Take it from the top


THE SOUL OF New Games has emerged. Sports and music -- specifically hip-hop -- are as one.

This coalition is known already in our bones, like a new song to which everyone already knows the words. This is true particularly in basketball and football, and to a lesser degree in soccer, baseball and hockey. Hip-hop has given athletes a series of challenges -- be real, do you, demand your worth. Professional athletes have seen the challenge -- and, frankly, raised it.

Harbinger: Madcap Heisman winner and potential No. 1 pick Johnny "Football" Manziel is going pro -- with a record 80-plus other underclassmen. Foreshadowing: It's the business partner/manager of LeBron James (King James might as well have rapped a beat over "taking my talents to South Beach"), Maverick Carter, who will lead the Manziel charge in "off-the-field projects." Wink: Manziel counts Toronto rapper/superstar/official Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment global ambassador Drake as adviser and friend.

And while heirloom columnists suck Lemonheads over Manziel's attitudinal "antics" (as they are always called), let's also note the state of O'Bannon v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, a case that survived a motion to be dismissed in federal district court, and as Inside Higher Ed observes, places "athletes ... on a path to claim a share of television and other revenue that now flows almost entirely to colleges, coaches and the NCAA." Perhaps. Perhaps not. But folks are valuing their value.

"Your old road is rapidly agin'." -- Bob Dylan, 1964's "The Times They Are A-Changin'?"

"I just think it's funny how it goes." -- Drake, 2013's "Started From the Bottom"

NINETEEN EIGHTY-SIX. The future Champagnepapi was born into a world where the wild-ass Mets actually won it all. The Toronto Raptors were nine years away from existence -- Vince Carter was 9 years old. Everything in '86 was Run-DMC and Eric B. and Rakim. "The Bridge," the Beasties, Ice T's "6'n the Mornin'?" and Salt-N-Pepa's Hot, Cool & Vicious. The Cosby Show was on Season 3. In the way that those born into the Obama era will take for granted the reality of a black president of the United States, Drake is of a generation that has no consciousness of hip-hop not existing. For his cohorts, rap is like water -- everywhere, and likely free.

Eighteen years later, in an award-winning 2004 episode of Canada's wild, popular Degrassi: The Next Generation, Aubrey Drake Graham portrays rich high school basketball player Jimmy, and Jimmy is shot. This is a thing that happens to black actors on television and in the movies. A standout version of the device is future Hall of Famer Jamaal Wilkes as Nathaniel "Cornbread" Hamilton (shot and killed) in Cornbread, Earl and Me. Lawrence Hilton Jacobs as casual basketball player Cochise (beaten to death) in Cooley High. Those were 1975 releases. Morris Chestnut was the USC football-bound Ricky Baker (shot and killed) in 1991's Boyz n the Hood. But Drake's Jimmy lives. He becomes "Wheelchair Jimmy."

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