As a child I read a story about Magic Johnson playing basketball outside late at night until his mom made him come in. Magic’s mom spoke of his determination and work ethic. In the story, Johnson talked about getting his mother a new house and a better life. These two things go hand and hand.
For many athletes, the sport they grew up playing wasn’t just a fun pastime, it was a way out of their environment. It was a job, one that they knew they could do better than 99% of the world if they worked hard enough. In some cases, the result was that they would also get paid more than 99% of the world.
There were times in my life that my family did well financially and then there were times that we didn’t have two pennies to rub together. It was in those times that my mom would have to drag me inside at 9:30 pm on a school night. I grew up in the country, in Effingham, South Carolina. I played basketball on a contraption that my dad cut the backboard out of wood and painted a Clemson Paw on for me. He hung the backboard and rim on a wood shed out behind the mobile home we grew up in. My basketball court was a hard, uneven dirt ground, with roots running through it. It was that uneven landscape that helped me be become a better ball handler.
I remember one school morning my mom was counting pennies. She counted out 200 pennies. She gave my older brother a dollar’s worth and me the same. She said that was all we had but it would get us school lunch. I asked what she was going to eat that day and she grabbed a banana off the top of the fridge. She said, “Don’t worry about me I’ll get something at work”. But I knew that the banana was all that she would have to hold her over until she got home. When we left the house she stopped by the gas station and let us run the change in there for two one dollar bills, so we wouldn’t be embarrassed at school. That was the type of mom I had, she was more concerned about us not being embarrassed then she was about only eat one piece of fruit all day. She was so prideful, that I wouldn’t dare mention to her that I know because that would have just embarrassed her more. Instead, I carried her pained expression masked by a strong smile all day in my mind.
When I got out of school that day, I threw my books down and picked up my basketball. I ran out to that beat up shed and I dribbled the hell out of that half flat basketball, on that dirt court. I took shot after shot after shot. The whole time I kept saying to myself that my mom won’t ever starve again and I’ll make it to the pros one day and buy her the biggest house. My mom came home from work and I was still shooting. Night time came and I turned on the flood light that my dad had installed so I could play all night. The rain started coming down and I kept shooting. My mom came out on the back porch and said, “Boy you must be crazy, get your butt in this house”. I came in the back door drenched from the rain and my mom met me with a towel. I told her that I would make it to the NBA and buy her whatever she wanted. She just smiled and said “okay baby”.
When I was an 18 year old kid, if an academic institution would have given me enough money to make a better life for my family, I would have taken it without hesitation. It’s easier for people to look down their noses at others and say you shouldn’t do this or you shouldn’t do that, but when you come from nothing and you can make your loved ones lives better, without harming anyone, then you’re going have a hard time convincing me that’s a bad thing.
It’s naive not to believe that every major program is paying its players. And they should be. They call it amateur sports but the coaches are making millions, the schools are bringing in millions, and people are complaining about Terrelle Pryor’s new car. My only problem with regard to Pryor’s new car is they should have given him two. The media and fans are in an uproar over receiving cash, tattoos, and gifts. I would be upset too. But I would be upset because I would want houses and boats.
Giving these kids eff’ing tattoos for earning the academic institution millions after a bowl game is pimping at its best. Ohio State is a Pimp Named Slickback and the players are the versions of hoes running around happy to receive some Payless Shoe Store heels after doing the deed in front of the stadium bleachers. So if you’re going be upset, be mad at the pimping, cause the hoeing is the best thing going. (My Android App for Pimp talk just kicked in.)
18-22 year old kids are going to take money to help their families, especially if the people giving them the money just made millions of dollars off of their talents. How many touchdowns did the Ohio State athletic director score last season? Was that Jim Tressel running the quarterback draw making the school money?
I applaud Jim Tressel for not snitching out his players. He’s been in the homes of these players. While Pryor is the face of the Buckeyes scandal, there are others involved too. Tressel realized that he could cost kids that he cared for their well being and their family’s well being if he turned them in. For some of these kids it’s their only shot to provide for their families. Before you take your next condescending shot at one of these kids while you eat your fillet Mignon and sip your wine, ask yourself if you would take the money for your hard work, if it meant feeding your family.
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