Column: For love of the game

By Josh George

There used to be this saying, “For the love of the game.” That was why athletes played sports. Not for fame or fortune. Now they play for the shoe companies.

Now, we have AAU basketball coaches being paid healthy sums of money, middle-aged men betting millions of dollars on unproven 18-year-olds in the NBA to groom them to be the next shoe-deal babies, arguments for paying college players and the revelation of rampant steroid use in high school programs.

What motivation is there for kids to work hard and improve when they constantly have free loaders, sportswear execs, the media and, in some cases, pro leagues telling them how good they are?

Last week, 16-year-old Freddy Adu of the DC United was reported by the Washington Post of complaining about playing time to coach Peter Nowak.

It is not uncommon for players to complain about lack of playing time. It is good to want to play, that is if you want to play to help the team.

Adu, who decided to vent before the opening round of the playoffs, claimed his lack of playing time was hurting his chances of making the 2006 World Cup team.

His motives were completely selfish, mentioning that he felt his playing time did not fairly correlate with his performance on the field, but not once saying how he could help the team make the playoffs.

Adu cannot be blamed for his selfish comments, however. Since he was a pre-teen he has been touted as the best up-and-coming American soccer player.

When he was 14-years-old, he was made the highest paid player on DC United and landed a multimillion-dollar shoe contract.

The MLS, along with DC United, shamelessly boasted that Adu was the best thing for American soccer since Pele and was the key to revitalizing a lagging United team that had won three of the first four league championships.

And then Adu rode the pine. Who wouldn’t be upset sitting on the bench after the greatest buildup in league history?

The business of sports has grasped out from the pro ranks and successfully snatched up youth sports in its meaty hands.

High school sophomores have entourages, loans are taken out with repayment based on the future athletic career of a kid. Who benefits the most out of the business of youth sports? Not the athletes. No, no, no.

It is the shoe companies and the leagues that profit. You don’t think Kobe Bryant entered the league wearing Adidas because they were the most comfortable shoes he could find. The MLS sold hundreds of thousands of tickets with Adu, and for the past two years the LPGA has been licking their chops for Michelle Wie to finally turn pro so they could begin a full-scale marketing campaign.

But where was the MLS when Adu found himself fighting for playing time on a team that had speedily returned to glory, not because of Adu.

What good were all those promises from the league when Adu was sitting out entire halves, and his team was still winning?

Where was the LPGA when its brand new cash cow was disqualified in her very first tournament based on inconclusive evidence from a reporter? After milking Wie for two years without paying her a cent, the LPGA disqualified her in her first pro match on hearsay.

Where is Nike or Adidas going to be when the AAU stars choose to bathe in their apparel and fail at the next level?

What about the times when a kid could play and excel at a game well into their teens before they had to make decisions that would affect the rest of their lives? What about the times when dollar signs and swooshes didn’t rule the landscape of youth sports? Adieu.

Josh George is a senior in Communications. He can be reached at [email protected] used to be this saying, “For the love of the game.” That was why athletes played sports. Not for fame or fortune. Now they play for the shoe companies.

Now, we have AAU basketball coaches being paid healthy sums of money, middle-aged men betting millions of dollars on unproven 18-year-olds in the NBA to groom them to be the next shoe-deal babies, arguments for paying college players and the revelation of rampant steroid use in high school programs.

What motivation is there for kids to work hard and improve when they constantly have free loaders, sportswear execs, the media and, in some cases, pro leagues telling them how good they are?

Last week, 16-year-old Freddy Adu of the DC United was reported by the Washington Post of complaining about playing time to coach Peter Nowak.

It is not uncommon for players to complain about lack of playing time. It is good to want to play, that is if you want to play to help the team.

Adu, who decided to vent before the opening round of the playoffs, claimed his lack of playing time was hurting his chances of making the 2006 World Cup team.

His motives were completely selfish, mentioning that he felt his playing time did not fairly correlate with his performance on the field, but not once saying how he could help the team make the playoffs.

Adu cannot be blamed for his selfish comments, however. Since he was a pre-teen he has been touted as the best up-and-coming American soccer player.

When he was 14-years-old, he was made the highest paid player on DC United and landed a multimillion-dollar shoe contract.

The MLS, along with DC United, shamelessly boasted that Adu was the best thing for American soccer since Pele and was the key to revitalizing a lagging United team that had won three of the first four league championships.

And then Adu rode the pine. Who wouldn’t be upset sitting on the bench after the greatest buildup in league history?

The business of sports has grasped out from the pro ranks and successfully snatched up youth sports in its meaty hands.

High school sophomores have entourages, loans are taken out with repayment based on the future athletic career of a kid. Who benefits the most out of the business of youth sports? Not the athletes. No, no, no.

It is the shoe companies and the leagues that profit. You don’t think Kobe Bryant entered the league wearing Adidas because they were the most comfortable shoes he could find. The MLS sold hundreds of thousands of tickets with Adu, and for the past two years the LPGA has been licking their chops for Michelle Wie to finally turn pro so they could begin a full-scale marketing campaign.

But where was the MLS when Adu found himself fighting for playing time on a team that had speedily returned to glory, not because of Adu.

What good were all those promises from the league when Adu was sitting out entire halves, and his team was still winning?

Where was the LPGA when its brand new cash cow was disqualified in her very first tournament based on inconclusive evidence from a reporter? After milking Wie for two years without paying her a cent, the LPGA disqualified her in her first pro match on hearsay.

Where is Nike or Adidas going to be when the AAU stars choose to bathe in their apparel and fail at the next level?

What about the times when a kid could play and excel at a game well into their teens before they had to make decisions that would affect the rest of their lives? What about the times when dollar signs and swooshes didn’t rule the landscape of youth sports? Adieu.

Josh George is a senior in Communications. He can be reached at [email protected]