April 1, 2013, - 12:01 pm
Kevin Ware’s horrific basketball injury is yet another stark example of why colleges shouldn’t be in the pro sports biz.
On Sunday afternoon, you might have been watching the NCAA Midwest Regional final in the March Madness basketball tournament, when Ware, a University of Louisville player suffered a Joe Theismann-esque injury. He broke his shin bone, and the injury was so grotesque that physical trainers immediately used a blanket to cover up what was reportedly a shin bone protruding out from Ware’s leg.
On TV, you could see coaches and fellow players–grown men all–crying visible tears. It was that bad. And despite being rushed to the hospital for surgery, it’s probably a career-ending injury just as Theismann’s similar bone-break was career-ending with regard to his career as an NFL player. But at the time, Theismann was an NFL player with the Washington Redskins. And even though he didn’t make the money NFL players make today, he could have had a good cushion at the time, had he spent his money right. (I’m not sure he spent his money right, because he went on to sue his ex-girlfriend, actress Cathy Lee Crosby, for half her estate in some sort of pseudo-palimony kind of action, which was settled.)
But, unlike Theismann, Ware is not a pro player, and unless he took out a giant insurance policy on himself–which I’ll bet he did not–he just gave up any big money he might have hoped to make in the NBA. And that’s the thing. Until 2006, basketball players could go straight from high school to the NBA, bypassing college, where most college basketball players do not belong and cannot compete academically. But the NCAA and its college presidents–geeks who fancy themselves CEOs of major sports programs–didn’t like that, as star players like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Amar’e Stoudemire bypassed college and went straight to the pros. Colleges–most of them tax-funded in major ways–wanted to remain the tax-subsidized free farm teams for the NBA and get their cut.
Before the NBA’s 2005 Collective Bargaining Agreement was inked, Kevin Ware could have gone straight to the pros, assuming he could make it there via the NBA draft and so on. He’d probably have a very generous insurance policy (not the paltry one the NCAA provides), and he’d already have big money from multi-million dollar contract.
Now, he’s got nothing. And he’ll probably have to go through life wondering what might have been because the NCAA got the NBA and its player association to agree to new rules which force basketball players to be at least age 19 and be a year out of high school to qualify for the NBA draft. This gives the players no choice but to play for colleges for a year so that they can showcase their talents and not be out of sight, out of mind to NBA scouts. And the colleges make mega-money off of them, but not enough money–most college basketball programs operate in the red, so it’s not profitable. That’s aside from the fact that it has nothing to do with academics whatsoever. Why are we paying for this? (If you are a taxpayer, you’re paying for it at all public universities and colleges, and if you pay tuition at a private school, you’re paying for it.) Let the NBA team owners pay for their own farm team system.
Many college players talk about unionizing and demanding salaries from colleges and universities. But no one forced them to sign up or go to college. And if the NBA had its previous rules in place, allowing players to go straight from high school, taxpayers might not be forced to pay for free farm teams and showcases (which is what basketball is) for the billionaires who own NBA teams to use to their benefit.
It’s too late for Kevin Ware. Even if he heals from this injury, few NBA teams would take a second look at him, or even a first look. None will take a chance on someone with that kind of major injury, because the odds are, it will fester and become a re-injury. You just don’t recover from that. Just ask Joe Theismann.
Colleges and universities shouldn’t be minor league NBA feeder apparati, and basketball players should go straight to the NBA from high school, or try their wares elsewhere in real basketball minor leagues, where they don’t have to pretend they know how to read and can identify George Washington (I don’t exaggerate–former NBA player Voshon Lenard didn’t know the answer when his Minnesota history prof asked him why Washington is considered one of the Founding Fathers).
And the Kevin Wares of the world should be able to show their abilities on the basketball court, where they and NBA owners can pick up the tab for career-ending injuries like the one Ware endured yesterday. If Ware, like most college basketball players, isn’t good enough for the NBA, fine. He would have had the chance to find that out, and get a job in another field, instead of pretending to be a qualified college student (most college basketball players aren’t qualified and never graduate, even with easy, Mickey Mouse courses).
Get colleges and universities outta the pro sports biz. And get fake students like Ware, who are there as “meat,” outta the college biz.
We’d all be better off with an actual free market in pro basketball. And Kevin Ware would be better set for the rest of his life.
That this byzantine system–really an anti-competitive conspiracy between NBA gazillionaire owners and the NCAA–goes on . . . that’s the real March Madness.
Tags: career-ending injuries, career-ending injury, Cathy Lee Crosby, college basketball, Joe Theismann, Kevin Ware, March Madness, NBA, NCAA, NCAA Basketball Tournament, shin bone