I’ve been re-reading David Halberstam’s excellent Summer of ’49, and I came across a passage last night which has a surprising tie-in to the ongoing debate regarding Jeremy Tyler.
Halberstam’s book profiles the season through the narrow viewpoint of the Red Sox and Yankees, going into incredible detail of the day-to-day activities of both rosters, from trainers to owners. Among the stories about the Dimaggios, Ted Williams, and so forth is the tale of Boston second baseman Bobby Doerr, a much-beloved player (by, among others, future commissioner Bart Giamatti) who would later enter the Hall of Fame.
Anyone who follows baseball closely knows the Doerr story – a classy man who parlayed solid defense, a strong bat, and good teammates into a ticket to Cooperstown. What they probably don’t know is that Doerr turned pro at age 16.
Yes, 16. While still enrolled in Fremont High School in LA, Doerr signed up to play professionally for the Hollywood Stars, meaning he spent the last two years of his high school years traveling around the west coast of the United States.
And yet, nobody made a big deal out of it. Doerr’s father, as part of the contract, insisted that the team allow Doerr to come back to complete his education, but it wasn’t as if the LA Times ran a huge story bemoaning how the Hollywood Stars were robbing the innocence of this poor young man. Bobby Doerr was a great player, a team wanted to pay him to play, and his family decided it was okay. End of story.
Today, though, we have developed some bizarre set of rules for our children. We allow them to watch horribly violent movies and video games seemingly from infancy and let our daughters wear clothes that hookers from 50 years ago would consider scandalous. But letting a 17-year-old get paid to play basketball in Europe? The horror!
Imagine if Jeremy Tyler had been offered a scholarship to attend school and play basketball in Amsterdam for a year. Would anyone care? Would any of us notice?
Of course not. And yet, for some bizarre reason, people such as Dick Vitale feel a need to criticize Tyler and his family for what they have chosen to do. I ask you, naysayers, are you as mad at Bobby Doerr’s family as you are at Jeremy Tyler’s? Do you think Tony Parker destroyed his life by turning pro before he could vote?
Further, why do you care? Who, exactly, is Jeremy Tyler hurting by doing this? Is he not better off than half or more of the African-American boys in this country?
Honestly, it’s not for us to say. It’s up to Mr. Tyler and his family. They’ve made their decision, and I suggest the rest of us just shut up about it.