Weep not for college football and the American Way now that Herschel Walker has gone pro. Think not of what this could mean for the great American sport of football or for sportmanship or even, considering that Walker lied about his intentions, for good old honesty. Weep instead for the suckers who believe that they could be like Herschel Walker. Weep for a whole lot of kids.
Weep, especially, for the ones who think that sports is a way out of the ghetto, that it is the path to big bucks, not to mention respect. They are the ones who are snookered on sports to begin with, who think that it is an alternative to education. That is the lesson taught by the Walker incident-- maybe not by him, but certainly by the many spokesmen for college football who've proved once again that they have jocks for brains.
I am sorry if you detect a note of cynicism here, but there is no escaping the conclusion that big-time football does nothing but corrode college life. It has nothing to do with education, which is what college is supposed to be about, except in the sense that it mocks it. You can not be both a semipro player and a full-time student. No one has that kind of time. Even in college, the day has just 24 hours.
So what if Walker goes pro after just three years? He was going to go pro anyway, and he was not at Georgia to get an education. Everyone knows that. He was at Georgia to play football and he left after three years because Georgia cannot pay him what the New Jersey Generals can: something like $5 million. That's big money, the sort of money only the pros, or maybe Texas A&M, can afford, and you can not blame Walker for reaching for it early. He has but one asset and it is his body. With every year, it depreciates.
Walker, at least, knew exactly what he was doing. There is no hypocrisy to the man. You cannot say the same for the collection of hypocritical football coaches and college administrators who are weeping now about what Walker's decision will mean to college football. They know what it could mean. It could mean that colleges will have to compete with the pros for the services of some very big men. As it is now, colleges only have to compete with one another. They have been getting by on the cheap.
But what is really dismaying is how the discussion is about eligibility-- about sports. Not a word, you will notice, about education. Nothing said about how Walker will not be at good old U. of Georgia next year--not on the field, but not in class for crying out loud. Not a word about his studies, about the value of education and how, just possibly, it might come in handy when, as Bill Stern either said or should have said, Walker hangs up his spikes for the last time. Instead we get tears about who is going to fill the stadium. Doesn't anyone remember what college is supposed to be about?
Maybe Walker is a very smart guy and maybe he will never need a degree. Maybe he is one of those rare persons who either will educate himself or will not be bettered by more knowledge. But if he is not, he has simply reinforced the view that sports and not education is what pays off. This is certainly the case for Walker, but it is not the case for your average kid--not even your exceptional kid. Sports will make only a very few people rich. There is just not that much room at the top. For most kids, sports is just another way to stay at the bottom.
You can not blame Walker for doing what he did. He was schooled by people who have little regard for education and tutored at institutions that have prostituted themselves to sports. And certainly he can not be blamed for failing to live up to my expectations or for refusing to be a role model. He has his own life to lead.
All you can do, really, is wonder how his decision looks down on the street corner where sports, because it's fun, is venerated, while learning, because it's hard and not much fun, is ignored. The whole Walker episode does nothing to contradict any of that. At one point in all this, Herschel Walker lied. But it was nothing compared to the lie big-time college sports tells kids every day.