TMQ: The importance of the incomplete pass.

TMQ: The importance of the incomplete pass.

TMQ: The importance of the incomplete pass.

The stadium scene.
Jan. 22 2002 10:30 AM

The Importance of the Incomplete Pass

(Continued from Page 7)

Gregg's guilty pleasure,

Hidden from brainiac pals?

TMQ, come out.


Hmmm, maybe I should have George O'Leary update my resume. The NewRepublic does seem to be engaged in a sinister cover-up. "Be proud of what you are, a regular guy," Chuck advises. My Brookings bio does list me as an expert on "American football"—nice internationalist touch. Close textual analysis shows I am the sole football expert on the Brookings rolodex. Brookings also lists my incredibly cleverly titled new book Tuesday Morning Quarterback, which is new stuff, not a collection of past columns, and is in stores, or you can buy it here.

Reader "Hungry Like a Wolf" offers a late entry for the Hal Rothman Award for devising serious-sounding reasons to gawk at cheesecake. (See last week's column.) Wolf nominates Houston's House of Pies, where he recommends the actual cheesecake.

Finally reader Kris Singho asks why TMQ complains about high-school kids jumping into the NBA—all thus far having done so being African-American—while not complaining about white high-school kids turning pro for tennis or figure skating. True, but I didn't complain about black teens in tennis, either—Venus Williams went pro at 14, for example. My analysis was confined to football and basketball, team sports in which gifted novices traditionally fair poorly, as opposed to highly individualistic tennis and skating, where teen athletes traditionally excel.

Singho suspects TMQ opposes high-school NBA jumps because this converts young black men into instant millionaires. But all the black high-school kids taken in the last NBA draft were fated to become instant millionaires anyway, barring collegiate injury. Having them cash in at 18 rather than 21 or 22 does not increase net income transfers to blacks since when NBA salary cap space is shifted toward teen African-American players, money must be subtracted from the amounts offered to older black athletes.

My objections are three. First, this will harm basketball by driving down the quality of pro play while depriving the college ranks of stars, thus killing the goose that laid the golden eggs. Second, though net payments to blacks will be unchanged, letting high-school kids into the NBA will harm most of those who do this by reducing their lifetime earnings. (A few will thrive ala Kobe Bryant, but most will never become as good as they might have been and never achieve that midcareer monster contract.) Third, it sets a bad example to African-American youth by suggesting college should be skipped. Skipping college is fine for the rare gifted person like Kobe who is fated to become a millionaire anyway, but lack of seriousness about college keeps blacks disadvantaged as a group.

Singho further contends that blacks who play college basketball without pay are being exploited: They should jump to the pros and earn income. Maybe blacks who could make the NBA are being taken advantage of by college no-pay. But the small minority who could make the NBA are usually the same ones for whom future millions are certain anyway. The vast majority of NCAA basketball players, including the vast majority of African-American players, will never make the pros. To them college athletics offers a free higher education. This is exploitation?

Most colleges deserve to be condemned for enabling in athletes the illusion of going pro, rather than insisting players attend class, study, and graduate. Not insisting that college athletes study may represent a form of exploitation since blacks are disproportionately impacted. But this is a form of exploitation African-Americans could end of their own accord, by embracing education and rejecting the young-stud-instant-riches fantasy model.

Sometimes whites get where they are by favoritism or a rigged system; overall, education is the first explaining factor in contemporary economic outcomes. Thus Shane Battier, who walked out of Duke with a diploma and a 3.4 GPA, makes a better role model than a dazed-and-confused high-school kid with a million bucks in his pocket. Battier may be button-down, but young blacks as a group would do more to alter the status quo by emulating him than by emulating Tracy McGrady. TMQ thinks star black basketball players should keep this role-model effect in mind and stay in school. It's true this creates a pressure for black stars that does not exist for their white counterparts.

Last Week's Challenge …was to name absurd euphemisms, such as "remediate" for "clean up."

Tim Lowell suggests "mistake" as euphemism for an outrage or incredible blunder. Everything that goes wrong from the White House to Enron is, "mistakes were made." After Stephen Ambrose was caught plagiarizing, he called the copied passages "a mistake," which sounds like spilling coffee, rather than something he should be ashamed of. Similarly, Tony Probst suggests the euphemism "inappropriate" to avoid using words like bad or wrong. ("It was inappropriate that Ambrose made a mistake by stealing someone else's work.")