12/17/2002 08:40:00 PM|W|P|PJ|W|P|This is funny.|W|P|86197867|W|P||W|P|12/13/2002 04:31:00 PM|W|P|PJ|W|P|Eschaton provides a semi-valedictory on the triumph of left-wing bloggers over Trent Lott, who should be stepping down as Senate Majority Leader any day now.|W|P|85965647|W|P||W|P|12/13/2002 03:59:00 AM|W|P|PJ|W|P|This is basically true. I've been torn for years by the phenomenon of college sports. On the one hand, college basketball and football is America's biggest repository of the kind of local rivalries and traditions and overall levels of cool that contrast favorably to the made-for-TV impermanence of the major professional leagues. On the other hand, the whole institution is vile and corrupt and exceedingly silly--what connection does a semi-pro football team really have to the university which shares its name? Thus I am forced to call bullshit on the tut-tutting moralists of the world who profess to have the Best Interests of the Young Men at heart when they call on, say, the NBA to raise its minimum age to 20. I saw LeBron James play basketball on TV, and there sure as hell doesn't seem to be any reason for him to not be in the NBA next year. Granted, he (and Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett) are extraordinary exceptions to the rule. But when the NBA and NCAA wax poetic about the tragic plight of the Leon Smiths of the world, it's important to keep in mind that this tragic plight is entirely the creation of the NCAA and NBA themselves. See, there's this notion of "amateur status" which is like virginity--once you give it up, you can never get it back. We accept that this is the way it should be, because it's the way it always has been, and because it enables us to preserve the gentle fiction that the top athletes at the top football and basketball schools are scholars first who are participating in sports as an extracurricular activity. Once the cherry's popped and you lose your amateur status, you can never get it back. But there's no earthly reason why things must be this way. Now, the fun part: how to fix a broken system: Give NBA teams the right to draft and sign high school players without taking away their college eligibility. If a drafted player chooses to play college ball, the NBA contract is deferred until the player leaves school. The NBA team could (and should) easily pick up the tab for the player's scholarship, and probably a stipend for living expenses. If the player blows out a knee playing college ball, the NBA team (or its insurance company) pays out the guaranteed money on the NBA contract. Players benefit because they can explore the NBA waters without losing college eligibility, and can play college ball without fear of an injury costing them millions of dollars. Colleges benefit because every athletic scholarship the NBA teams pay out is an athletic scholarship they aren't paying out. College basketball fans benefit because more borderline HS-to-pro prospects will play in college rather than rot on the end of an NBA bench. Pro basketball fans benefit because they don't have to endure the growing pains of an 18-year-old playing NBA basketball. The NBA teams benefit by having more mature and polished rookies. The NBA players benefit because those spots at the end of the bench are going to veterans rather than rookies, and because the overall number of players being paid by the NBA goes up. Everyone wins. Why isn't something like this being done?|W|P|85938577|W|P||W|P|