gimme-five | The blog of a busy guy.

TAG | Sports

I don’t like the idea that pro athletes in some sports are required to attend college for a certain number of years to compete in a professional sports league. I started thinking about this recently because the McDonald’s All American game is coming up soon, and there is lots of controversy over agents recruiting high school kids even though they have to go to college for a year before entering the NBA. The requirement that pro athletes attend college before participating in a professional sport is silly and paternalistic.

The argument generally made in favor of this requirement is pro sports leagues have to protect the pro athletes from themselves in case their sports career doesn’t pan out. I don’t buy it. First, these “kids” are 18 when they graduate high school (or will be soon). Hence, they are adults, and they deserve respect, so we should treat them like adults. If they want to bet it all on a sports career: so be it. That’s no different from a high-school graduate trying to become an entrepreneur: we don’t require a college education before starting a business, even though starting a business is inherently riskier than playing in the NBA for a year because if you fail, you’re generally going to be in big-time debt.

Secondly, although many future pro athletes enjoy going to college, there are some that just go because it is a prerequisite to playing in the pro leagues. Those athletes get little out of the classroom experience, and merely go through the motions so they can graduate. Why subject them to this? If a future pro athlete doesn’t care about college, why force him to sit in study halls and go to classes he doesn’t want to go to so he can receive a diploma that he doesn’t care about? Why not let someone who genuinely wants to go to college take his place, and let the future pro athlete do what he wants?

I don’t think my suggestion will result in the destruction of college sports programs. Many future pro athletes really do want to go to college, and voluntarily stay four or five years. I understand the value of college sports programs, and how they bring much needed revenue to many schools, and I don’t think that will change with my suggestion.

I think we should recommend that everyone try to attend college, but to have sports leagues that require future pro athletes do it is just paternalistic and unfair. It’s treating future pro athletes like babies, and it’s keeping people who could take their place who want to get a college education out of the classroom.

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Questioning Conventional Wisdom

Just because something is considered conventional wisdom does not mean it is correct.  Blindly following conventional wisdom can lead to ugly consequences.  It is important to take the time to question conventional wisdom often.

Conventional wisdom exists everywhere.  Conventional wisdom says that children should finish everything on their plate so they can grow up big and strong.  My girlfriend, who is a couple years from becoming a registered dietitian, explained to me recently that forcing a child to finish the food on their plate is a really bad idea if they are not hungry.  The reason is that the brain and stomach train over time to recognize when the stomach is “full” to provide self-regulation to prevent overeating.  However, when someone constantly overeats, the brain loses the ability to self-regulate, because it interprets “full” as more and more with each session of overeating.

Conventional wisdom also says to avoid eating cholesterol, because it increases your body’s cholesterol levels.  However, according to all dietitians and the Harvard School of Public Health:

Cholesterol in the bloodstream is what’s most important. High blood cholesterol levels greatly increase the risk for heart disease. But the average person makes about 75% of blood cholesterol in his or her liver, while only about 25% is absorbed from food. The biggest influence on blood cholesterol level is the mix of fats in the diet.

Conventional wisdom is often wrong in the realm of sports medicine.  I injured my illiotibial band in my left leg this past spring while running.  After taking some time off from running, I started back running again, nice and slow, because the conventional wisdom is that running slow is better for your body when you’re recovering from an injury than running fast.  Well, the pain came back pretty quickly and I had to take more time off.  Subsequently, I read an article about illiotibial band syndrome at an excellent website which described that the conventional wisdom of running slow to recover from an IT band injury might be wrong.  The author cited a few studies and suggested that running fast puts less strain on the IT band than running slow due to the fact that a runner’s stride changes depending on how fast he or she is running.  When I started running again, I tried running faster, rather than slower, during my recovery period, and I felt virtually no pain, and I have been running for about six months without pain since.  Although there are plenty of complicating factors like the amount of time I took off from running, etcetera, there is strong likelihood that running fast rather than slow helped speed my recovery.

Conventional wisdom also exists in regard to the economy.  Many people have a belief that you hurt the US economy if you buy foreign products.  Yet 95% of economists support free trade [see a few sample articles].

I could go on.  The point is obvious: conventional wisdom is not always correct.  Additionally, if we follow it blindly, we could be hurting our children, our health, our economy, and more.  I encourage gimme-five’s readers to avoid following conventional wisdom without thinking about it for themselves.

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