I feel sorry for Eddie Griffins’ loved ones. It’s always tragic when young people die. Regardless of how any of us felt about him as a basketball player, he had a family that I’m sure cared about him tremendously. Either way you cut it, it’s a sad situation.

I do have some beef with some of the earlier comments made on Sam’s column. I agree that stories where writers attempt to make a correlation between staying in college for four years and maturity are overdone and often done for ingenious reasons. However, that correlation is not without some validity. Lets keep it real, organization and the schedule of college life does/will help mature you. Maybe even civilize you. And that goes for anyone, not just athletes and star players. If you’re really good and have that hint that you can make it to the pros, you get passed through high school. Now this isn’t news to anyone, for years and years it has been like this. But the proliferation of AAU teams seems to have taken the shadiness up a notch or 5. There’s always this thought that education is secondary to basketball. Eddie Griffin is but an example. There are dozens upon dozens of players every year who play in these AAU tourneys for whom roses are places at their feet at such a young age that they never learn fundamental life skills. They don’t hear no often enough. Too many become spoiled and out of touch with reality. And nobody cares because everybody is trying to get over and don’t want to risk burning their bridge. Nobody really cared enough to get involved. Eddie Griffin probably needed therapy along time ago. He probably needed someone to say “he’s a good kid but dude got issues and they must be addressed otherwise we can’t deal with him. No matter what.” How many people really said that i wonder?

Now this happens in Hollywood too and the music business as well. Those with exceptional talent (or at least marketable talent) are sent along. Ready or not here they come. And I’m ok with that in the general sense. Go and get that money man (or woman), for real. But for me, because I work at a basketball mag and the majority of these young and really good players are Black, and often they come from impoverished backgrounds, well you see where I’m going right? If you are from the hood, the ghetto you know that the public schools suck, that well over half (pushing 65 percent according to the latest stats) of these households are single parent homes where women are asked to do everything, where stand-up men are at such a minimal amount that their overall impact is rendered pointless and the overall outlook is effed up then you know how easy it is to be seduced by some sheister dude with “connections”. Often they don’t give a crap about the kids, the shoe companies who get involved don’t give a crap and the family just isn’t savvy enough to see where this is headed. These kids already barely value education and they’ve never dealt with male authority that they respect, so when they get to be 16, 17 it is simply too late.

School may have been there final chance at redemption, their last shot to learn how to function as an adult. When people hear this they say it’s a racist thing, that these kids should not be looked at like they can’t function in society. Too even say such a thing is somehow prejudiced or has racial implications. Do you know what I say to them? They can join Al and Jesse and the rest of these race pimps on a train to hell and I promise to send them a card when they get there. Yes of course Lebron and Kobe and Dwight Howard and Tmac didn’t sniff college and they ended up fine. But the overall impact is detrimental. I speak to kids several times throughout the year. The last time was in June at a school in the Bronx and I asked each of them what they wanted to be when they got older. In my mind I knew half the class would say pro athlete but I wasn’t prepared when all but one in a class of about 20 8th graders said that. I’m like what? Stop playing. The perception that exists in the hood is that college and education and that civilized behavior is somehow foreign. That you can get through life without having learned simple stuff like how having a bank account is a superior way of handling your money as opposed to a check cashing joint, that offering your seat on a train when you see a pregnant woman is an obvious thing to do, that shooting someone is not an acceptable way to deal with minor and mundane issues, that love does not make you weak, that taking responsibility for your actions is what makes you a grown-up, etc.

So no college is not some magic pill, plenty of people went to college and they are still despicable people (ex. Karl Rove) but lets not act like college is no big deal either. It matters.