An item in Bob Molinaro’s column last week in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot reminded me that I have not spent sufficient time here talking about “amateur” sports recently. Here is the item that triggered me:
“Gub-mint unleashed: By a vote of 36-0, the Kentucky state senate passed a bill allowing high school seniors to stay for another year and play sports. Silly, right? Picture years from now, an old man boasting to his grandchildren that the best time of his life was his fifth year of high school.”
I do not know what is worse here – – the idea of bringing back high school kids for another year in school so they can play sports or that the recorded vote in the Kentucky state senate was 36-0. None of those chronological adults in the state senate thought this might not be a great idea to put into law?
I know that the nominal Class of 2020 and 2021 caught a tough break with COVID-19 interrupting their acts of glory on the field and on the court and in the pool. I recognize that politicians would surely not want to do anything that would not cater to the suffering that all those high school athletes might have endured in the past year. I believe that politicians would want to be able to wave a magic wand and make it all better for all those kids who lost out on athletic glory for reasons beyond their control. And now I would pose this question to the state senators from Kentucky:
- What have you done to the athletes in the Class of 2022 who would have been the “top dogs” on their high school teams but will now have to cede some of that limelight to these returning super-seniors?
- How might you plan on making that up to the Class 0f 2022? Where might this end beyond the idea that high school in Kentucky goes from 9th grade through 13th grade?
In another wing of the “amateur sports” silliness of the moment we have the fact that the NCAA will indeed hold an NIT Tournament again in 2021. There was a day when the NIT was far more prestigious than the NCAA basketball tournament; those were the days before the invention of “TV Dinners”. The NIT has been relegated to the category of “afterthought-at-best” for about 60 or 70 years; its death knell was when it sued the NCAA for “monopolistic practices” and then settled that suit just before trial by agreeing to be bought out by the NCAA.
In a “concession” to COVID-19, the NCAA decided that this year’s NIT field would be reduced from 32 teams few if any fans gave a fig about to 16 teams that “aspire to relevancy”. Because when this year’s tournament was being organized, New York – – home of Madison Square Garden where the NIT flourished in its glory days and where the NIT Finals had taken place in its declining years – – was being extremely cautious about fans in arenas, the NCAA chose to move the NIT games to Texas.
Given the proclamation of the Texas Governor last week, Texas is now “100% open” meaning that the NIT games can take place in indoor venues with full capacity seating and with no mask mandates or health screenings or – – you fill in the blank here.
- Memo to the NCAA: Your junior varsity post-season men’s basketball tournament now has the potential to be a highly visible pandemic super-spreader event. If you think that it is a good thing to have attached to “the NCAA Brand”, may I suggest that linking “the NCAA Brand” to Typhoid Mary is not a good thing?
No charge for that advice…
Once again, Bob Molinaro has cut through the fog here to provide clarity on the core issue(s) here:
“Tex-mess: Now that the college basketball anachronism called the NIT has been moved from New York to wide-open Texas, expect some teams to take a pass. Not to mention that the three-week-long NCAA women’s tournament must deal with mask-less Texans. Good luck, ladies.”
The NY Times had a report last week about a new basketball league for players who have graduated from high school – – whatever that may mean in Kentucky is no longer clear – – who want to do something other than play a one-and-done year in college basketball. Please recall that LaVar Ball had set up one of these enterprises in the recent past; I suggest that it should be remembered as the Constipation Basketball League – – because it passed quickly.
Here is the new idea…
- The Overtime Elite League will offer high school players salaries of $100K (plus some benefits on top of that salary) to skip college and play for the League. It would employ approximately 30 players but not on fixed teams. It would almost be like a “barnstorming league” where teams would be fluid from game to game.
- For a much more complete description of the basis for the new league check out this link to the NY Times article that describes it.
I believe that this is the hurdle that the Overtime Elite League – or any other league that seeks to monetize the performance of high school basketball players – must surmount:
- It must provide to the high school player taking that $100K salary and thereby forfeiting any NCAA eligibility an equivalent exposure of that player and the “brand” that player seeks to develop.
- Saying exactly nothing about which of the two is the “better player”, which player entered the NBA with more hype/recognition? Zion Williamson or LaMelo Ball? And remember, LaMelo Ball was being touted by his father and his older brothers for about 4 years before he was in the NBA Draft.
- The Overtime Elite League – or any other entity of that stripe – will need to find ways to allow its’ star players to become ‘household names”. As a test, answer this question.
- Give me the names of the high school players who opted not to play college basketball this year and took NBA backed G-League contracts. I shall not hold my breath while you go to Google to find those names…
Finally, I often close these rants with an entry from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm. Since turnabout is fair play, let me share today, this definition of “sarcasm” sent to me by a former colleague:
“Sarcasm: The ability to insult idiots without them realizing it.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………