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COMMENTARY

Take me out to the ballgame

By: Jim Linsdau, Sports Editor
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Many of us are sports fans, whether we play the games or watch them; not only because of the enjoyment but also to keep them alive and well.

Although I cover local sports, I can’t help but cast a glance at the ongoing saga of the Sacramento Kings and where they’ll play basketball next season. Perhaps I shouldn’t refer to them as the “Sacramento” Kings since they could end up in Seattle next year.

Like most sports fans, I like watching and following the San Francisco Giants, 49ers, San Jose Sharks and Sacramento River Cats. However, when the dollar signs start flying around, I get a little turned off.

I recently wrote about potential legislation in Florida to open up “free agency” for high school students in that state. It would allow student-athletes to attend different schools within the same school year without serving a probation period before competing.

That legislation is being fought by the Florida High School Athletic Association but policies in favor of relaxing restrictions to prep transfers are gaining momentum across the country.

In California, the sit-out period was recently reduced to 30 days before an athlete could transfer to a different school and continue playing sports.

Now, is that all bad or would it be best to just go with the flow? After all, where do the future stars of MLB, NFL and NBA come from? – High school. Some spend a year or two in college before throwing off the yoke of academics for a lucrative career but isn’t a lucrative career what a higher education is for?

Certainly, not every college student is competing for a professional sports contract. Some are actually there for an education to become doctors, lawyers, businessmen – coaches, agents, owners, general managers, etc.

What makes me cynical about all this is that most of the money is at the top. There are some states where that isn’t necessarily the case, take Texas high school football for instance. That state recognizes that high school football athletes eventually play for the University of Texas, Baylor, Texas A&M, the Houston Texans, Dallas Cowboys, etc.

ESPN now readily broadcasts high school football games. Four of the top 25 high school teams for 2012 were from Florida, two from Texas and four from California.

As much as I like amateur sports, which is what high school is, there’s no denying that money turns the wheels of progress. I liked the fact the Kings selected some schools in the area to put on their show during local basketball games as it filled the stands to capacity and increased school revenues. I would like to see more of that.

For that reason, I find it hard to rail against legislation like Florida is considering or the money that is poured into Texas’ “Friday Night Lights.” Yes, such policies can tarnish the original intent of amateur athletics but I feel the loss of those sports would be an even greater travesty.

I continue to be amazed at the level of play now present in high school athletics. It’s no longer something for mom and pop to watch their kids play – it’s first class.

So, head out to the old (high school) ballgame and show your support. It means more than you think.