Friday, January 16, 2009

After the Bright Lights and the Noise

The NCAA currently has a series of TV commercials running that make the point that most college athletes "go pro in something other than sports." It's a good point and one that gets overlooked in the glare of big time college sports. Seems like the only stories you hear are about the guys who make it in the pros or who bomb out so spectacularly after college that they end up on America's Most Wanted.

Today's New York Times has an article on what I imagine the vast majority of college athletes experience after college. It's about former WVU basketball star Kevin Pittsnogle. You remember him, sports fans:

Less than four years ago, he was a basketball star and a folk hero, a homegrown kid with a funny name, a bowl haircut, a 6-foot-11 frame covered in tattoos, and a baby-soft 3-point shot. During West Virginia’s unexpected thrill ride to the quarterfinals of the 2005 N.C.A.A. tournament, his name became a taunting verb: you’ve been Pittsnogled. His mother still has a box of the T-shirts in a closet.

Less than three years ago, Pittsnogle was an all-American senior averaging 19.3 points who led West Virginia to the 2006 regional semifinals. He expected to be chosen in the N.B.A draft. He was not.
So where is Pittsnogle now? In prison? Living on the streets? Nope. He has, as they say, gone pro in life:
Now, at 24, he is a middle school teacher in his hometown. He is also an unpaid assistant coach for a high school basketball team. He bowls in leagues three nights a week and occasionally plays bingo at Big Bucks Bingo. His wife, Heather, is a bank teller. They have two children and live in a double-wide trailer, and together they wonder how much appetite they have for uprooting their lives again so Pittsnogle can have one more chance at a basketball career.
As the article goes on to explain, thanks to the discovery of a hormone problem that affected his weight, Pittsnogle has another chance to try and break into the NBA. He's not sure it's worth it, given the life he's established in Martinsburg.

It's an interesting look at life in the real world after the crowds are gone.

No comments: