Speaking Of Class To The Class of '98

May 24, 1998

Thank you, graduates. Please be seated. It's an honor to address
the college athletes who are going on to the pros this year. If
I may, I'd like to offer just a few pieces of advice.

Every now and again turn off Nintendo, shut off Spectravision
and open a book. We already have enough jocks who think the
Brothers Karamazov are the WWF tag-team champs.

If you ever hear yourself saying, "They offered me $81 million?
That's an insult!" find a tire iron, go into a quiet room and
hit yourself very hard on the shin.

Marry someone who has never heard of you.

Now that you've made it, practice twice as long as you did in
college. The hardest worker in the NBA is Michael Jordan. What
does that tell you?

If you write a book, read it before it comes out.

Be careful with your money. Write your own checks. None of this
power-of-attorney crap. Get an agent and a lawyer, and tell each
the other's a crook.

Shock the world: Apologize when you screw up.

Don't buy a Vanderbilt mansion just because you can. Do you know
how many 50-room jock palaces I've been in with two rooms' worth
of furniture?

Never, ever rip a teammate.

Spread the jing around. There's nothing uglier than a man in a
$3,000 Armani stiffing a coat-check girl.

O.K., so you didn't grow up with a father. Then go be one. Make
a difference in the life of one kid who is not your own, and
it'll give you more joy than a lifetime shoe contract.

Just a reminder: You will die someday.

Stop thumping your chest. The line blocked, the quarterback
threw you a perfect spiral while getting his head knocked off,
and the good receiver drew double coverage. Get over yourself.

Give the bodyguard the night off once in a while and wade into
the people. Some are sort of cool.

Loosen up a little with the quotes. This isn't a congressional
budget hearing. Why say, "I really was shooting well today" when
you could say, "I was hotter than a three-dollar pistol."

Once a season, let your offensive guard spike the ball.

See the woman up there in section 595, row WW, seat 29? She
makes $26,000 a year, paid $22 a ticket for her family and just
plunked down $17 for three Cokes and a warm beer. Treat her
nice. Without her, you're a 320-pound bouncer with half a P.E.
degree.

Go easy on the tattoos. By the time you're 60, that hula girl on
your biceps is going to look like Don Knotts.

This just in: You can do community service without being
sentenced. Try it. Have somebody leak it to the media. There are
worse things than people seeing a millionaire painting an old
lady's house.

Learn the piano. Try another language. Take up origami. It's
hard for you to believe now, but someday people are going to get
sick of hearing about the crosscourt forehand that beat Sampras.

Once a year take your free tickets, walk through the stands in
your uniform, go outside the ballpark and give them to the kids
hanging on the fence.

Remember, these are all just games. Hale Irwin missed a two-inch
putt that cost him the British Open. What are you going to do?
Go soak in your Olympic-sized hot tub and laugh about it.

This is the career you picked. If you can't handle public
scrutiny or deal with strangers graciously, become a taxidermist.

Read everything written about you, good or bad. Then forget
about it. No matter what you do, half the people will worship
you and half will detest you. You can't fight it.

Help your opponent up. He'll probably be your teammate next year.

No offense, but when you're setting off the airport metal
detector from the back of the line, you might have on too much
jewelry.

For the next 10 years or so, you'll travel the world first
class, laugh yourself sore on the team bus and get paid half of
Zurich, so let's not hear a lot of whining, O.K.? So what if
your Oakley deal fell through. We'll start a telethon.

One last thing. Remember when you were a kid? All you dreamed of
was playing centerfield for the New York Yankees. Soon, you'll
be there. Don't forget to tingle.

B/W PHOTO: ROBERT BECK [Rick Reilly]

This is the career you picked. If you can't handle public
scrutiny, become a taxidermist.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)