Monday, February 3, 2014

High School Records Mean Nothing

In an episode of Star Trek the Next Generation entitled "Yesterday's Enterprise," a time rift causes the Enterprise to shift into an alternative universe in which the Federation is at war with the Klingons instead of being in an alliance. The war is going badly and the situation is bleak. The ship's bartender Guinan, played by Whoopi Goldberg, is the only one the ship who recognizes that the timeline is off. People are missing. Others don't belong there. Something is just wrong.

I had one of these "we're in the wrong timeline" feelings recently when I was reading this older espn article about "Lost Heroes of the Super Bowl", which featured Mike Jones who famously made a game-saving tackle at the one-yard line at the end of the 2000 Super Bowl for the St. Louis Rams. Jones is now the head football coach at the Division II Lincoln University as tries to turn around a struggling program. In the article a guy named Tony Van Zant, an assistant coach under Jones, talks about using Jones' experience in the Super Bowl as a recruiting tool.

"I use that a lot," said Lincoln running backs coach Tony Van Zant, who played with Jones at Missouri. "I tell them about his Super Bowl. Those kids, they like that they get a chance to be coached by someone who's played in the Super Bowl." "Anywhere we go, people want his autograph."

This was the first time in almost thirty years that I saw, heard, or thought Tony Van Zant's name. Back in the Fall of 1985, I was a high school student in St. Louis and a big fan of the area teams. At that time there were two big stories all of us sports fans were talking about. One was Don Denkinger's missed call in the World Series. The other was the awesome performances of Hazelwood Central's star tailback Tony Van Zant, who was just destroying the area high school competition. Even though our school was in a conference for smaller schools and would never play Van Zant, my classmates talked about him constantly. He was like the big man on campus although none of us actually knew him personally.

To this day I have never seen anyone dominate his competition as much as Van Zant. Defensive players looked like little kids churning their legs at 100 miles an hour, yet unable to keep up with the effortless long loping strides of Van Zant. He was going to be a mega-superstar and the savior for University of Missouri football, which at the time was a perennial loser.

Then before his college career even started Van Zant tore an ACL in a high school all-star game. He went on to play out his career at Mizzou, but clearly Tony Van Zant never the same. While the 1985 World Series and Don Denkinger's name live in infamy among St. Louisans in particular, the memory of Van Zant has all but disappeared from the minds of even the most passionate sports fans.

I was stunned to see Van Zant in that espn article introduced as "some random dude who played with Mike Jones at Missouri." This guy was the Parade Magazine #1 high school player in the nation in 1985 and many say still the best high school player in the history of St. Louis. In an article about "Lost Heroes", ironically it is Van Zant who is truly the forgotten one. Van Zant was supposed to win the Heisman, go the NFL, win MVP and become a celebrated Super Bowl hero. Instead he's now talking about his former teammate's credentials to help recruiting. It just feels wrong. The proper timeline has somehow been altered. Van Zant is just a normal guy: no fame, no fortune and no Wikipedia page. It's like everything he did was erased from existence and only a few of us remember.

Even though Van Zant ran the ball little in college and never played any pro ball, I still figured he would be an icon based solely in high school accomplishments. When I googled his name, however, there wasn't all that much, and it only took a few pages before I started running into articles about Iyanla Vanzant and Tony Robbins on Oprah. I was wrong. Athletic high school achievements, no matter how amazing, are mostly forgotten.

The same can be said for the rest of us non-football superstars. A strong high school record can get you into a good college and some scholarships, but once you step on a college campus, those credentials can be pretty much thrown out the window. Except in rare cases, medical schools, graduate schools and employers aren't going to care about your high school GPA, your SAT scores, or the fact that you scored four touchdowns in a game at Polk high.

Everyone starts back at square one with a clean slate. I've seen been plenty of mediocre high school students rock in their college courses and have outstanding careers. Likewise I've seen plenty of high school superstars struggle mightily. Some couldn't handle having to study for the first time and having tougher competition in their classes. Others had trouble adjusting to living on their own. In some cases, students just faced unfortunate circumstances as was the case in Van Zant's football career.

Whatever the reasons for not living up to expectations after high school, those past accomplishments don't mean anything. In this universe and in this timeline, they're effectively erased from existence. Nobody cares.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Bonus Question: Green

Your instructor most commonly wears what color shirt?

I wore a green shirt 90% of the time. I see these people 4-5 times a week and only 53% of the class got this right. That percentage was worse than the average for the rest of test!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

He Showed Up

Also important is ending class on time. This blog post link also addresses a major pet peeve of mine: people gathering their stuff before the class is over.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Fashion Choices and Random News

The guy who "went blind" is Nobel laureate Barry Sharpless, who lost one eye in a lab accident, but retained use of the other. The man who went into a coma was from this pool party. I haven't heard any news about this person since the incident back in June. I hope he's doing ok.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Monday, October 7, 2013

Green Jeans

This is a twitter post from someone who is not my student. However, I now have an idea of what to wear once I'm due for clothes shopping in a few years.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Being Green

My daughter loves Cinderella and insists on wearing blue dresses every day. I decided to go along with it and wear green shirts every day because of the hulk.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Allow Students to Work Together

I agree on the value of having students work together. I also believe in the value of developing skills without relying on a lab partner. That's why we sometimes work with partners and sometimes not.

Monday, September 2, 2013


Dr. ________ made the hell of organic a little more heavenlike. Tests were grueling. Lecture was for the most part clear and understandable. Overall good teacher for a bad subject. Dr. ________ needs to speak up sometimes. I sit in the second row with my hearing aid all the way up and I can sometimes still not hear him. He also likes to mumble.