THE SPORTS DOCTOR- NFL minor league? Let the pre-pros out of boring classes
When I think about college football, I don't know what's worse: the fawning and slobbering announcers at CBS, the spinelessness of the NCAA, Gene Chizik's total lack of respect for South Carolina– or a million more examples.
Analyzing how players like Cam Newton, Reggie Bush, and some others treat college like a purely exploitable experience, I realize it's the NFL that deserves a cat-o-nine-tails across its backside.
Boy, do I love baseball. I know that seems to be a totally different topic, but hang with me. The minor league system is truly a thing of beauty, and for the life of me I can't understand why baseball is the only major sport to use it. (Please don't get mad, hockey fans— I'm well aware the NHL has a minor league system, but, be fair: hockey isn't as big as baseball, football, or basketball. Not yet anyway.) The lack of a minor league system in football is a travesty on many levels.
Let's get a couple of things straight: college is not synonymous with a minor league system, so don't even try it. Colleges are academic institutions that have sports as extra-curricular activities, not the other way around. It's there in black and white in every college's charter or mission statement: academics, higher learning. You'd be hard-pressed to find any language mandating full scholarships and a one- to two-year breeding ground for future NFL players.
I don't want to hear any arguments about risk of injuries, either. If a college degree actually meant anything, I would advise NFL hopefuls to play college ball, because even if injured, they can get a first-class education. But seeing as how so many players leave school early anyway, why not risk injury in the minor leagues and at least earn a paycheck? That's what football is all about, right?
Get with it NFL; requiring a player to be two years out of high school before hitting the sacred gridirons isn't just paternalistic, it's counterproductive. A minor league means money in the pocket. So what if everyone loves college football? So what if they pillage the talent pool, and the SEC turns into NFL Europe? Despite the lovey-dovey image the NFL and the NCAA show to the world, the relationship is as dysfunctional as it gets.
Face it. Cam Newton has no business at Auburn and never should have set foot on that campus. Newton is academically unfit to be in college, and forcing him to fake an education while waiting to be draft eligible isn't doing him any favors. I used to be disgusted with Cam Newton, but not anymore. I pity him.
How can the NFL be expected to look out for his best interest when even the NCAA, with all its talk about student athletes, views Newton only as a commodity, not a person? If the NFL had a minor league, the many college players who want an education could still go to school, and those who just want a paycheck might be saved a lot of trouble.
I would be remiss if I finished this column without mentioning Ron Santo, the former Cubs third baseman who passed away last Thursday. I never knew Santo as a player, only as an announcer, but his love for the game– and the Cubs specifically– was legendary. His number has been retired at Wrigley, but for some reason, his career numbers and achievements always left him just shy of Cooperstown.
The days following Santo's death were flooded with tributes from ESPN, the MLB, the national news, even NPR. Where were these admirers during the years Santo didn't make it into the Hall of Fame?
What people have realized too late is that while Santo's baseball career was just shy of superlative, he personified all that's great about the game. He gave his all even while suffering with undiagnosed diabetes, a disease that ultimately claimed both his legs. He was no less passionate as an announcer, and undoubtedly that's how he'll enter the sacred Hall even though he deserves so much more.
Juanita Giles lives on a farm in Charlotte County with her husband, son and