JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

Bryce Harper—noooooooooooooooooooo

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Just found out that Bryce Harper, the 16-year-old baseball phenom who was recently on Sports Illustrated’s cover, will be skipping his last two years of high school.

Wait—I just vomited. Let me write that again …

Just found out that Bryce Harper, the 16-year-old baseball phenom who was recently on Sports Illustrated’s cover, will be skipping his last two years of high school.

I wish I were making this up. Really, I do. But here’s the story, straight from SI.com. I, for one, am psyched!

Let’s be honest here—why should Bryce Harper attend his final two years of high school, when he can be adding a couple of seasons to what promises to be a professional career chock full of cliches, yawns, repetition, brainlessness and Hooters visits? The sooner Harper arrives at his first professional stop, the sooner he can stop using his brain for such trivial pursuits as, say, math and English. Instead of attending his senior prom, he can attend $1 beer nights at Thee Doll House in Tampa (or Miami. There are two!). Instead of maturing alongside his peers and with the help of teachers, he can mature alongside this guy, with the help of a manager.

Great!

Seriously, will someone please tell me what Ron Harper, Bryce’s father, is doing? I understand there’s big money to be made. I understand your kid loves baseball. I understand that guys like Kobe and LeBron and K.G. provide glimmering examples of this sort of thing working out. I just don’t get what the rush is; why you need to rob your kid of his golden, once-it’s-gone-you-never-get-it-back youth in order to add more time to his not-nearly-as-exciting-as-you’d-think professional baseball career. If Harper is good enough, he’ll be drafted very high out of high school, and then he can go on to a long and successful run of professional bliss. But to do this to the kid … to make this sort of decision, well, it doesn’t merely reek of bad judgement.

It reeks of Gary Coleman V. his parents.

Because the complaint has been repeated so often, we tend to poo-poo it when people talk about society losing its perspective, RE: sports. But it’s true—we’ve gone absolutely, positively crazy. Every parent wants his kids to achieve college sports scholarships. Every Little League coach is harassed by some idiot dad demanding to know why Junior isn’t starting at short. There’s this perverse idea that, if one becomes a professional athlete, it means life will be blissful and dazzling and, frankly, perfect.

Well, I’ve seen that life up close. Yes, the money is good, and the perks are nice. But it’s a profession I pray neither of my kids pursue. The sports world frowns upon curiosity and free-thought. You are a robot—show up at 2, lift at 3, run at 4, stretch at 4:30, etc … etc. Yes, you might get to travel to Rome or Athens or Moscow or Paris, but 99% of that time is spent in a hotel room. Or on a court. Or a field.

Personally, I want my kids to crave life; to see everything, experience everything; try this; try that. Athletes rarely follow such a path.

They’re too busy being, well, athletes.