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Know-It-All

I will be appearing on the NPR radio show Rewind this weekend as one of their resident Know-It-Alls. So if you've ever wanted to hear the yeti howl, this is your big chance. You can also listen to it online -- my schtick begins approximately 28 minutes in.

The question I responded to was:

High school student and basketball phenom LeBron James is skipping college entirely and going straight to the NBA. And why shouldn't he? What does college offer that fame and fortune does not?
My reply:
As I see it, college has two distinct advantages over fame.

First, in college you can wholeheartedly believe any stupid idea that comes along and no one will fault you for it. People assume that whatever crazy doctrine you currently subscribe too, you'll soon take another class or read another book that will send you off in new philosophical direction. After reading "On Walden Pond" you honestly believe that, upon graduation, you are going to renounce all your worldly possessions (except for your Phish CDs, obviously) and move to a remote cabin by a lake. And you tell your friends and family this, and they're, like, "That's a beautiful dream! We support you!" But inside they're thinking "Oh well, no need to worry. Next semester he'll take economics and be all like 'Greed is good! Invisible hand, yo!'."

You can't get away with that when you're famous. If you announce that you deeply committed to some position or another people will hold you to it forever. How many college kids, back in 2000, said they were going to move out of the country if Bush won the election? All of them, that's how many. But no one asks them why they're still around. Alec Baldwin, on the other hand -- that poor chump is still getting grief making such threats. Unlike college students, he can't just brush it off with a "Oh dude, whatever: I was totally stoned when I said that." And look at Trent Lott. If he were attending a university he could have just said "Oh yeah, I was way into segregation a few weeks ago? But this semester I'm, you know, taking a class in African American history? And now I think diversity is, like, awesome!"

College is like a big roleplaying game: three times a year you get a Course Catalog and have the opportunity to completely reinvent your personality. "Okay," you say, "I'm going to start this year with Ecology and Renaissance Literature and Nutrition," and you're essentially deciding, in advance, that for the next three months you're going to be a tree-hugging Eurocentric health-nazi. You take a class on Jean-Paul Satre, mope around for a season while listening to The Smiths and declaiming about the pointlessness of life, and your buddies just shrug their shoulders and gently suggest that, next quarter, you might skip "Existentialism 102" and take Microbiology instead.

Famous people don't have that luxury. We have these platonic ideals of celebrities -- Barbara Streisand is liberal and Charlton Heston is a gun-lover and Shirley MacLaine is a nut -- and we don't like anyone messin' with those, not even the celebrity in question. But in college you can mix 'n' match opinions and beliefs like Geranimals, and no one thinks twice. Bruce Willis is doomed to be Bruce Willis forever, but, in college, you can be anyone you want to be, one month at a time.

The second great thing about college is the free condoms.

Posted on January 24, 2003 to Elsewhere





Comments

I wish I could direct more of my tax dollars toward you. I figure you got about 2 minutes of air time, so that's roughly $2000 in tax dollars (as determined by NPR pledge drive whining). As for me, I'm taking hospitality administration, library science and family development. "Kid, would you like fries with that book?"

Posted by: Budget Officer on January 24, 2003 9:14 PM

My major is Japanese (in the UK) so i get to say "would you like fries with that?" but in japanese at the yokohama MacKy Ds. Gawd bless Higher education!

Posted by: Jamie` on January 24, 2003 9:21 PM

Free Condoms???? I knew I was missing out on something....dammit.

Posted by: Mike on January 25, 2003 12:52 PM

Garanimals. I should know. I'm wearing a my Giraffe footy pajamas right now.

Posted by: machaus on January 25, 2003 1:42 PM

I heard you on NPR this morning. I just started reading your blog and have been enjoying your entries. I don't really agree with your Rewind answer (if James went to college he'd just be a celebrity on campus; I saw it happen while at Duke with Laettner, Hurley, and Hill), but your theory is certainly funnier than mine. I look forward to your next post!

Posted by: Tricia on January 25, 2003 3:27 PM

That was really good. Bill Radke always seemed like an easy guy to talk to.. he didn't try to intimidate you before the interview or anything, right?

Posted by: Hildago on January 25, 2003 10:39 PM

"The second great thing about college is the free condoms."

...and all the free pooty.*


*free meaning $1.99 for Mad Dog and/or Boone's Farm.

Posted by: brittney on January 26, 2003 10:00 AM

I'm sorry I didn't hear this...EXACTLY! Perfect answer...Unfortunately, no one ever reminds people on a regular basis how great re-inventing yourself is and even though it's crazy some people actually want to be Bruce Willis.

Oh well, maybe you've saved another fabulously talented basketball star from ruining his life!

Posted by: Miel on January 26, 2003 10:08 AM

I was going to say the best thing about college is its alternate legal structure. It's like Disney World, carving its own sovereign terrain into whichever village is its unfortunate host. Sports riots, vandalism, drunkenness -- even re-creating dangerous stunts from Jackass. College students get a playful pat on the ass from sympathetic faculty advisors, and a wink and a nod from any token student tribunals set up to oversee their youthful excesses!

Posted by: David Cassel on January 26, 2003 11:18 AM

No se que sera la broma mayor--
Que tu tienes este pinche website, entrevistas la radio, o de verdad existe cajudos quien estan dejando comentarios mediante este boludese... Que porqueria!
Imaginete, que no pudo manejar mi auto y eschuchar NPR en tranquilidad sin escuchar su voz gritando como unos gatos jodiendo en la calle.
Gomas gratis? ya gue no manches! Poco Paja, Poca Paja!

La felicita todo!
Un Abrazo Fuerte Cabron!
Justino Quispe Mamani

Posted by: Justino Quispe Mamani on January 26, 2003 7:16 PM

Hmmmm... Poor versus rich, condoms versus first class bare back cooz...I think he made the right choice.

We all mature at different rates and seek different rates of change. Fans seek excellence. The game has to college what Fame has to lame. I'm looking forward to young punks kicking the ass of old stars.

Posted by: Cappy on January 27, 2003 8:27 AM

...I'm still waiting for Barbra Streisand, Tim and Susan and the Baldwins to leave the country...so I guess you also aren't expected to honor your promises if you're a celebrity, yes?

Posted by: Laurie on January 28, 2003 1:33 PM

wow i know someone who calls into radio shows. but that makes you kinda famous and i am sure that you must have said you would leave the country if gwb won the election. but you havent come back to limburg yet! maybe you should have stayed in college?

Posted by: sahric on January 31, 2003 9:43 AM