- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 3, 2001

As predicted, America's teens no longer are embracing the enlightening properties of photosynthesis.

They know the truth now, and the NBA is the truth. They want to be like Kwame, the $12 million teen, and being able to relate to a house plant is not going to help the process, not even a teeny bit.

So America's teens are throwing away their summer reading lists in anticipation of the NBA Draft next June. They are all coming out early next year, including the managers from all the high school basketball teams.

The Chicken Littles warned us. They told us the education system would crash after the 47 early entry candidates from America's colleges and high schools made themselves available to the NBA last week.

They cried so hard for the 47, and not because 47 is a statistically significant number in a nation of 283 million. They cried because of the message. They cried because of the 5-foot-2 power forwards who would drop their high school books in pursuit of the NBA's vast riches. They cried because of SirValiant Brown, that paragon of academic competence who left George Washington University after two seasons, only to go undrafted.

Now what happens to him? Boo-hoo. Maybe he will spend the rest of his life in the fetal position. Or maybe he is doomed to be in the food-service industry, relegated to asking, "Would you like super-size fries with your Big Mac?"

If so, you are obligated to ache all over for SirValiant. You must feel his pain. Life in America is so hard, so unfair, so unforgiving, and even those in Calcutta, when they are not going hungry, worry about the future of the NBA and college basketball. They worry about America and the education system.

Give the Chicken Littles credit. They were right. America's education system is hemorrhaging students because of Kwame's $12 million. Even the geeks are dribbling a basketball now. They might have been the next Bill Gates. Instead, they are pumping weights and working on their spin moves to the basket, and America's

future is in jeopardy.

Who will invent the next gadget? Who will keep tabs on China? Other than SirValiant, who will fill your next fast-food order?

It is a new day in America, just as the Chicken Littles said it would be, and there is no turning back. We as a people are putting all our basketballs into one basket, and we can't possibly sustain ourselves this way. It was 47 misguided neophytes last week. One day it could be 470 million. It is scary stuff, alarming.

Someone has to go to school in order to learn how to check our eyes, ears and throats. Is Dr. J destined to be the last doctor in the house?

Fortunately, there is Mexico, the unofficial 51st state of America. They are not loco about basketball in Mexico, only soccer, and maybe, our friends there can provide the human resources to counter the basketball drain on the American way of life.

The numbers do not lie, starting with the 29-team NBA, where there are 348 roster spots. At the pseudo-professional Division I college level, the game beckons approximately 4,200 participants in 319 programs.

To look at it another way, the number of basketball entertainers in the pro and college ranks comes out to about 22 percent of the enrollment at SirValiant's former institution, which is barely a drop in the human bucket.

America is the only country in the world that can hand $12 million to a teen and worry that it is a social catastrophe. Perhaps that is because America is fat, sassy and has immunized itself in large measure from the usual threats to the human experience. It seems America sometimes has nothing better to do with its spare time than fret over the teats on a boar hog.

Basketball is not unimportant, just not nearly as important as the myopic thinkers in the basketball environment imagine it to be. Some athletes use the sport. Others let it use them.

Either way, the Beltway is jammed with work-a-day dreamers, many of whom, believe it or not, don't known Kwame Brown from Chucky Brown. Nor should they. Neither speaks to their interests or experiences.

A kid makes it in basketball. A kid does not make it. Ho-hum. Life moves forward.

To be honest, life in America is not all that demanding or complex.

Here's the three-step deal: Go to school. Get a job. Show up each day.

Is that too much to achieve?

If it is, should we cry, however embarrassing and out of proportion it is to a larger reality?

Perhaps we cry just to cry, because it is always safer to cry in print or on the airwaves than it is to express the obvious, which is: "Good for the basketball-playing kids, and other than that, who really cares?"

Go to 7-Eleven. Go to Wal Mart. Go to the shopping mall.

You see the kids behind the counter, and they are not earning $12 million the next three years.

They ask, "Can I help you?"

But you are in no position to accept their help.

You are crying. You are weeping.

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