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The Brilliance of Mark Cuban: Let ’em play and pay ’em for it

Mark Cuban has the right idea about the NBADL.

Mark Cuban has the right idea about the NBADL.

Mark Cuban knows how to get things going. The Dallas Mavericks owner and  part-time shark said recently that high school basketball stars should consider jumping directly to the NBA’s Developmental League, rather than going to college for one or two seasons before declaring for the NBA Draft.

This, apparently, is a brand-new concept to people in the basketball business. Representatives on both sides–NBA and NCAA–from Charles Barkley and Jerry West to Bruce Pearl and Larry Brown have denounced this as a ridiculous concept that will surely result in the Apocalypse … of basketball.

The Cubes has it right.

Proponents of the college game tout “the college experience” as something uniquely beneficial to these athletes. “They get certain life skills and gain an appreciation for academics with the rest of the student body.” (Not a real quote, more of a gist). Stop it. The college experience for a premier men’s basketball player is nothing like that of the average pinky toe of the student body. While they all likely have been told that they have what it takes to make it to the NBA, there are a definitive few who can legitimately cut class three years early. Those players show up, play ball, and leave. They can’t earn a degree in that time and they know it. So, while they may even get legit grades, they do it with a course load that is geared to get grades. Their goal isn’t to graduate, it’s to pass (the time). And I don’t fault them for that; the system allows it and even promotes it.

Talking heads say the college game is the best at preparing players for the NBA. If they are true student-athletes, why is it the school’s job to prepare them for a life that does not require the degree? Shouldn’t it be to prepare them for a career off the court and, if they happen to make it to the league then so be it? Truth is, universities spend millions of dollars on trying to find and develop the best basketball players they can so the school’s colors can stain television screens in March. If they happen to graduate the so be it.

The perception of the D-League is that of an empty gym for oft-injured veterans and raw prospects to give it a go. It’s basketball limbo with C-minus talent in cities that aren’t quite “destinations” with crowds closer to semi-pro wrestling. So what? The disdain with which the D-League is talked about confuses me because no other minor league gets the same treatment.

Cito Culver

Cito Culver

Meanwhile, a 17-year-old kid named Cito Culver was drafted in the first round by the New York Yankees in 2010.  No one batted an eye. He since has yet to get past the Single-A level. He’s barely 20 and will never know the college experience, but nobody worried he was making the wrong decision. Maybe his career .238 batting average is just the coming-of-age portion of his baseball biography. Maybe at 21, 22, 23 or 24 he’ll break into the league and enjoy a 10-year career. Or maybe he’ll fade into minor league purgatory, forgotten before he could be remembered.

Baseball and hockey have made stories like that OK. It’s part of the culture of those sports. The NBA would do well to develop something similar–the kind of indifference to the eventual outcome that helps scouts, fans, athletes and their parents sleep at night.

Ideally, the D-League and other minor leagues would make a college fund part of any player’s initial contract. A player could come out of high school, earn a paycheck to play basketball, and earn added money that can only be used to pay a tuition. The truly great players who make a name for themselves in high school would be free to sign endorsement deals, and then join the NBA a year or two years later. And follow baseball’s lead: If a player opts to go to college after they’ve been drafted in high school, they are required to wait three years before becoming draft eligible again.

In the end, the NBA has the power to make this happen at the great expense of the fleeting NCAA. The governing body of college sports has taken so many hits over the past decade that it seems a perfect time for a break-up. The NBA is a business, and the NCAA is a business that clings to a poorly held-together notion of altruism that is all but evaporated. The first time a major college prospect opts for the D-League instead of Duke, makes some cash, and becomes an NBA star, consider the floodgates opened.

And thank Mark Cuban.

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Fit at 30: A guide to fitness from a guy who’s not that fit

I’m 30. For another week, I’m 30. Then I’m 31. I have an email in to a local professor to confirm that 32 comes next, but I have yet to get a reply. If this trend continues, in nine years I’ll be exactly nine years older.

#AgeHappens.

That’s my new hashtag; tried it a little while ago and was rewarded with a “Favorite” from my favorite professor back at Ithaca College, Brian Sweany. I’m pretty sure he was only there for two years before returning to Texas, but I’m glad those two years came when I was around. He’s favorited or retweeted a handful of my tweets over the past few years, but, whatevs.

“Hit the gym this morning. Turns out I’m 30. #AgeHappens”

Brian was, I believe, in his early 30s when he was at the front of my classroom in Park, and I assume he’s aged at the same rate that I have. He’s got kids, a career in journalism, a life, and I don’t know much more about him than that. But the fact he’s been 30 longer than I have tells me he gets it.

