- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Many of us in the toy department worry so each spring over the basketball-playing options of a select few.

We wax eloquently on the intrinsic value of a college education. We don’t stop there. We also discuss the value of an undergraduate staying in school to hone his basketball fundamentals. And we trot out examples of those who possibly could have benefited from another season of mastering the game’s fundamentals.

This is all very comical, considering the mega-millions that are awarded to the fortunate few. In the instant it takes to sign a contract, these young men become far more wealthy than those commenting on the decision. With one masterful stroke of an ink pen, these young men are guaranteed far more loot than the commentators will earn in a lifetime.

So who are we to question their judgment, except as the “perfect people” we pretend to be, the term so aptly coined by coach Bob Knight?

But this is the phony game we play and not just in sports.

We also are military experts, although most of us have a viscerally negative reaction to all things military.

We are not unlike John Kerry in that regard. How stupid can you be to join the military? You must be one of those gun-toting, feminist-hating aliens from the red states.

We also are global-warming experts and can pontificate endlessly on the impending apocalypse before mankind because we have taken the time to interview all the right scientists, many of whom make their living off the federal trough.

This is checkbook science, which is in the company of checkbook journalism. We never seem able to connect these dots.

Remember, too, don’t be a global-warming denier. If so, you are no better than the vertically challenged Iranian leader who denies the Holocaust.

This is the value of having a college education. It enables you to have deep insights into the human condition. It allows you to look into the soul of a young man from afar and tell him that staying in school is the wise choice.

We do not spend one second fretting over all the rest who leave college prematurely each year. Funny. This sizable group does not advance to the riches of the NBA. No, this group joins the workforce in one capacity or another or hangs out in the comfort of mommy and daddy’s home until an epiphany is reached.

Here is the truth. You take the NBA’s money and run up and down the 94 feet of hardwood as much as necessary. A college degree? A college degree is merely a piece of paper that indicates you are capable of regurgitating all the gasbags’ lesson plans.

Your actual value in the marketplace will be determined by many more things than a piece of paper.

It is true that not every young man is ready for the NBA.

To be honest, some young men are not ready for much of anything, other than a keg party. But we concern ourselves with only the few looking to join the NBA.

That is just the way it is. But if you had to choose between the two, you would prefer to be the young man who is not ready for the NBA because at least then you would have the security of a fat contract.

Here is what I tell the young who are not academically oriented: Pick up a hammer or paintbrush. Learn a couple of trades and America will be yours.

You work whatever hours you like, you set your rates and you hit those with multiple degrees as hard as you want. And they will pay because most are utterly baffled the moment something goes wrong in their homes.

You sometimes are amused at what rises to the level of an issue in America.

A young man leaves college early to sign a multimillion-dollar contract. A shoe company looks to lavish more millions on him.

The poor thing.

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