The Physical Cliff

I thought this was a great, timely title for this blog post and had intended to write about my continuing physical deterioration.  But unfortunately (for the blog writing), I seem to me none the worse for wear.  Oh sure…I still have the ringing in my ear; and my shoulder isn’t noticeably better, but that seems to be the extent of my calamities.  But through this clever literary device I still get to use the title while writing about something completely different.  

There was an article in the New Yorker recently about a movement that has gotten a toehold in the world of  football. A former college quarterback, Steve Clarkson, has become something of guru in the field of grooming future college and professional quarterbacks. Although he never  played in the NFL, Mr. Clarkson has gotten a reputation for having developed a regimen for teaching talented young men to excel at quarterbacking.  With an array of assistants, he runs his program in Southern California.  Oh…and he charges a lot of money for his services.

What made this story remarkable is that kids as young as eight years old are entering his program.  Essentially, if a kid shows some talent and his parents are highly motivated in wanting their son (usually his son) to play big time college football, Clarkson is their (his) go to guy.  Almost always, the families are white and affluent.

As with many competitive situations, the participants will sometimes game the system to gain some advantage.  In this case, what seems to regularly happen is that these boys are held back in school so that they will be bigger and more mature than the other kids in their grade, thereby giving them a physical advantage over their opponents. This will, so the theory goes, raise their level of play, confidence and leadership abilities.  (Repeating a grade may also help explain why this year’s Heisman Trophy winner is a twenty year old freshman.) The author (Ben McGrath) writes about one father who was planning to hold back his thirteen year old son because he had , in McGrath’s words, “long ago missed the opportunity to postpone, like a good Park Slope parent ( emphasis added), the start of kindergarten.”

That struck a chord with me because it seems that finally, my home town has made it!  Made it to a national magazine with no need to explain,” a small enclave in Brooklyn blah, blah, blah.”  Unfortunately, what it seems to be famous for is not that it is home to the largest collection of Victorian brownstones in the country; nor even that it is the baby stroller capital of the free world.  Rather, my once sleepy neighborhood is now recognized as the native habitat of the “Park Slope parent”,  which seems to be shorthand for one who is bent on giving their child every possible perceived advantage to “get ahead”.  Apparently, the Upper West Side has ceded its hegemony in this area.

Of course, the problem with “getting ahead” is that it’s usually at the expense of someone else.  A parent may not want her Dylan to be one of the youngest in his class, so she may hold him back from entering kindergarten.  Which means that Max will now be one of the youngest.  And then Max’s mom may decide to hold him back and so on and so on; and if that keeps up, it will be  just a matter of time until one day we’ll see some kids who need a shave on their first day of school. 






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