Wednesday April 29th, 2009

Since the Olympics freed its athletes from the serfdom of amateurism, the only place on the face of the earth where sports are still big time, big money, but where the athletes are forced to play without pay is our American college football and basketball. Everywhere else, if there's real money involved, the athletes get their fair share -- just like the coaches and promoters and television networks and the guys who sell peanuts and popcorn.

But in the U.S., not only are our young football and basketball players forced to play without pay, but the NCAA cartel is in cahoots with the pro leagues so that a star athlete has to donate his time to some college for at least a year. This is not only a bonanza for the lucky college but also then for the NBA or the NFL -- because the pros profit by the publicity the star earned when he had to play for free while his coach pocketed millionaire money.

Football players don't really have any choice but to go to college and fatten themselves up for the NFL, but a trickle of independent-minded young basketball players are beginning to challenge the system. Of course, they have to leave the idealistic, capitalistic United States for socialistic old Europe to make an honest living, but a couple have already dared to be pioneers.

Last year, a high-school graduate named Brandon Jennings decided to skip mandatory college ball and make a couple million dollars playing in Rome. He's struggled in the Italian pros, but that's really beside the point. What mattered is that he had the guts to take a chance, and he's slated to be selected sixth or seventh in the NBA draft this year. Now, a bright high-school junior in San Diego named Jeremy Tyler is planning to take the same route.

Naturally, some coaches and NCAA sycophants are bewailing this turn of events -- but that's to be expected. It's just like it was in the pros when players first brought in agents or fought for free agency. The guys in charge always want to subjugate athletes, to maintain their own sweet advantage.

The case of American college football and basketball is all the more egregious now because coerced amateurism has everywhere else been discredited. The two high-profit American team sports are the only rotten boroughs left, and we can only root for the young players brave enough to challenge an anarchistic and antiquated system.

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