Playing for the NBA or getting an MBA?

A few days ago, I was listening to my usual morning radio show on my beloved local classic rock station (92.9 The Eagle) and the deejays were reading the news. I can’t remember what they were talking about – something sports related – but I remember one of them quipping that playing in the NBA was less work than getting an MBA.

As both a teacher and athlete, his off-hand statement really struck a chord with me. I think that our society’s worship of sports and competition is a little overblown, to be sure. (I’m one of those weirdos who would be all for eliminating sports being related to school at all, if it wouldn’t disproportionately affect students who already have limited opportunities.) But I also don’t agree with putting down professional athletes as having an easy job. I know how tired my body feels all the time, and my derby team only practices for two hours, three or four times a week. I only have to go to the gym once a week for 30 minutes, maybe an hour. But like a paid athlete, I still have to hustle for my team. We attend charity events and fundraisers to promote our league. We flyer. We run a junior derby league that also practices three times a week. We travel. Playing roller derby is really like having a second job that you pay to do rather than it paying you.

In contrast, getting an advanced degree is a similar amount of work. It just manifests in different ways. When I was working on my master’s degree, I was completing my ‘training’, that is, my reading, and that took me about three to eight hours a week, depending on the class and task. Then there was the constant flood of discussion board questions, theory papers, and case studies. All in all, I spent about as much time per week on my degree as I did on derby.

Here’s the big difference between the NBA and an MBA, though. In education, the only person in your way is you. In most sports, there’s another team or person that is trying to mess up your ability to get your job done and score the points. Whichever team does their job better is the winner. Education isn’t like that (for the most part – this isn’t a post to get into the ingrained problems of the American education system). When it comes to school, it’s just the student and the knowledge. No other person is actively sabotaging their ability to get work done. No one else is pushing the book out of their hand. Nobody else is tackling them, preventing them from writing an essay. School is more like golf, running, or shooting free throws. At the end of the day, it’s you vs. yourself.

So, though I love my morning deejays, I’m going to have to disagree. Playing basketball for the NBA is not easier than getting an MBA. They’re not comparable. They’re just different.