Talk with D-Rok
This is the final column in the series about conduct as spectators at scholastic sporting events, inspired by the sign outside the pee-wee hockey rink in Hoffman Estates, Ill. The final two reminders on that sign are “your child doesn’t play for the Blackhawks” and “he/she probably never will.”
There are professional sports in our society, in which the jobs of people, livelihoods of families and billions of dollars are at stake. A professional athlete losing her/his roster spot or head coach losing her/his job has serious repercussions for many families and individuals. Scholastic sports are a far cry from being able to claim carrying consequences that serious.
What’s at stake in scholastic sports is perhaps a few hundred dollars’ worth of merchandise that could be sold to commemorate a state championship and the like. It could be said that jobs are at stake but in my experience few people that coach at the elementary, middle school or high school level lose their positions simply because of the poor performance of the teams they coach.
It’s true that for a lot of professional athletes, scholastic sports were an important developmental step in their arrival at the professional level. What’s just as true, however, is that the odds suggest in a most extreme fashion that most elementary, middle and high school student-athletes will never play sports professionally.
For an example, let’s just take the odds of a high school boys’ basketball player signing a contract with a team which is a member of the National Basketball Association. According to the National Federation of High Schools there are over 540,000 high school boys’ basketball players in the United States. On average, 34 new players sign a contract with a NBA team each year.
The variable that must be thrown in is the fact that almost half of the players that sign NBA contracts every year are born outside of the United States. So go ahead and cut that 34 down to 18. There you have it. One out of every 60,000 or 0.00002 percent of the boys born in the United States who play high school basketball will progress to sign a NBA contract.
The reality is that a given student-athlete is more likely to be injured by a toilet (1 in 10,000), find a four-leaf clover on the first attempt (1 in 10,000), date a millionaire (1 in 215), write a New York Times best seller (1 in 220) and be wrongly declared dead by a data entry error in the Social Security database (1 in 23,483) than he/she is to ever sign a contract to play sports professionally. The odds are even more slim that he/she will actually sustain that career.
You’ve probably forgotten all about Gerry McNamara. As a sixth-grader he would embarrass high school players on the basketball court. McNamara played at Syracuse University with Carmelo Anthony and won the 2003 men’s basketball national championship. He was the next-best option for the Orange after Anthony. McNamara was never drafted and never signed an NBA contract.
The odds are a little better for a boy born in the United States who wants to play NCAA Division 1 Basketball, but still not good. There are 312 D-1 men’s basketball programs with 15 roster spots each which equals 4,680 opportunities. Most of those don’t come open every year because most men’s college basketball players play multiple years. Just for the sake of argument if we say a fourth of those opportunities come open every year then that’s 1,170 out of 540,000 or 0.002 percent.
The odds strongly suggest that for the vast majority of scholastic athletes, high school will be the highest level of the organized sport they ever reach. So why not do all we can to make it as enjoyable an experience as possible? Belligerent behavior resulting from treating these sporting events as carrying the weight of professional events and placing that weight on the student-athletes that only professionals should carry detracts from the experience.
The next time you go to a scholastic sporting event, remember these columns and the reminders from the sign I’ve been referring to. This is a game. These are kids. Parents should cheer for everyone. The referees are human. Your child isn’t a professional athlete. He/she probably never will be a professional athlete.
Conducting ourselves according to these truths will cut down on the obnoxious behavior I have witnessed tremendously. All the area’s student-athletes will be better off.