Greed Scores a Goal

Wait one minute. No, make that two. With much attempted hoo-hah, Major League Soccer just signed a new star. He got a six-year deal and a quarter-million bucks for openers, plus millions in endorsements. He'll start for D.C. United next season. He's 14.

Whatever happened to childhood? Couldn't Freddy Adu of Potomac, Md., be allowed to worry awhile about vital 14-year-old things like pop quizzes, Friday night's post-game party and wearing his pants low, just so? Are we, as an affluent society of allegedly caring adults, so completely desperate for entertainment and marketing opportunities that we need or condone a soccer sideshow to watch a kid play against grown men?

It doesn't matter how good this child's corner kick or dribbling is. It doesn't matter if his Ghanian immigrant story is hard luck; that's just PR frosting. He's only 14, as in 168 months, ninth grade, pimples. He can't drive legally, so Mom takes him to practice.

The NBA's snatching LeBron James out of high school at 18 this year seemed bad enough. At least he was shaving. And who needs education, right, if your lawyer can read a $90-million Nike contract?

What are we doing to even one child? And what larger life message goes out to millions who won't go pro? Obviously, soccer is desperate to build its fan base, even through a skewed-age freak show like this. It's greedy, unseemly, even bizarre. Can no team owner or parent control themselves in the face of so very many new Andrew Jackson twenties?

Let's extend this outrageous signing logically. Not that anyone watched the Victoria's Secret TV underwear show Wednesday, but next year, how about 13-year-old maidens in filmy lingerie? Or a reality show: awkward 12-year-olds at their first dance? Any get engaged? Who has the smoothest moves, sexiest makeup?

Send scouts to Chuck E. Cheese's to find 8-year-old crooners and to preschool playgrounds for football tykes. Word is today's toddlers have pretty strong legs. And amazing times in the 40-yard dash, if there's chocolate ice cream at the finish line. With the right nutritional supplements, drugs, agents and media-savvy lawyers, these youngsters could skip school totally and go right to the Cardinals, who need some decent linemen.

Then, there's the fallout on the rest of America's parents in ordinary homes across the country. What inflationary effect will Adu's pro salary have on allowance negotiations? Will we face teen sit-downs over wages for lawn-mowing and transporting garbage to the curb? Will they demand limos to go to school, endorsement money for eating veggies and residuals for sullen appearances in home videos? Let kids be kids before becoming childish stars.

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