When I was a kid I dreamed of being a professional athlete.
When we lived in Brazil I wanted to play soccer for Flamengo at Maracana Stadium. As a Balti-moron I grew up wanting to throw the pigskin with my boyhood idols Tom Matte and the great Johnny U.
I worked on my patented half-court hook so whenever the Celtics called I was ready to bury the shot at the buzzer. And I envisioned myself diving to my right to stop a screaming line drive up the third base line, pushing myself up to my knees and firing a one-hopper to the first baseman just in time to catch the speedy runner just as my favorite sports person of all time, Brooks Robinson, used to do in his sleep.
Then reality set in. I never had the speed to play professional soccer or any professional sport for that matter. My softball teammates still tease me that I had to use the pitcher as my cutoff man to get the ball from third to first, and I hated playing football for the two weeks that I could stick it out. The only one I may still have a chance to do is my half-court hook, but even that's a bit rusty these days.
As a parent, things didn't change with my first born. My wife and I, like most of our friends and practically every sports parent on any little league field or court across the country, thought we were raising the next great hope at any of the sports that our kids chose to play.
Like my own professional sports goals, those as a parent too went by the wayside. Mike never grew up to play with the USA Eagles Rugby team, Ryan's high school soccer experience squashed any thought of playing sports at the next leve,l and Matt as a freshman has already told us he won't have time in veterinary school to play college sports so his "career" ends with high school.
I don't have a calculator that can add that high, but if it would it would be quite an alarming amount of money we've spent on club sports beginning in 1999 and sometimes having at least two of our boys participating in club level sports at the same time during the same season. Think about the uniform expense, the club, league, tournament, referee, training, equipment, and all of the hospitality charges like hotel rooms and dinners on the road.
And during a good part of that time we were driving my 42-gallon Suburban at 12 miles per gallon when the gas was above $4 per gallon.
Last weekend as we were preparing for our fantasy football draft, my wife and I were counting the many options we had available to us at each round when it hit us that although it seemed like a lot of choices, the reality was that each team only carried 53 roster spots. Across the 32 NFL teams, that's just under 1,700 NFL-caliber players; In the NBA, there are 13 spots on 30 teams making just under 400 players; for Major League Baseball they are allowed to have a 25 man active roster on the 30 teams so add another 750; and just because I'm a soccer nut, let's throw in the 18 active players on the 20 Major League Soccer teams for another 360 professional athletes.
Of the four major sports in our country, there are 3,196 active roster spots available for people that seek to make their money playing professional sports. And if you do a quick check of their rosters, not all of those athletes are from the USAl many in fact call their home on foreign soil.
Even if only American citizens were allowed to be offered spots on our professional sports rosters, how does that number stack up to the almost 320 MILLION people we have in our country? The opportunity to land on a professional sports roster is so miniscule yet we all, and don't lie to yourself — WE ALL have visions of our kids playing professional sports and leaving generational wealth for many years to come.
I remember a soccer mom sending me an email years ago telling me she was moving her kid to the Wolves so he could get a collage scholarship.
Yes, collage, not college.
I'm assuming he wasn't an art student where he could have majored in "collage" in college.
American writer Robert M. Hutchins wrote, "The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives." We should all learn that the money spent in education is far more valuable than the money we spend on recreational sports.
For some of us, it just takes a little longer.