Live the dream...

Despite the fact that all these suburban families must know in their heart of hearts that's true, they just can't give up chasing The Dream. For argument's sake, let's say that their intentions are noble and they want their kids to have The Good Life. (Although, I have a sneaking suspicion they want to hang out in a luxury suite, get on network TV shots, make outrageous demands of the Professional Sports Team, and spend the kid's money like drunken sailors. Forget that.) Why put your efforts into something you can't really control for the most part? The kid can either throw 95 mph or he can't. Why expend all this money and effort at baseball camp, when you could actually get some return for the effort at let's say, Math Camp.

There are 750 players in Major League Baseball at any one time. These players are from the entire planet. I think we can say it's a fairly large pool of prospects we are pulling from, no? Let me put into perspective the chance of playing at the major league level, even for just one at bat. If you are a high school baseball player, you have a 16,000-1 chance of appearing in a MLB game. Meanwhile, if you walk up to an average American walking down the street, there is a 15,000-1 chance they speak Cherokee Indian. Kind of gives you an idea of the chances of playing pro ball, no?

Here's the good news. The average major league salary is just shy of $3 million a year. That's pretty good cake. The average career lasts for 5 years. So if you somehow make it, you'll gross $15 million. Now you have to pay your agent, taxes, etc... Let's say you have a great accountant that you actually listen to. You don't buy a diamond house with mink sinks, and don't marry that gold digging 22 year old bleached blond with the breast implants you met at BW-3 while you were playing AA ball in New Mexico. I'd say you keep a third of our money. That puts you at 5 million (give or take) to be one of 750 guys that "make it".

Meanwhile, let's look at 350 of the largest corporations based in the United States. The average salary is $6 million a year for a CEO. Of course, you don't have to hit a 94 mph splitter to get that. You blow your knee out, you just show up at work in your knee brace and keep plugging away. That's the kind of gig you can stay around and get comfortable in. You can bank that $6 million for 10-20 years. On top of that, since you are a CEO, you help make the rules regarding tax laws with your crafty lobbyists at your beck and call. Even if you only keep half of what you gross (which is highly unlikely...I'd say 75% is more likely), you're at $60 million dollars.

So why aren't families talking about how they've got their child on the road to study with Bill Gates or Jack Welch for two weeks? "Yeah, Billy's breaking down some P&L numbers with Jack this weekend trying to figure out what the best move is on the home appliance division. It's costing us $1200, but after this weekend, he'll be networked in with everyone at the top of GE." Maybe it's just me, but wouldn't that be a better long range plan for the well being of the child as opposed to thinking he's destined for Cooperstown? Clearly, this driving around the country for overblown child sports tournaments and dreaded "travel leagues" is not for the kids. (Side note: I live in NE Ohio. There are 1.75 million people here. You mean to tell me that 9 kids have to drive three hours away to get a competitive game up with 9 other kids their own age? Do you mean to tell me that 12 year olds in Avon Lake OH really have the itch to see how they stack up against other 12 year olds in Morgantown WV?)

Let's put an end to this fiasco. To save face, we can chalk it up to the new #1 excuse in America: The High Cost of Gasoline. "Brendan, due to The High Cost of Gasoline, we can't drive to Dayton this weekend for your games. Let's just head to the local park and play there. Oh yeah, afterwards, let me see your math homework."


At June 28, 2008 at 9:12:00 PM EDT , Blogger cindy said...

Brilliantly stated. Very nice.


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