Better not be like Derrick | Bleader

Better not be like Derrick


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There is, I fear, something about sun, sea, and sand that makes it easy to snicker at the sweaty-palmed fretting of the distant north. As the five of us sipped coffee Thursday morning and breakfasted on the fruit that hangs from the trees that grow along the Caribbean coast of Honduras, my daughter Laura read aloud from her iPod.

She'd been seeking the latest NBA scores. She came across a headline from the Chicago Tribune: "Derrick Rose is no role model." Was it necessary to read another word? The ultimate accolade to which a black professional athlete can aspire is the headline advising "Michael Jordan is no role model" or "Barry Bonds is no role model" or "Walter Payton is no role model." (As happened to Ron Santo, Payton received his most priceless honor posthumously.)

But Laura read on. The writer, Mark Yost, identified as someone who lives in the Chicago area and has written a book on corruption in college sports, didn't make a single point that we couldn't have listed beforehand on one of the paper napkins that this charming little resort, Tranquility Bay in Trujillo, sets on the tables stacked in conches. Rose only played a year of college, and apparently cheated to get in. He hasn't won anything yet. (Yost sneered at those inevitable whipping boys, the "local news media," who "of course . . . have added to the Cult of Rose, who has yet to lead his team to an NBA title, by comparing him to Michael Jordan, who won six." Apparently they should be comparing him to Norm Van Lier or Reggie Theus.)

But Yost's ultimate and most completely predictable point was that inner-city black kids simply should not be encouraged to get their hopes up.

Yost: "Of all the kids in America who play high school basketball, about 3 percent end up getting college scholarships. Of that sliver, about 2 percent ever have a meaningful NBA career. Those are the facts—for baseball, basketball and football. But every day, parents, coaches and recruiters tell kids that if they work hard at their sport, they, too, can be Derrick Rose. For the vast majority of them, that's simply never going to happen."

This message cannot be repeated too often—not to inner city black kids, almost none of whom will be reading Yost's thumbsucker, but to sanctimonious middle-class whites who like knowing that somebody out there is speaking truth to hope. Yost ended by somehow holding the president of the United States vaguely to blame: "President Barack Obama—and anyone else who cares about children—should not be telling them to be like Derrick Rose. They can do better."

Is that what Obama is telling them? Is his message—too subliminal for the likes of me and my family—that we live in a great country where anyone can grow up to be an NBA star? If I suggested that his message to the inner-city black kids of America is that anyone can grow up to be president, would Yost petulantly point out that there have been fewer than four dozen presidents in all of American history, only one of them black, and any kid who aspired to the White House would do better to play the lottery instead, or try to become a professional basketball player?

Enough of this. The rest of the family's swimming.

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