I’ve never been and never will be one to freak out when February 18 comes around again and my cake requires two breaths to put out the inferno of candles. I embrace growing older as long as I don’t have to grow up. While some men are excited to come home to “Dinner’s ready!” from their wives, my favorite Welcome Home Moment so far is:

“Hey, baby, I loaded all of your Nerf guns for you.” She’s the best.

True story. No kids yet (myself notwithstanding) but I’m pumped about that idea and being childish with them. I figure I take my age and their age, split the difference, and we’ll have a blast building forts and blaming the cat for knocking over a vase.

But today, age happened. I recently bought my father-in-law’s workout bench, which he brought over this past weekend. After spending some time online searching for the best exercises, best time of day to lift and best time to eat (before or after), I got back to getting fit.

I should preface with my fitness background: 6-feet tall, 182 pounds (personal high), three-sport athlete in high school (football, boxing and lacrosse), athletic but not a student-athlete in college, spurts of regular exercise after graduation, turned to running and can comfortably run 5 miles right now. Completing my first and only half-marathon in an hour and 45 minutes stands as my proudest athletic feat. I’m not in bad shape, I just don’t work at it, like a lot of the over-30s out there.

So, with my boombox set up in the basement tuned to ESPN Radio, I got started … again. I outlined a list of stretches (even more crucial now) and then hit the bench. The weight won’t impress anyone for 3 sets of traditional bench press and some inclined press, then some legs (extensions and curls), some triceps and I’m sure some other muscles. I don’t know a lot about what I’m doing but I’m glad I’m doing it. I carry amateur status at best.

I want to be in shape, but the most healthy aspect of mine right now is perspective. When I was 16, 17, 18, I wondered why I wasn’t 30 pounds heavier and jacked despite a pretty consistent workout regimen. I resented it for the longest time that my body refused to put on weight beyond 160 pounds. I hated thinking that I would be a great athlete if I could just be bigger. Now I’m 30, and I get it. I didn’t have to be 200 pounds back then and I certainly don’t need that now. I’m not just comfortable, I’m happy knowing what my body is and what it can be.

So I hit the gym. And it turns out I am definitely 30. I’m sore, and the weights don’t weigh that much but for some reason are heavier than I remember. But this is what I want and how I want to be. Instead of having dreams of athletic glory, I have goals of being healthy; of carrying 1 to 3 kids until they don’t want to be carried anymore because they’re all grown up at age 5 and they don’t need me anymore. Apparently, #AgeHappens to them, too.

If you’ve got any tips for at-home exercise, drop me a line. I’m still considering CrossFit and a future post may or may not exist to that end. For now, I’ll be on the Bayer Smoothy diet.

The difference between the definition of a word and its meaning

I’m tempted to use someone else’s words — a quote — to describe how I feel about words. But I have plenty of my own. Might as well use ’em.

Words don’t create meaning. This is a common misconception I’ve found among people who often can’t say what they mean because the meanings of words don’t fit how they think or feel. On the contrary, meaning creates words. Meaning came before words, not the other way around.

Someone breathed and realized that the act of inhaling was a thing. It needed a name. Breathing. To Breathe. I breathe. Before they knew it, the meaning was not just the word “breathe” but also “I” … “I am a thing and I can do something. I breathe.”

Suddenly, I’m a thing, and there are other things I do. And they all need words.

I’m not a linguist, but I hope this is how languages were born:

“When two people love each other very much, and those two people have no clue how to say what they mean, they come up with words that come as close as they can to those shared concepts and agree that those will work.”

This is my evidence that words don’t create meaning. I breathe and you breathe, but we are not the same. I love and you love, but we do not love the same.  Our definitions are similar at best (enough to pass as tools for a society to work) because our individual meanings are unique.  When you don’t have the words to say what you mean, it’s because you’re starting with the meaning of words instead of the meaning of what you think or feel.

Words are given so much power, they are so heavy that we fear our intended meaning is not enough to support them. Love. Hate. Yes. No. Always. Never. But what I meant was …

This means something different to you than it does to me even though we read the same words. It’s not because we don’t agree on what the words mean, but on what I mean when I use them.

I either used 355 words to say something or nothing about words. It depends on what it means to you.

Note: My posts won’t be like this all the time. In fact, this may never happen again. Or it might. I don’t know, I’ve got a lot of words. Sports, politics, arguments that they should change the word “airport” to “plane station” – these all can happen.