Words That Should Be Heard By The Next Class of Pro Athletes
Every once in a while you read something that leaves a lasting impression. Such was the case 24 years ago when my favorite columnist of all-time, Rick Reilly wrote “Speaking of Class to the Class of ’98 in his regular space in Sports Illustrated. Of course it’s a bit dated but the message still resonates which is why I bring it out every couple of years and I have modified for timing purposes:
Thank you, graduates. Please be seated. It’s an honor to address the college athletes who are going 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 (now PS4) and open a book. We already have enough jocks who think the Brothers Karamazov are the WWF tag-team champs. If you ever find 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. Now that you’ve made it, practice twice as long as you did in college. If you write a book, read it before it comes out. Be careful with your money. Shock the world. Apologize when you screw up. Never, ever rip a teammate. Stop thumping your chest.
See the woman up there in section 595, row WW, seat 29? She makes $26,000 a year (remember this is 1998), paid $22 a ticket for her family and just plunked down $17 for three Cokes and a warm beer (the beer would be $17 by itself now). 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 (see picture below). This just in: Your can do community service without being sentenced. Try it. This is the career you picked. If you can’t handle public scrutiny or deal with strangers graciously, become a taxidermist. Help your opponent up. He’ll probably be your teammate next year.
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 OK? So what if your Oakley deal fell through. We’ll start a telethon.
These same words (with a couple of updates) would be perfect for college athletes entering the pro ranks in 2022.
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