Barely 10 years ago, professional sports were for directionless dropouts ... or was it? It was embarrassingly evident when our sports heroes (and villains) tickled the pretentious press with unintended meanings and cremated clichés. Michael Essien (not quite a dropout) et al sneaked away to play, as maladroit mercenaries, and rode back, as rich royalty. Now parents dole dollars to school soccer coaches to start kick-abouts for their kids after class. Nobody frowns on a young man spending all daylight moulding muscle and sharpening skill.