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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Hunter: Pro sports’ riches may take our best, brightest

Gary Has A College Degree In Zoology”.

The sale of one of George Bellows’ paintings to the National Gallery in London for $25.5 million last week took me to a strange place. It is one where bright, talented young men don’t choose between a career in the arts, or science or medicine, and a professional sports career that might pay them enough to own an estate the size of Rhode Island.

The strapping Columbus native and Central High School graduate was an accomplished baseball and basketball player at Ohio State during his four years there, from 1901 to ’04. Basketball was still in its infancy, but baseball was king, both nationally and in Columbus, and Bellows was a good enough athlete that he was encouraged to pursue a professional baseball career.

...Many athletes probably made similar choices in the days when pro athletes weren’t paid like oil tycoons. Because it’s much more difficult to do that now, it’s natural to wonder whether our infatuation with sports, which makes today’s incredible salaries possible, is a good thing.

The top two picks in the 2013 major league draft, Mark Appel (Houston Astros) and Kris Bryant (Cubs), each received more than $6 million to sign. Think how hard it would have been for Ebert — and many others since — to turn down that kind of money.

The next Dr. Ebert might already have become the next Homer Bailey. Is that such a good deal?

Back to Bellows: Would any of us trade the career of a good major league shortstop in exchange for 20 years of painting from a man whom Case Western Reserve professor of American art Henry Adams called “one of the giants of American art?”

Thankfully, Bellows didn’t choose to pursue a baseball career first and keep his masterpieces of gritty realism in his head until he finished playing.

He died of a ruptured appendix at 42.

Repoz Posted: February 11, 2014 at 06:50 AM | 41 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: February 11, 2014 at 08:03 AM (#4654648)
For every talented artist we've lost to the playing fields, there are probably a hundred who've been lost to drug dealing or business school.
   2. Rants Mulliniks Posted: February 11, 2014 at 09:08 AM (#4654654)
....and just because you're a world-class athlete doesn't mean you can't have a rewarding career in pro sports and then follow it up by something more worthy of your talents than owning a dive restaurant. See Ken Dryden.
   3. DanG Posted: February 11, 2014 at 09:35 AM (#4654664)
Long ago the Banksters put their program in place to coopt our best and brightest. Today's opaque financial derivatives were created by these diabolical geniuses.
   4. zonk Posted: February 11, 2014 at 09:41 AM (#4654668)
Oh no, this doesn't mean we have to sit through "Field of Dreams" again, does it?
   5. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: February 11, 2014 at 09:53 AM (#4654675)
For every talented artist we've lost to the playing fields, there are probably a hundred who've been lost to drug dealing or business school.



Or 70 bags of heroin.

Too bad he killed himself, he was a fantastic actor.
   6. AROM Posted: February 11, 2014 at 09:58 AM (#4654676)
Back to Bellows: Would any of us trade the career of a good major league shortstop in exchange for 20 years of painting from a man whom Case Western Reserve professor of American art Henry Adams called “one of the giants of American art?”


Depends. What's his UZR?
   7. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: February 11, 2014 at 10:00 AM (#4654677)
Long ago the Banksters put their program in place to coopt our best and brightest. Today's opaque financial derivatives were created by these diabolical geniuses.


Yep. It makes me truly sad to think about how many valuable physicians, scientists, and engineers our culture has lost to the game-rigging depredations of the financial and legal sectors, solely because finance and law have been able to rig things in their fiscal favor.
   8. AROM Posted: February 11, 2014 at 10:01 AM (#4654678)
In all seriousness, I would not trade the careers of Cal Ripken or Ozzie Smith to get a giant of the art world. Omar Vizquel or Alan Trammell? We might have a deal.
   9. Dan Lee is some pumkins Posted: February 11, 2014 at 10:01 AM (#4654679)
I'd rather have the shortstop. Maybe I'm strange, but I absolutely prefer good shortstops to great paintings.
   10. SoCalDemon Posted: February 11, 2014 at 10:11 AM (#4654682)
Based on post-game interviews and the John Rocker performance art piece, I am finding it very hard to believe that there are legions of towering intellectuals among the ranks of MLB. I think it is much more likely that A-rod or Kirk Gibson would have played (and very possibly excelled) at some other sport (I think A-rod would have been good at Polo, for instance) than that they would have become fine novelists (Bouton aside) or painters or musicians. Its not really an issue of intelligence or creativity; they just seem like very different fields with very different drives. Somehow, I don't think I'll ever lose sleep over the painters and novelists we have lost. I think Hollywood is much more of an issue, if you are worried about that sort of thing; how many fine writers and artists have been sacrificed upon the altar of 2.5 men?
   11. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: February 11, 2014 at 10:24 AM (#4654694)
I think Hollywood is much more of an issue, if you are worried about that sort of thing; how many fine writers and artists have been sacrificed upon the altar of 2.5 men?


