Friday, May 17, 2013

An Athlete Caste

As sports have become more about bigger, stronger, faster, there is a higher premium on the genetic component of athletes. You can't teach height. You can't teach speed. Those are refrains for scouts and coaches across America. It is also at the center of all of those scouts who speak of upside, potential, burst, and other intangible qualities that still reflect on the physical gifts of an athlete (unlike leadership). The job openings in professional athletics are incredibly small, so you need a combination of hitting the genetic lottery for physical gifts as well as coordination gifts as well as dedicated training. Does this open sports up to a potential dynasty or caste like future? If the Golden State Warriors backcourt is any indication, then yes, this will be seen more and more in the future of professional sports.

The NBA playoffs showcased for America a back court duo that is a prime example of genetic elitism. Stephen Curry + Klay Thompson* make up the dynamic duo for the Warriors. Both have former NBA player fathers and Division One volleyball playing mothers. They also have siblings who are or will be in the NBA, and Curry has a sister who will be playing volleyball in college. While their parents didn't act as Marinovich like as Shabazz Muhammad's dad, there is the genetic background plus the knowledge of what it takes as well as networking to get their sons in front of scouts. Stephen Curry's NCAA performance was enough for his brother to get bumped from Liberty to Duke, so visibility does matter. There will also be a draw to these guys as the credible dad can work in their favor, borrowing from Duke's recruiting strategy. Kid with athletic gifts from a stable home and a dad who has been there? Great, let's recruit him, and suddenly he is sucked into the sports pipeline system.

There is another reason to predict that this will rise, and that is money. Maybe in past decades, the money might not have been an edge over the grind and future health concerns, but when millions in endorsements alone are possible, why not push your kid? The money is so good that players will realize the power of guiding their kid towards sports. The NBA has roughly 360 jobs. Muhammad's family is full of elite athletes. Kobe Bryant, the Currys, the Thompsons, Austin Rivers, Mike Dunleavy all have NBA dads, and Grant Hill's father was an NFL running back. Clay Matthews Jr. + his brother are 3rd generation NFL players, and baseball has many players who had family in the show. This trend will grow, and if I had to pinpoint where, I'd say in descending order the NBA, then NFL, then MLB.

An athlete caste makes sense as more reliable figures to use for selling products and messages gives the technocrat class another tool. Since 75% of NBA players and 67% of NFL players go broke within 5 years of retirement, that elite class is really just using them as a conduit for their money to go out and return through   luxury product purchases, FIRE services and agent/legal fees. The downside is the uptick in rapes on college campuses as the athlete caste filtration process lets in some wild ones. If leagues ever do the smart thing and contract, it will be even more noticeable with fewer player slots. The greatest lesson it could teach is the folly of the behavior of hyperaggressive parents who think their 10 year old is going to play for the Yankees.

*Modern absurdity: Klay Thompson not being called white. The guy has a mixed dad and white mom, yet we can't call him white because the sports world obsession of one drop always going black. This is almost as bad as Blake Griffin not being considered white when the guy is paler than me, was raised by his white mom and has red hair. America 2013.

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