If you read my column regularly -- and who doesn’t? -- you know that some might classify me as a sports junky. Like many people (probably in the millions), I tend to put the great athletes on pedestals. (Magic was clearly the greatest of all time.) However, two recent events made me realize I likely have the wrong folks on those pedestals.
The first of the events was a meeting with Dean Kamen, who recently received the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award from UBM Canon. I listened to him deliver a keynote presentation that, in my mind, challenged the engineering world to solve as many of the world’s problems as possible. After that presentation, Dean sat down with me and a couple of my colleagues to discuss, amongst other things, FIRST, which stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.”
The mission of FIRST is “to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills that inspire innovation and that foster well-rounded life capabilities, including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.”
FIRST holds competitions for kids at almost every age. What really struck me was how Dean likened the children at the FIRST competitions to the world’s athletes, but in a far superior way (as only Dean can do). Paraphrasing, he says, “Why are we celebrating someone who can throw a baseball 90 miles per hour or who can put a basketball through a hoop, when the real stars are the kids who are starting down the path toward changing the world?” There was a lot more to it, but you get the gist.
The second event, which isn’t really an event, is the parading around the country of the NBA’s superstars, those who are “free agents,” each looking to latch onto the team that generally bids the highest for his services. The numbers being thrown around are astronomical -- upwards of $100 million. (Yup, you heard that right.)
So you tell me, who deserves the riches more -- the guy or gal (or kid in this case) who has the potential to solve some of the world’s deep problems, or the guy or gal who can consistently hit a baseball 400 feet? After hearing Dean tell it, I don’t have to think twice about what the right answer is. I’m already amped up to see the next FIRST competition.