I think the better question is why one art form is superior to another? Sports at its best is art, players pushing the human body to the limits of its ability is a beautiful and yes artistic thing. I don't mind an art lover prefer a great painting to an outfielder running down a line drive but I think it is the height of arrogance to argue that either form or art is superior to another.
   12. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: February 11, 2014 at 10:37 AM (#4654700)
I'd trade a JJ Hardy for a George Bellows. But it would take a Ripken or ARod for me to give up a Stuart Davis.
   13. zonk Posted: February 11, 2014 at 10:38 AM (#4654701)
I think Hollywood is much more of an issue, if you are worried about that sort of thing; how many fine writers and artists have been sacrificed upon the altar of 2.5 men?


Eh, how many fine writers and artists have been sacrificed on the altar of just needing to make a living?

I'm guessing Lena Dunham isn't exactly BBTF's cup of tea - and even while I find most of the characters on her show loathesome in one respect or at one time or another, I do like her HBO series... the recent episode in particular is something I think most people end up facing, sometimes embracing... a bunch of writers who each had their moments, now writing 'advertorials' for a mass magazine.

That perfect intersection of ambition/drive, talent/capability, and basic existence beyond our craft (whether just paying the rent yourself or harder yet, supporting a family) isn't one that most people find... sucks, but that's life.
   14. SoCalDemon Posted: February 11, 2014 at 10:55 AM (#4654709)
I agree with the above, and I wasn't really making a value judgement about professional sports vs "art". I just think that there are very few human brains (and bodies) that are wired in such a way that they would have been world-changingly amazing at both. Personally, I was astounded to find out that Nick Offerman (the actor) is a fairly renowned woodworker, and somehow that seems like less of a stretch that that Manny Ramirez would have been the new Rachmaninoff but for the vagaries of fate.
   15. Rants Mulliniks Posted: February 11, 2014 at 11:32 AM (#4654731)
few human brains (and bodies) that are wired in such a way that they would have been world-changingly amazing at both.


Yeah, we're getting into universal genius (Da Vinci, Newton, Jefferson) territory here. I don't think too many pro athletes some close to that.
   16. jingoist Posted: February 11, 2014 at 12:10 PM (#4654755)
From the little bit I've read on the subject Tom Seaver has seemingly done well since baseball and he undoubtedly would have been successful had sports not been available to him as a youngster.

I do like the idea of mentally juggling the concept of choosing a great artist career over that as a great shortstop and vice-versa.

Or we could consider career switching, as in: we play Carravaggio at short; DaVinci at 3rd Van Goch at second and Rembrandt over at 1st; and we put Wagners, Ripkens and Gehrigs best paintings in the Louvre.

Not sure which of the two efforts would work out worst.

I say we just smile and be happy that Bellows could be so successful a human being that he excelled at both endeavors
   17. TR_Sullivan Posted: February 11, 2014 at 12:24 PM (#4654775)
Yeah, I could have been writing best-selling novels and great pieces of literature if I hadn't been standing around a clubhouse looking like an idiot for 26 years and worried which pitcher will need Tommy John surgery
   18. SoCalDemon Posted: February 11, 2014 at 12:38 PM (#4654794)
I am not sure how you would "timeline" artistic ability, but I also suspect there is a reason that we can think of guys like DaVinci and Jefferson from a few centuries ago, and not as many Renaissance People in the current day.

Also, Van Gogh would be a pitcher. I hear his cutter was amazing.
   19. Swoboda is freedom Posted: February 11, 2014 at 12:43 PM (#4654799)
How many really smart athletes were there? Bradley, Whizzer White, Alan Page, Craig Breslow.

