April 27, 2011 11:32:00 AM
Growing up in Columbus, Marcus Hunter and I dreamed of being professional athletes. I wanted to be the next Michael Jordan and Marcus wanted to be the first professional football and basketball player. In hindsight, sure, our dreams sound like fantasies, but fantasies like these are shared by many of our young people and leaves some of them without exposure to other interests and unprepared to pursue other careers.
Like a lot of our peers, the celebrity of athletics dominated Marcus'' and my childhood. Ask most of us what we wanted to do when we grew up and we undoubtedly named some professional sport. We spent all summer trying to find a basketball to shoot or football to throw, all dreaming of fans watching our games on television or buying our jersey. This fascination with sports meant many of us didn''t consider and weren''t exposed to other career opportunities. Extracurricular actives, such as the science club, theater or arts were distractions. Too often even academics was secondary to athletics for us.
A few adults warned us about the statistical odds of making it pro. Yet, with Nike commercials every other minute, with lines out the store to get sneakers, with the $100 million salaries of top athletes, a realistic conversation about the odds of making it pro usually fell on deaf ears. Plus, it''s un-American to criticize a child''s dream - what''s more American than the American dream - so adults told us to make a backup plan but didn''t force us to develop other passions.
As Marcus and I can tell you, it turns out those statistics are real. Most kids are not nearly tall enough or fast enough to be professional athletes, and many of the few born with those attributes don''t have the self-discipline or guidance to make it. Sooner or later, the overwhelming majority of amateur athletes have to face the realization that the dream of going pro isn''t coming true and figure out what''s next for them.
Some of us were able to transition into new careers. Marcus, for example, took the persistence and work ethic he learned in sports, and applied it to his interest in camera and film. While working at Kroger in high school, Marcus met a reporter for WCBI and got his business card. He called the guy for weeks, leaving message after message, until the reporter called him back and offered him an internship. The internship went well enough that WCBI hired Marcus as a production assistant.
The experience at WCBI sparked an interest in being a sports reporter, yet, Marcus was afraid a diagnosed speech impediment would hinder his chances. Instead of accepting this limitation, though, Marcus took classes on voice and articulation at Mississippi State and graduated with a degree in broadcast communications.
After graduation, Marcus took a job as the weekend sport''s anchor for WCBI, and a few years later moved to Memphis when he got a a job with Fox 13. Now, he''s the weekend sports anchor there, a job that allows him to meet star athletes, like Derrick Rose and Zach Randolph, and travel to places like Dallas for the grand opening of the new Cowboy stadium and San Antonio for the Memphis Grizzles'' current playoff series. Marcus also co-hosts a local sports radio show in Memphis that was recently voted third best by a local newspaper.
At first glance, Marcus'' success makes it appear like the modern fascination with sports doesn''t have unintended consequences. But other peers were unprepared for life after sports and have struggled with the transition out of sports. Some of them are stuck in a malaise, left without new dreams or a backup plan.
That''s not to say sports isn''t a valuable experience. Athletics can teach important life lessons and provide meaningful and enjoyable experiences for children and teenagers. Playing sports helped Marcus obtain the discipline and determination to conquer personal obstacles and succeed at a new career. However, there needs to be balance. We shouldn''t accept that most children want to be professional athletes without doing a better job exposing them to other options, different choices. Otherwise, some will have to find new aspirations and careers without having given it much thought or preparation.
Scott Colom is a local attorney. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Scott Colom is a local attorney.
angrywoman commented at 4/27/2011 4:32:00 PM:
hey scott! i remember those days. as with both of you guys, you all both followed your passions and made them into a more realistic career. I commend you both!! Use your determination to help the youth in your neighborhood. They live fantasies of becoming performers and athletes. Try to work with the youth and show them that there are other ways to fullfill their passion without being in the limelight. Show the reality. I think having a program like that in Columbus will be very beneficial. I get tired of seeing our youth with empty dreams. Show them what college degrees and fullfill their passion while making them money.
walter commented at 4/27/2011 8:00:00 PM:
You hit the nail square on the head, Scott! The glitz and glamour of the successful pro athelete and celebrities in other entertainment venues is always appealing to the young and unguided. For far too many, the realization that only a very tiny number of boys (and girls) will even get the opportunity and even fewer will make it, after getting the opportunity to have a professional career, comes much, much too late. Consequently, just as you rightly pointed out, too many avoid other avenues that would lead to more easily obtinable careers and vocations, which, in the long run, would provide decent standards of living and a better quality of life, than that to be had, by doggardly pursuing fantasy careers. But, again, as you rightly pointed out, care must be taken to avoid dampening the aspiration and hope of the young as they strive to achieve their dreams. Yet, it would be unconsciousable to see youngsters devoting an inordinate amount of their time on sports and sportds, alone, when the odds of succeeding are so slim, regardless of how promising a young person's atheletic skills appear, at the time. Young people, if they are fortunate (Blessed) live to be old. As they progress (or digress) from young to old, there are many pitfalls that await them: injuries, lack of funding needed to fairly compete with others more financially endowed; and, illnesses of various sorts, just to mention a few things.
Your article conveys just the right tone and spirit to the young who read your columns. More importantly, the instant submission speaks clearly and directly to the parents of young people who insists upon placing too greater emphasis on sports than their actually abilities would warrant. Even when their abilities are truly superior to most others, their parent would be wise to caution their offsprings to pursue realistic options as career choices or vocations. Nothing is sadder than seeing never professionally successful atheletes, or even those once successful, go through life with nothing else to sustain them, when it become crystal clear, even to themselves, that it is finally over, as far as their playing days are concerned.
You are a greater writer, Scott and I applaud you and The Dispatch for what you're doing. Before you're done, you are sure to save a lot of people from unnecessary grief and you're sure to change a lot of warped minds and you will definitely open a lot of minds that I and I'm sure many others have long given up hope that they would ever be opened. Thank you...THE PEN (WORDPROCESSOR, COMPUTER, TYPEWRITER (remember those) REALLY IS MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD.
1. Voice of the people: Denise Carolyn Walker LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (VOICE@CDISPATCH.COM)
3. Slimantics: More on the care and feeding of ghosts LOCAL COLUMNS
4. Froma Harrop: Yoga pants criticism goes viral NATIONAL COLUMNS
5. Leonard Pitts: America shaped by Emmett Till's death NATIONAL COLUMNS