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Nightmare TV

The first time the Real Sports interview with Amare Stoudemire came on, we
fell asleep. The second time too. This time we saw it, though, and now sleep
might be hard to come by.

What has happened to this kid is just about unspeakable. It's almost
Dickensian, not so much in the sense that nascent industrialism is screwing
society as how kids are treated by adults.

Stoudemire quite correctly realizes that people want him primarily for his
talent. But keep in mind that this is a kid who has no natural roots or
support. His mom has been in and out of prison, and the men in his life, to
judge by the show, have universally exploited him, and it's beyond the usual
basketball level exploitation.

The allegations about Mt. Zion and everyone involved there are old hat pretty
much, with the exception of the suggestion that Mt. Zion manipulated his
transcripts in an attempt to blackmail him into staying.

What is shocking are the allegations about George Raveling. You've likely
heard that Amare's mother claims to have been given money by Raveling.
That's really the least of things, if the allegations are correct.

It is suggested that he told someone that if Stoudemire didn't go to Mt. Zion
he wouldn't go anywhere, which would tie him into what amounts to

Let's translate that to the basics.

If this allegation is correct, and we certainly can't prove that it is,
George Raveling is willing to ruin a child's life in order to keep him in the
right shoes. Mrs. Stoudemire did not seem to make the connection between
this possibility and the "kindness of his heart" that allowed Raveling
to give her cash.

We have never thought this before, but if everything is true...well, we've
made the argument before that a lot of what happens with young kids who are
really good at basketball amounts to child abuse, and this is a classic
case. But what's happening to this kid is a crime. If the NCAA, the AAU,
and the NBA can't sit down and work out a way to manage things, someone needs to
step in and do something about it.

In Hollywood, child actors have protections. Sports amounts to
entertainment, and these kids should be protected as well. The fact is,
they are disposable, and that is unacceptable.

We would like to see the state of North Carolina ask Mt. Zion to explain the
allegation of two transcripts for Amare Stoudemire. And we would like to
see someone, perhaps the energetic junior senator from North Carolina,
call hearings to investigate just what kind of a system allows this unthinkable
exploitation. As a dehumanizing force, it trails the auction block, but for the
21st century, it's shameful.

As for Stoudemire, he's in a fix. He has enormous talent, but he can't
trust anyone around him, including, in our opinion, his mother, whose bond was
posted mysteriously, possibly, the show suggests, by someone with shoe

We would still like to see him go to college, perhaps more than almost any
other kid recently, because while he can certainly cash in next summer, and we'd
understand if he is quite cynical by this point, the idea that Amare Stoudemire,
after everything he has been through, can rise up above it all and educate
himself, is powerful.

The best thumb in the eye to this kind of garbage is education. And
please don't tell us that money is going to make his life perfect. What has it
done for him so far but corrupt everyone he trusted? Money has done nothing but
teach him not to trust people, and larger amounts of it aren't going to
discourage the predators, nor will it fix the damage they have already inflicted
on him.

It sounds old-fashioned, but what Stoudemire needs now is education. He
needs it first of all to understand what is happening to him on more than a
reactionary level, he needs it so that he can see that this is an ancient theme
in the world, he needs it so that he can grow stronger and more subtle, and he
needs it, last but not least, in order to be able to better deal with the kind
of people who have gravitated to him since his talent became apparent.

We realize this is unlikely to happen. But how cool would it be if this
kid said "screw everyone, I'm going to school." How great would
it be if his experience was like Bill Russell's, where he entered college as a
somewhat-dopey kid and emerged as a philosopher-warrior?

Anyway, we're going to be pulling hard for him to come through all this with
minimal damage, and as for the adults in his world, so-called, they have an
awful lot to answer for.