The downfall of American sports?
J.P. BOX, STAFF WRITER
After it became evident that the Articles of Confederation
of 1777 were ineffective in governing a nation, John Adams addressed the
problem: "The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy."
In 1787, a new form of constitution was born which embodied
both democratic values and a stronger central government. Whether by design
or coincidence, capitalism has been integrally connected to American democracy
since its conception in the eighteenth-century. The economic drive to
maximize profits has carried over to nearly every major American institution,
Due to the excessive flow of capital in professional
sports today, the big four - basketball, football, baseball, and hockey
- are suffering. Unfortunately, it appears that the problems of these
four will not be diminished any time soon.
Let's start with basketball. The huge influx of players
who skip all or some part of college has aversely affected the college
program as well as the NBA.
Instead of watching Quentin Richardson blossom into
a dominant NCAA player and refine his skills, we get to watch him struggle
with the Clippers. Instead of watching Corey Maggete lead Duke to an NCAA
title (which they will get anyway), we saw him complain of bad pedicures
last year with the Magic. Darius Miles? Another Clipper who can jump over
the gym, but bypassed college completely to struggle in the pros.
Other notables include Chauncey Billups, who left the
University of Colorado after his sophomore year, and Jermaine O'Neal,
center for the Indiana Pacers. Billups has bounced around from team to
team, never quite living up to his potential. O'Neal is now developing
into a force for Indiana, but it took him four years to mature in the
NBA. He is now 22.
Due to this widespread, premature leap from amateur
to professional ball, the college game is subject to constant turnover
which makes it virtually impossible to watch a collegiate super star reach
his prime as an amateur athlete. Instead, when a player shows promise,
the incentives to become an instant millionaire are too strong to stay
in college, or even attend.
North Carolina's Joseph Forte is one of the best collegiate
basketball players in the country, but according current trends, the chances
of him staying another year or two are very slim. Let's face it: If someone
offered you over a million bucks to leave Bowdoin, wouldn't you?
Football is suffering from the same ills as basketball.
My argument here can be summed up in two words: Michael Vick. Virginia
Tech's explosive, strong-armed quarterback is bypassing his last two years
in school and will likely be the first pick in the draft.
Although Vick has all the tools to be an NFL great,
very few quarterbacks can enter the league as a 20-year-old and expect
to be a starting quarterback.
Those that do usually struggle mightily. This past year,
Vick battled injury and took his chance to jump to the NFL for the competition,
thefame, and the money. Unfortunately for the fans, we will not see Vick
in anything other than a preseason game for the next two years most likely.
While the college game is hurting due to early departures
by players like Vick, the NFL has never had more young talent. Daunte
Culpepper, Donovan McNabb, Brian Griese, Randy Moss, and Peyton Manning
are just a few young pros who will be stars throughout the next decade.
Currently, however, there is a clear void of veteran
leadership in the NFL. Jerry Rice is contemplating retirement, while Dan
Marino, John Elway, Marcus Allen, and Jim Kelly are already swinging the
golf clubs. Additionally, due to the continued expansion in the NFL, the
quality of players has been diluted. As a result, teams like the Ravens
and Giants can end up playing in a Super Bowl.
In order to spark the public's attention, the XFL was
recently created in an attempt to challenge the supremacy of football.
Vince McMahon is hoping that sex and violence continue to sell.
Unlike football and basketball, baseball is suffering
from a far different plight. Collegiate baseball amounts to little more
than a home-run derby featuring aluminum bats. It is very rare for a college
ballplayer to jump from school to the Major Leagues due to the huge gapin
Instead, baseball teams shell out millions of dollars
to 18-22 year old kids who show potential. They then watch them blossom-or
flounder-in the Minor Leagues for a few years.
The truly talented ones make it pro, and the others
spend their careers in the Purgatory of baseball-the Minor Leagues.
What is truly devastating the competitive nature of
Major League Baseball is the outrageous cost to be a pennant-contending
The Rockies, the most active team on the free agent
market next to the Texas Rangers, spent $180.3 million to sign four free
agents, including the $100 million Mike Hampton. The Rangers gave Alex
Rodriguez, one of the best shortstops in the Majors, a quarter of a billion
Also, Manny Ramirez signed a $100 million+ deal with
the Red Sox. In fact, Ramirez's average of $20 million per season is larger
than the entire Minnesota Twins payroll of $16 million.
Due to this insane escalation of prices for free agents,
few teams can legitimately challenge for the World Series. The teams with
the highest payrolls, the Yankees, Braves, Mets, and now the Rockies (among
others),are the only teams that have a shot to make some noise in October.
The Twins, Royals, Expos, and the rest of the teams
with shallow pockets draw small crowds and are rejected by free agents
due to their inability to compete financially with bigger markets.
Before the season even begins, half the teams in the
majors already know that they have no chance -not this year, not next
year, or the year after that.
And, what about hockey? How could I speak poorly of
hockey right now with the return of Mario Lemieux? While hockey is beginning
to suffer from some of the same ills as baseball with owners who are willing
to sacrifice their financial well-being in order to bring in a championship
team, the problems are not as widespread or catastrophic-at least not
However, Canadian hockey teams, such as the former Quebec
Nordiques and Winnipeg Jets, were forced to move their teams due to the
financial strains. As in baseball, salaries continue to escalate and many
teams remain uncompetitive for this reason.
Fans across the nation will always be loyal to their
home teams, believe when they shouldn't, and tune into the prime time
The vicarious nature and pure excitement of professional
and collegiate sports will never die, but if these current trends continue,
the quality, wonder, and awe of everyone's home team will continue to
erode. The excess of money will be the ruin, or the remaking, of collegiate
and professional sports.