System Failure

First KG, Kobe, T-Mac. Now LeBron. The amateur myth lies shattered. What took so long?

Updated: April 17, 2003, 6:06 PM ET
By Peter Keating, ESPN The Magazine
Amateurism is your grandmother's wax fruit, it's the Milwaukee Brewers after May, it's Bernie in Weekend at Bernie's. It's alive only as long as you don't look too hard.

Maybe the NCAA can keep a straight face as it gorges on its new $6 billion TV deal, then belches out the same old claims that college players don't deserve to get the money they generate. And maybe, in any other year, an Auburn here and a Butler there would have been enough to restore our faith in "student-athletes." After all, we know what we're supposed to do when we realize that our favorite amateur sports are really mercenary contests: Bury the thought. Even when scandals rage from St. Bonaventure to Georgia to Fresno State, we're supposed to hold our noses, inhale deeply and believe what we're breathing is the pure amateur sport, not the rank odor of stolen calling cards and welding majors and practice-field deaths.