We begin today with a fairy tale and it goes something like this:
Once upon a time, athletes in the United States competed for nothing more than the human drama of athletic competition and for the glory of God and country.
And they did so in a land populated with unicorns and teddy bears with rivers flowing with chocolate and streams of cherry limeade.
And then we all woke up and got real and professional sports leagues were formed.
But some of us continued to live, or at least tried to keep living, in Fairy Tale Land, in a world where athletes who are not in the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, the NHL or other leagues still wouldn’t be paid.
These bridge trolls, these wicked stepmothers continue to try to keep Olympic and college athletes from getting paid for their labors.
Eventually, some of those villains came to see the light, especially as it applies to the Olympics.
Not only have NBA, Major League Baseball and NHL players played and won Olympic gold in recent years, but athletes in a variety of lower-profile sports who are professionals now compete in the Winter and Summer Games.
The one area where fantasy continues to overwhelm reality is in college sports, as a hardy bunch relentlessly holds on to the notion that intercollegiate athletes should receive nothing more than a scholarship, room and board.
How thoroughly quaint! How hopelessly misguided!
The model of so-called amateurism that has governed American thinking for nearly 150 years just doesn’t work anymore and certainly not for the athletes, who see the billions of dollars flowing into college coffers and wonder where their cut is.
As we mentioned in a recent program, college basketball is going through a crisis, largely of its own making, as the underbelly of the game, with illicit payments and benefits, is coming to light, and threatening to mar the upcoming men’s tournament.
The revelation of payments comes at a time when the NCAA, the governing body of college sports, has convened a blue-ribbon panel, to look at where basketball is and where it should go.
Chaired by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the committee is empowered to make recommendations to NCAA president Mark Emmert.
I’ve got one: The NCAA should get rid of its rule that a college basketball player who signs with an agent immediately forfeits his or her remaining eligibility.
It’s that rule, and not the NBA rule that bars entry to players before their high school class has been out at least a year, that is an impediment to making things work.
Kids ought to be able to test the professional market and return to college to play if they’re not ready for the NBA, just as they do in other walks of life.
And here’s another recommendation: Pay every single college athlete a stipend of sorts. We can negotiate whether non-revenue producing sport athletes should get the same as athletes in sports that bring in the cash.
But there’s more than enough television money from football and basketball to make it happen.
We’re way past the days of bridge trolls and unicorns. It’s time our athletic reality reflected that.
And that’s how I see it for this week.