President (still) Trump has made the term “Big League” popular, at least in the form that he says it, which (still) sounds like “Bigly” to me. But that’s not what I came to write about.
This morning there was an article on NPR about some college athletes who are likely to be recruited to the pros. These particular athletes are in US Service academies, and the point was that they may not be excused from active duty service even if they are recruited by, for example, the NFL or the NBA.
But that’s not what I came to write about either. Rather, it put me in a place to remember what my life was like in 1981.
I was a golden boy. I graduated from college with a 3.78 GPA, no grade ever below a B, honor program, summa cum laude, having worked as a research assistant and teaching assistant in my program for more than two years.
And when I went to apply for graduate schools, well. I applied to the best: Berkeley, Stanford, Columbia, Chicago, UCLA, UCSD…and a few more. I think I applied to ten in all. I was accepted at every single one.
More important, I was offered a scholarship at all but one–Stanford declined. I had a Route 66 of choices across the country.
So, not long after getting my acceptance letters, I set up a cross-country trek. I would fly form Minneapolis to New York, then fly out to San Francisco (my former college roommate lived not far north of there), visit the schools in that area and then fly south for some more investigations before making my way back to the Twin Cities.
I landed in New York and a cabbie who didn’t understand English took me to the wrong neighborhood. A nun got me on the right bus and so I got to spend some time walking Columbia’s campus, talking to students and faculty (including Robert K. Merton, who told me that you could tell Columbia was a Great University because he was still there). Modesty is not a big property of academics.
After a couple of days in New York (including a harrowing experience taking a dose of insulin in the men’s room of a Morningside Heights pizzeria while a cop watched suspiciously) I got out of there and headed for what I thought would certainly be greener pastures on the West Coast.
The highlight of that trip was hearing about the assassination attempt on President Reagan while I was walking around the UC Santa Barbara bookstore.
I got home feeling like a star. And since I wasn’t crazy about any of the places I had visited (for one reason or another) I ended up accepting the offer from the University of Chicago.
I was a star.
Then I screwed up, which is how I ended up as a software engineer and later a lawyer–but that’s a whole other story.
For a while, I was in the Big Leagues.