The other thing about being an athlete is you have to retire pretty young. Young enough to start a second career.
   20. Bourbon Samurai Posted: February 11, 2014 at 12:51 PM (#4654803)
Yeah, I could have been writing best-selling novels and great pieces of literature if I hadn't been standing around a clubhouse looking like an idiot for 26 years and worried which pitcher will need Tommy John surgery


"The idiot and the ligaments: a debut novel by TR Sullivan"
   21. Pat Rapper's Delight Posted: February 11, 2014 at 12:58 PM (#4654810)
Wayman Tisdale: College Basketball Hall of Famer, Olympic Gold Medalist, and Billboard chart-topping jazz bassist.
   22. ellsbury my heart at wounded knee Posted: February 11, 2014 at 01:42 PM (#4654852)
I am not sure how you would "timeline" artistic ability, but I also suspect there is a reason that we can think of guys like DaVinci and Jefferson from a few centuries ago, and not as many Renaissance People in the current day.


I think it may be much harder to really master a field today than a couple hundred years ago. There is so much specialization, infrastructure, and knowledge needed to contribute to almost any developed field now that it's way less possible to just dabble and come up with something world-changing.

It also seems like serious artists in traditional media aren't really widely famous anymore. There could be some transcendent discipline-changer in like modern dance or sculpture and I might never know their names. I'm not a completely uncultured person, and George Bellows doesn't ring a lot of bells for me. Now that I've looked up some of his paintings I recognize them (and his athleticism definitely informed his painting), but I'm not sure what % of the population would.
   23. Manny Coon Posted: February 11, 2014 at 02:05 PM (#4654873)
Athletic careers don't really last that long and you generally have time in the offseason or between games to get additional education or work on your craft, and if athletes are successful at sports the money, exposure and fame that comes with that can be empowering and open doors for people that might have trouble doing so otherwise.

Shaq has a PHD and several charting rap albums, basketball likely helped him achieve those more far than it hurt him.
   24. Karl from NY Posted: February 11, 2014 at 04:26 PM (#4655009)
Yeah, we're getting into universal genius (Da Vinci, Newton, Jefferson) territory here. I don't think too many pro athletes some close to that.


Nominate Bob Tufts.

This observation isn't unique to sports. It's often been observed that "the best technological minds of our generation are investing their lives trying to make people click on more advertisements."
   25. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: February 11, 2014 at 04:36 PM (#4655015)
Shaq has a PHD


He has an EdD, which is a poor cousin to most PhDs.
   26. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 11, 2014 at 04:44 PM (#4655018)
I'd trade a JJ Hardy for a George Bellows. But it would take a Ripken or ARod for me to give up a Stuart Davis.


What if I threw in an impressionist to be named later?
   27. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: February 11, 2014 at 04:53 PM (#4655025)
This observation isn't unique to sports. It's often been observed that "the best technological minds of our generation are investing their lives trying to make people click on more advertisements."

These probably aren't the best technological minds but rather the best marketing minds. I'm fine with that. Lawyers seem to be the biggest waste of talent I can think of. You see, you take 20% of your best and brightest minds, then you put them in a room and have them argue with each other for their whole lives! Genius! Wall St bankers since about 2000 would be a close second....since Wall St became all about borrowing at zero interest and playing with FHA loans or hedging something or other to scam institutional lemmings.
   28. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: February 11, 2014 at 04:53 PM (#4655026)
26 -- Ok, but not that Degas c**p.
   29. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: February 11, 2014 at 04:56 PM (#4655028)
Stuart Davis is the stan musial of 20th century art. Great peak and career, and while he's hardly unknown, he isn't nearly as famous as he should be.
   30. Answer Guy Posted: February 11, 2014 at 04:59 PM (#4655031)
Yep. It makes me truly sad to think about how many valuable physicians, scientists, and engineers our culture has lost to the game-rigging depredations of the financial and legal sectors, solely because finance and law have been able to rig things in their fiscal favor.


And now it's probably down to just finance. I would advise 99% of those considering a legal career to reconsider.
   31. Pat Rapper's Delight Posted: February 11, 2014 at 05:07 PM (#4655038)
He has an EdD

An honorary EdD or a real* one?



("Real" to the extent that an EdD can be considered a doctorate degree.)
   32. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: February 11, 2014 at 05:11 PM (#4655041)
How many really smart athletes were there? Bradley, Whizzer White, Alan Page, Craig Breslow.

