Scott Colom: Other than a professional athlete

April 27, 2011 11:32:00 AM

Scott Colom - [email protected]


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 [email protected]

Scott Colom is a local attorney.