Should you spur your child to play dangerous sports with the goal of becoming a professional athlete and making a boat load of money? De la chanson or it depends on the child, parent, talent, motive and opportunity. The answer is a resounding “no”, if you ask this parent of four. I will explain more of my rational later. For a starter, caveat emptor: sports, like other businesses, have exploitative under-bellies few see or want to see. Being proactive is prudent because advice given after injury tantamount to medicine after death.
There are functional skills one can acquire from playing various sports: teamwork, perseverance, determination, winner and resilient habits. Also, playing sports can be beneficial to one’s overall health.
Obesity is a world-wide health problem with known consequences. Some of these consequences are high blood pressure, Type II diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, joints disease, various cancers,to name a few. But don’t tell that to many Nigerians (in particular and Africans in general) who believe that being fat is a glorious thing, a status symbol, evidence of good living and wealth. Engaging in physical activities throughout one’s life are worthy habits that promote both the quantity and the quality of life, per health experts.
However, there is a huge divide between playing sports recreationally and playing them professionally. No sport is risk-free but some are more dangerous than others. The admission costs to the professional athletes’ club can be too high; frankly, may not be worth it.
In my 20’s I liked to watch boxing. Sugar Ray and Thomas “Hitman” Hearns II fight comes to mind. Marvin Hagler, Larry Holmes, Michael Spinks, Mike Tyson, George Foreman’s second coming were my favorites. I watched those fights every chance I got. At one Pay-View event in 1987 in Oakland, California, I happen to be seated close to a former boxer. As we walked out of the venue after the thrilling fight, he made statements that stuck in my mind when a spectator begrudged the millions the fighters earned. He said, “these fighters will pay dearly for the rest of their lives for the hits they have taken today.” He continued by saying, “all the millions they made today will not be enough to heal the life-time of pain and suffering.”
Looking back, his utterances were rather prophetic because little were known then about the effects of concussions, hits to the head, performance enhancement drugs, Parkinson’s disease, memory loss and slurred speech issues. Some of the sports we send our children to play today are equally dangerous, don’t let the hype, money, fame, and medical advancement fool us. Remember that beef came from a cow or as the Igbos say, “Suya ahu si n’ahu nama”! Visit https://gamebnat.net
Seeing the huge money and fame in these sports, it was just a matter of time before Nigerian parents and/or our children themselves started pursuing the trappings of these sports. Some may want to reap the obvious benefits without seeing the latent pitfalls. These parents and children should adhere to this Einstein quote: “learn the rules of the game [first]. And then you must play it better [on and off the court] than anyone else”.
I must devote a paragraph and pay homage to Nigerian, and in deed world’s, athletic heroes. Dick Tiger, Christian Okoye, Hakeem Olajuwon, and current professional players have shown glowing examples on and off the stage. They remain the beacon of everything great about Nigeria and Nigerians. When was the last time you heard anything negative about these heroes? Through their actions, they continue to varnish the image of our Motherland even as corrupt politicians and 419ers are bent on tarnishing her global image. Like grateful Nigerians everywhere, I salute these evergreen heroes.
Are these reasons compelling enough to let your child play dangerous sports?
I hope Nigerian parents both at home and, especially, abroad are not pushing their children into these sports to cash in. Often, we’re people with all-out tendencies to make money at all cost. Some may want to dispel a myth out there and end up exposing themselves and their children to hidden dangers. According to one sportswriter, “people are skeptical about Nigerian players; they are soft, not tough enough and too educated”. That’s a loaded statement! Trying to “prove a negative” may cost one dearly. You may recall Loyola Marymount basketball star Eric “Hank” Gathers who died on the court in 1990 during a televised game. They young man had a known heart condition but he continued to play without taking his medications that made him too drowsy to perform up to his star caliber.
All sports have inherent risks. As Italians say, “ogni rosa ha le sue spine” or “every rose has its thorns”. I like to ride bicycles. Lots of cyclists get hurt and even killed while bicycling. Just 3 weeks ago here in Austin, Texas, a cyclist pushing his disabled bike was killed by an inattentive driver less than 10 miles from my residence. Do you know that girls’ soccer players sustain the second highest number of concussions, after American football players? Go figure that one.