Hard to really compare a mentalist to a true intellectual, but Jerry Lucas once memorized the entire Manhattan white pages. And Jim Brosnan and Doug Glanville wrote first rate books without any "as told to Leonard Schechter" middlemen.

-----------------------------------------------

Stuart Davis is the stan musial of 20th century art. Great peak and career, and while he's hardly unknown, he isn't nearly as famous as he should be.

You might could say that about the entire Ashcan school of art, of which Davis was a member early in his career. Taken as a whole, it'd take the entire Huggins era of the Yankees, and Honus Wagner and Ty Cobb on the side, for me to call it an even swap.
   33. vortex of dissipation Posted: February 11, 2014 at 05:17 PM (#4655048)
There's a violinist who has sold millions of records competing in the Olympic Games right now...
   34. Manny Coon Posted: February 11, 2014 at 06:27 PM (#4655117)
He has an EdD

An honorary EdD or a real* one?

("Real" to the extent that an EdD can be considered a doctorate degree.)


It's real, he also has an MBA he completed when he was still an active player. Even if you ignore all the basketball stuff, he's doing well for kid who grew up in a working class family in Newark and has never met his real father, but basketball opened doors for him.

He's definitely not unique either, there are a lot of kids from modest backgrounds getting access to education, money and connections through sports, that allow them to do more with themselves than would do otherwise. How many guys get football scholarships every year without making the NFL? Obviously a huge portion of them don't take their education seriously, but there are plenty that do.

If there was an aspiring artist, the was offered 6 million dollars to play baseball, he should take the money and use it to buy art supplies with the comfort knowing that his day job allows him to secure and finance his art.
   35. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 11, 2014 at 06:55 PM (#4655134)
How many really smart athletes were there? Bradley, Whizzer White, Alan Page, Craig Breslow.


Bill Bradley was a Princeton grad and Rhodes Scholar
Ross Ohlendorf was a Princeton grad and interned with the USDA doing cost/benefit analysis
Ryan Fitzpatrick was a Harvard economics major
Joe Giradi studied engineering at Northwestern
Chris Young (the pitcher) - wrote his thesis in Princeton on "The Impact of Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball on Racial Stereotypes in America: A Quantitative Content Analysis of Stories about Race"
Myron Rolle (did he ever make the pros?) was a Rhodes Scholar
Pau Gasol left med school for the NBA
   36. Manny Coon Posted: February 11, 2014 at 07:23 PM (#4655148)
Gerald Ford could have played in the NFL but chose not. Jack Kemp played in the NFL. Lot of guys that went to politics really, I don't know if that qualifies as smart though.
   37. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 11, 2014 at 09:54 PM (#4655215)
Yea, Jim Bunning kinda ruins that assertion.
   38. madvillain Posted: February 11, 2014 at 10:05 PM (#4655220)
In the film "learning to fly" about the first Chicago Bulls' championship Jordan's hs math teacher urged him to go into math because "math is where the money is".

Seriously though, I find America's lack of interest in the sciences much more troubling than our obsession with sports.

Carl Sagan knew the problem was coming:


I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time — when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness...
   39. Dr. Vaux Posted: February 11, 2014 at 10:11 PM (#4655224)
If you want to define science as a way of thinking instead of a field of subject matter. What people are studying is a different thing from how they're studying it. But all I hear from anywhere is "engineering," "computer science," and STEM, STEM, STEM. I don't think there's a lack of interest in the sciences by that measure.
   40. ellsbury my heart at wounded knee Posted: February 12, 2014 at 12:41 AM (#4655272)
If you want to define science as a way of thinking instead of a field of subject matter. What people are studying is a different thing from how they're studying it. But all I hear from anywhere is "engineering," "computer science," and STEM, STEM, STEM. I don't think there's a lack of interest in the sciences by that measure.


Maybe that's what you hear, but it still appears that business just about laps the field.
   41. Golfing Great Mitch Cumstein Posted: February 12, 2014 at 08:06 PM (#4655925)
Even if you ignore all the basketball stuff, he's doing well for kid who grew up in a working class family in Newark and has never met his real father, but basketball opened doors for him.


That's somewhat misleading to the extent it implies not seeing his father was a bad thing. His stepfather was a positive influence in his life for a variety of reasons while knowing his father would have probably a bad thing.

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