Friday, April 20, 2012

The Dumb Jock Myth

Brenna aka Sco, former Heisman winner Tim Brown, and myself

There is all this to do about the Wonderlic Test, the quiz given to NFL draft prospects. They said both Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck, both scoring in the mid twenties and early thirties respectively. Then there is all this to do about how jocks get “special perks” at certain colleges, having others take their tests. I think that is abhorrent.
First off, I am a football not nut just because I am from Pittsburgh but because my brother played. While some football players may appear meatheaded, you cannot be dumb when it actually comes down to it. The game of football is very complex. Modern gladiators, these guys have to outwit their opponents. This means stealthy running patterns not just relying on speed and agility, but also the ability to outsmart the other guy. And the coaches on the sidelines constantly have to be on their feet and on the ball in more ways than one.
While there were some jocks who behave questionably, it has been found that sports and other extracurricular activities not only make a person do better in school because it gives them a better outlook but also helps their focus and time management. Yes, it has been found that when an athlete is in season their grades are the highest. When my brother played in high school, many of his teammates were on the honor roll.
Both Mike and Matt Dunleavy, who were friends with my brother, went on to play football at Yale and Amherst. One Ivy League and the other a junior Ivy that has spawned many alum like US President Franklin Pierce, both not only excelled athletically but academically during their college tenure.
My brother himself was fifth in a graduating class of almost five hundred kids and went on to play football for Brown University. Hardly a benchwarmer, he set many records including powerlifting and jump rope in our high school, and during his visit at Brown broke a record in their weight room.  His junior year he was captain and also made the Ivy 50, an honor shared with Joe Paterno. These days my brother is happily married and is completing his MD/PhD at Brown University. These are not easy things to do if one is “dumb.”
My brother’s other teammates have gone on to become lawyers, work in finance, and have successful startup companies in media. They credit their football playing days with giving them the drive and discipline to do so. Staying eligible in college is hard enough, but staying academically eligible at an Ivy League School requires special skill.
David Robinson played basketball in Annapolis, which only a select few are selected and requires an arduous interview process. Grant Hill, who’s mother I have gotten the pleasure of knowing, went to Duke and not only had the dribbling skills but the grades. Janet would have it no other way. In addition, he remained eligible and got drafted no questions asked. When the day comes that Mr. Hill elects not to play basketball for whatever reason, he has an education that no one can rob him of, and therefore his options are limitless.

Then there is the gross misconception that anyone who fires a gun and is a crack shot must be stupid as well. That is far from the truth. My younger sister was captain of the rifle team at Brown University and one of the best shots in the state of Pennsylvania in high school. The winner of the Wendy’s High School Heisman and a PLEME (she got admitted into medical school and college at the same time), my sister has never received a B on her report card in her life. Before tearing her ACL, my sister was a cross country runner and soccer player, excelling at both and being captain of the track team her senior year in high school, same year in which she was first in her class.
Of course you have my mom, who was captain of her college swim team as a walk on. Not only was my mother a champion breaststroker and recipient of the Spirit Award at the University of Pittsburgh, a Big Eight School, but she was winner of the Most Valuable Woman Athlete Award, bestowed upon someone not only for their athletic but academic achievement as well. Since then, my mom has gone on to get a Master’s Degree in exercise physiology and not only teaches fitness but coaches clients privately. She has been interviewed extensively and featured in various publications. This woman is far from being dumb. Her knowledge of nutrition and fitness have changed people’s lives and for the better.
Through my sister, I have the privilege of going to the Heisman’s every year. I have met these young men and their families. When I speak to many of the winners and perspectives, I am surprised at how smart and well-rounded these young men are. I am blown away at the familial support that people like Andrew Luck receive. For these guys, it is more than just throwing a ball. They have dreamt of this moment since they were small, and they have been working for it too. This means not only knowledge of the game itself, but knowledge of proper nutrition and training techniques to keep oneself in shape. As a matter of fact, some of these young men are more expert in taking care of their bodies than many more advanced adults I know.

Some families are extra knowledgeable about sports, such as the Mannings. Peyton as a matter of fact elected not to go into the draft right away and to finish college. This was a smart move because many get injured in the pros. Each of the Mannings has a role in sports. Both Peyton and Eli are quarterbacks, and Cooper and father Archie, a former NFL quarterback, coach. Recently, they penned a children’s book teaching youngsters the importance of teamwork. Working with others is a lesson one should learn young, and it is an important thing to know that we need each other. Bottom line, these people are not only using their knowledge but capitalizing on it. They aren’t dumb.

Bottom line, people want to box others in when it is easy to define them. Just as not every Southerner is a racist not every jock is dumb. Not everyone fits in a perfectly defined spot in this universe, and one’s identification is not concrete but fluid. And there are many kinds of intelligence, one being athletic. If I were ever in a game of pick up football I would want Reggie Bush on my team, not matter what his SAT score. If I pulled my hamstring I would want former Pittsburgh Steeler and radio announcer Craig Wolfley as my support, not some nitwit doctor who never ran a day in his life. You get the idea. Not all jocks are dumb. Get over it people.

Me, Darren McFadden, and my beautiful baby sister Brenna

No comments:

Post a Comment