There are only two kinds of history tests: multiple choice and essay. Both fit comfortably with my slothful study habits. Neither actually required me to know much of anything. A multiple choice question might query, The Declaration of Independence was signed on: A) May 7, 1948; B) January 15, 1967; C) July 4, 1776; D) June 7, 1778. From what I learned in another nebulous academic strength called philosophy, by using the process of deduction, I was, right off, able to eliminate A and B. Everyone knows May 7 is my birthday and January 15, 1967 is, of course, the date of the first Super Bowl. Duh! C and D are tricky, but I'll probably remember the right answer if it's in front of me. Essay questions are better suited to my flair: The barest knowledge of a time line, random facts, and unsubstantiated opinions. My kind of test. Knowledge a mile wide and an inch deep. Perhaps you've observed working examples here, in this column.
Math and science? Another story altogether. 1+1=2. No getting around it. No foggy theories, no room for academic quibbling, no twisty, tangential roads to wander down. You know it or you don't. I was not strong in these areas, and went to extremes avoiding this curricula. The liberal arts program required five hours of algebra. Everyone took this course as a freshman. Not me. For three years I dawdled. It was the late Sixties, a time when students practically ran the universities, a time of rebirth, a time of hope. With the innocence of a newborn lamb, I was positive my fellow students would have the algebra requirement abolished or we'd burn the Dean's house down. In the final semester of my senior year, out of time, with all hope crushed, and a complete loss of face, I was forced to enroll in a five-day, remedial algebra class with a gaggle of retarded, pimple-faced freshmen.
How many times did I hear, "You'll need this someday," as I rolled my eyes and fell peacefully back asleep? Guess what? They were right! For a capable, modern-day sportsfan, a working knowledge of higher mathematics and geometry theorems are a necessity. When was the last time you read a sports story that didn't make some mention of the salary cap? Stories like these are commonplace on today's sportspage: "ESPN reported today the Sioux City Beavers have signed high school junior tailback Muhammad Ali Jones to an $83.4 million dollar, twelve-year deal. $53 million will be paid up front as a "signing bonus," so as not to count against the Beaver's cap. $20 million of Jones' salary is backloaded, meaning it won't work against the cap until 2010. According to an unnamed source, to make room for Jones under the cap, the Beavers asked tackles Mike (Sugar Bear) Joboski and Luther (Bad Luther) Smith to pro-rate their own frontloaded signing bonuses for 56 years, at a floating interest rate of 1% over prime or the averaged three year CPI, whichever is greater...."
I've made a real effort to understand captalk. Every so often, the paper runs a story attempting to explain this labyrinth of banker's jargon and numerology. I find a quiet moment and sit down, determined, to get it this time. In a repetition of the past, I soon find myself reading and rereading the first paragraph, again and again, without an iota of comprehension.
If captalk is algebra, then stadiumbabble is geometry. Like captalk, it's difficult to
navigate your way through a sports page without encountering a whining, billionaire owner carping about the new ballpark he wants you to build to help pay Muhammad Ali Jones' new contract. Beaver owner, Mac (The Black Scot) McGinty, who recently purchased the state of Hawaii, observed, "You citizens better pony up pretty damn quick or the Fightin' Beavers are gonna play next year in Little Rock. I want a new multi-purpose venue [Editor's note: That's a free ballpark]. It's a state-of-the-art deal I got in mind. I need two levels of 120 luxury boxes which oughta generate me about $10 million, a prototype Jumbotron scoreboard, which'll ring the entire outfield, and the biggest mall in the state below Concourse A. All the seats on the lower level -- the Kings KonCourse -- will be for sale on a strictly season-ticket basis. Corporations only. Sorry, no families. (Our old fans can visit the stadium gift shop for a $5 cover charge.) We're gonna finance this sweetie with a $600 billion bond initiative, plus a nickel per thousand dollars of income value added tax. To spread the burden, we'll levy a unique 8.5% flyover tax on every traveler who passes though Sioux City airspace."
I don't want to see snot bubbles come out of Pete Sampras' nose as he pukes on
national television. I don't want to know the hardships of the Olympic gymnast from China. And, I don't want to return to college for a course on Sports Page Composition. Alas, a modern-day Don Quixote... a man out of his place and time.