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Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Athletic Geniuses and Intelligent Sportspeople?

American teenagers no longer consider college an educational experience. Intelligence is not something for which many people strive. Alcohol, sex, parties, and freedoms never had before are on eighteen year olds’ minds these days – not calculus, books, libraries, and studying. As we start the 21st century, people are learning the value of money at an early age. Money is the root of all evil and the sin of being greedy are not principal values as they were decades ago. Young kids even have a strong desire to have money. With the media as influential as it is, children learn that apart from winning the lottery, an easy way to get rich quick is to excel in the entertainment industry, especially athletics. Our society must start to stress the importance of getting an education for the sake of being educated. Students must learn in high school that a college degree is much more important than pursuing dreams of a professional athletic career.

Intelligence and genius has been undermined by popularity. All people want is to be accepted, and the easiest way is to be well-known. Being accepted by peers is the first step to becoming popular. Peer pressures form from this. For one to stay in their room and study is not an action greatly admired by peers. Being social, partying, drinking, and unfortunately even sometimes taking drugs, are more socially acceptable and more widely preferred. For decades now the words “dork”, ”geek”, ”dweeb”, and “nerd” have been used in name-calling to cruelly describe a person who does stay home, does study, and does enjoy reading for entertainment.

Ethically, education versus athletics is an issue. Most people see athletes as celebrities. Celebrities are obviously popular people. A well educated man rarely becomes a celebrity in the eyes of the people, at least not in American societies. If you ask a kid under the age of twelve who he wants to be when he grows up, he will most likely say some celebrity (Michael Jordan, Superman, etc.). Children spend on average 900 hours a year in school and somewhere between 1,200 and 1,800 hours a year watching television (Barber 206). This constant access to the media is a source for the train of thought people have now-a-days. If books and reading were accentuated more through high school, teens would not watch so much TV, and would learn themselves the importance of intelligence and education. Children would grow up aspiring to be smart, and possibly not so much to be popular.

LeBron James is a prime example of a kid who has been twisted by the ways of the media and money. LeBron James is an eighteen year old Catholic school student that lives in Akron, Ohio. He has been a decent student most of his life. That is briefly LeBron James, outside of what the media has turned him into now. Not many eighteen year old kids have to deal with all the pressures this boy has brought on himself with his basketball skills. Many people, including well respected scouts and analysts, are saying he is the best high school basketball player ever. He is most likely going to enter the 2003 NBA Draft and be the number one pick. According influential sports marketing consultant Brandon Steiner, LeBron could make six million dollars just in endorsements next year on top of whatever he signs his contract for, which will most likely be a long term deal for roughly $20 million a year (Brown 1). Kevin Garnett signed straight out of high school for a six year, $121 million dollar contract, so some amount greater than that is not at all unlikely. How is an eighteen year old supposed to deal with these opportunities that are handed to him? The importance of getting a college education has to be thrown right out the window in his mind. Why would he ever want to become educated when he is going to make all this money as an uneducated nineteen year old celebrity?

Reverend Edward A. Mallory once said, “A college degree is not a sign that one is a finished product but an indication a person is prepared for life.” If the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA), the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and professional sports leagues (like the NBA) all worked together and came up with a way to make kids go to college, get good grades, and then after that they could pursue or possibly even be guaranteed a spot where the were headed out of high school, our society would be headed in the right way. James and Garnett would have then been forced to act more as role models and set a positive example to other young people by finishing their education. If kids were persuaded to earn a college degree, not to make the jump from high school to the professional leagues, they would be much more prepared for life. They would understand how most people go through life, and realize the gift they were given. They could also do something with their lives following their professional sports careers. If by chance their careers in athletics did go extremely well, and they spent the remainder of their lives in the sports industry, then they would be educated for the sake of being educated, which is nothing but a plus.

Today, money does apparently bring happiness though. People find themselves indulged in game shows and lotteries. Everyone just wants an easy buck. Popularity and celebritism bring in money, as our consumer culture teaches. The professional sports industry has grown immensely in the past century. Although it does appear to be easy money, things are not always as they appear. It is extremely hard to become a professional athlete. Even so, there are only about 18,000 professional athletes in the U.S. today. With coaches and sports officials and other related workers there are 129.00 jobs currently available in the U.S. Together, they have an average salary of merely $32,700. Through all the limelight people, especially kids, cannot see that only the great ones in their popular sports earn the millions and millions of dollars. Then, even if you do become a professional athlete, the career is not so glamorous. Most people in the sports industry and expected to work Saturdays, Sundays, evenings, and even holidays. The usually work way over forty hours a week as well.

The advantage of a classical education is that it enables you to despise the wealth that it prevents you from achieving.” Russell Green was exactly right. Education can leave one with a feeling of accomplishment, and fill holes in one’s life where there is a lack of money, with other, less material pleasures. One’s self esteem can sky rocket with a feeling of being an educated person. Intelligent conversations had with people can also leave a person with a feeling of accomplishment. Earning an education for the sake of education has many positive effects.

Money can be found following an edification as well. Doctors, lawyers, architects and C.E.O.’s could be considered the cream of the crop when it comes to education and aptitude in our nation. They attend school for a minimum of six years before they can earn their degree, and then usually have to intern for a few more years before they can start their career in their respective occupations. Their prolonged schooling for the sake of becoming educated can lead to life of affluence. An architect who has his or her professional degree can expect to make on the upwards of a $46,000 salary right out of school. If you spend the college hours to become a lawyer the average salary out of school is around $50,000 with a top name firm. A medical doctor can expect somewhere around $120,000 as soon as they begin to practice. If someone were to work their way up the hierarchal ladder to a C.E.O. position of a business, he or she would most likely be earning around $400,000 for their work (“U.S. Dept. Labor”). All of these people have the pride of being an educated soul and working for their money. They were not handed an opportunity to entertain the world with their God-given talents. If students had the frame of mind that they can make a good living for themselves, a living that would last far longer than that of an athletic career (which on average lasts 4 years, depending on the sport), they would strive to become intelligent, not so much athletic.

Plato profoundly stated, “The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future life.” If a man does not even start with an education, then where does his future lead? Schooling is such an important part of one’s life. Most Americans do make it through high school, and many even attempt to earn their college degree. It all is headed in the right direction at the moment, but it still needs more improvement. With more significance placed on education, especially for the sake of becoming an educated person, athletics and the entertainment business will continue to thrive, but our nation may find itself with geniuses like Plato as celebrities once again.

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