|Advice for the Class of 2002|
By Jim Caple
Page 2 columnist
Chicago columnist Mary Schmich wrote an advice column for graduates a couple years ago that spread throughout the Internet (mistakenly credited to Kurt Vonnegut) and eventually became a hit song recorded by Australian director Baz Luhrmann, "Everybody's Free (to Wear Sunscreen)." With another school year ending, it's time for a special update for that fortunate bunch of graduates (or at least those who have used up their eligibility) about to head into the world of professional sports.
"Athletes of the Class of 2002, wear Nike.
"If I could offer you one tip for the future, the Swoosh would be it.
"The long-term benefits of wearing Nike have been hyped by the company's marketing wing and swallowed by gullible consumers, whereas the rest of my advice hasn't been cleared by my agent.
"I will dispense this advice now.
"Enjoy the beauty of your youth and the power of compound interest. Oh, never mind, you will not understand the beauty of youth until the NBA starts drafting high school sophomores who call you and Kobe "Gramps'' while they embarrass you on the way to the hoop. But trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at your investment portfolio and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much more money you could have made if you only hired a better agent under the table while you were still in school.
"You are not as fat as you imagine. But you could probably afford to mix some dianabol and human-growth hormone into your routine.
"Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to compute the BCS formula by chewing Luis Gonzalez's game-used bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be the things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Thursday when some civil servant shows up at your locker and hands you a subpoena to testify at the Gold Club trial.
"Don't be reckless with other people's hearts. Don't be reckless with people who are reckless with yours. Just be sure the traveling secretary knows to assign your wife and your mistress to rooms on separate floors.
"Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead. Sometimes you're behind. The race is long and in the end, the contract is guaranteed.
"Remember the trash talk hurled your way. Use the best on someone else.
"Keep your paychecks. Throw away autograph requests that don't come with a self-addressed stamped envelope.
"Stretch. (Remember what happened to Junior.)
"Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with the rest of your life. With the money you make, you don't have to do a damn thing except sit on your butt. Besides, there are always plenty of broadcast and 10-10-221 phone commercial gigs.
"Get plenty of calcium, but be sure you get featured in the Got Milk? advertising series first.
"Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll have children, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll give them a last name and make your child support payment on time, but probably not. Whatever you do, make sure your agent gets a good pre-nup and always demand a DNA test.
"Dance. All the time. In the end zone after a touchdown. Or after a sack. Or even after an assisted tackle when down by four touchdowns. It will help get you on SportsCenter.
"Read the fine print on your contract, then demand to re-negotiate in two years anyway.
"Do not read beauty magazines. Just date the cover models.
"Get to know your parents. Otherwise you'll never know which tournament you're supposed to win and which one your sister should win.
"Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few, you should put them on the payroll with your posse. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the richer you get, the bigger crib your posse will expect from you.
"Do one thing every day that scares you, but keep your posse by your side and remove all damaging evidence.
"Live in New York City once, but leave before they make you bat in Shea Stadium.
"Don't mess too much with your hair. Keep it to one color a season.
"Accept certain inalienable truths: salaries will rise, fans will bitch about it. Your contract, too, will look cheap compared to the next free agent they sign. And when it does, fans will fantasize that your contract was reasonable and that you earned it.
"Be careful with whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is nothing but a form of nostalgia dispensed by outraged talk-show hosts fishing from the day's headlines for a topic that will fill an hour during drive time and be immediately forgotten when it applies to them.
"But trust me on the swoosh."
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.