Ford Motor Company was embracing a new program named Punt,Pass, and Kick and like the other kids, I signed up for it at school. Now mind you, my dad was what was commonly called, a job shopper and as a tool and die maker he went where the money was and this meant we moved a lot - a whole lot. This was another reason I had no idea where I was in the athletic pecking order.
Consequently, we were the new kids on the block everywhere we went. What this means is you have no real deep connection with the kids at school and feel like a misplaced alien at every school. When the day came for the competition, I naturally wanted to chicken out, feeling like I didn’t measure up to the local kids.
My mom, in all her wonderful wisdom wouldn’t have that and forced me to go to the Dundee Michigan high school and compete. Now mind you, I was in the 6th grade and although they had categories, the grand champ would get the prized varsity jacket which truth be told would fit a 16-18 year old athlete. Well, when the scores were finalized, I beat them all and walked away with a jacket that wouldn’t fit me for 4 years.
I was shocked, but this re-enforced the idea that the way to success was to be a very good athlete. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The way to success is making very good grades in school. We moved all over the place and I never played football, but found out that I was also very good at baseball. In Woodstock Georgia, I made the All-star roster as a shortstop. Back then kid’s dad’s coached the team and although I could catch anything that was hit my way, and throw like Ken Caminiti, my accuracy was less than what it could have been. I simply needed better coaching and didn’t get it.
Unbelievably, I flunked the 9th grade. My acting up in English class allowed the teacher to flunk me by one point and our constant traveling made Algebra a foreign language. Well, I was of the mind that nothing really mattered except doing athletics and smoking cigarettes and being cool. Stupid times 100. The single best thing that happened to me was flunking and my decision to go to summer school. Back in 1967, it was something like $68 for the summer course and my Mom told me I had to pay for it and I did by working at the local Tastee Freeze every evening. I think it took my paycheck for the entire summer too.
6 weeks later, I came out of the class with an A and a whole new understanding on school. 6 books on the must ready to enter college list and 6 book reports later, I realized that school was a whole lot more fun when you did your homework and actually knew the answers on the pop-tests. School is fun when you have learned to study and know the answers! What a revelation for a jock! What a revelation for any student.
I never stopped reading books after failing the 9th grade. Those kids we made fun of who were terrible at sports became our bosses. Joking and skipping classes by jocks was simply making a path that later on put us in the lowest of low jobs. That fat nerdish kid with glasses runs the bank that we borrow from. That is probably a poor example, but you get the idea.
Jocks don’t run things, it’s the nerds. It’s the Steve Job’s, Mark Zuckerberg’s, Bill Gates’, Warren Buffet’s, and Donald Trumps’ that do. The only chance an athlete has is to be an Emmitt Smith or JJ Watt – or to have the brains to get a degree along the way that can make them money when their bodies fail and they do fail more times than not.
Think about this when you are pushing your kid to excel in sports over everything else. Nerds rule. They always have; they always will. Teach your kids to read. Teach your kids to love books. Books and their imagination will take them places no ball could ever possibly emulate.