Dedicated to Mrs. Gillis and our mutual friend Russ (who sat in Ebbets Field)
So Fake Social Science is having its weekly pizza with its 80ish Mom. She's had some health problems with her vocal chords lately so sometimes I can't quite make out what she's saying. So we're chatting and my ears are telling me "Sounds like she's talking about Jeremy Lin" but my brain is too overwhelmed by cognitive dissonance to accept that. She barely knows that Boston has a basketball team, let alone who the new starting guard phenom is for the New York Knicks. So I nod genially.
But she's still sharp as a broken beer bottle and instantly challenges me: "You're just nodding at me, aren't you?" I bashfully admit it, then she continues, "You didn't know I was talking about Jeremy Lin, did you?"
"But Mom! That's not fair!" I cry. "I did too know you were talking about Jeremy Lin! I just couldn't believe my ears so I figured you must be talking about somebody else, so I nodded. . . . And . . . . How the hell do you know who Jeremy Lin is anyway?" As soon as those words left our mouths: Inspiration! This is a job for Fake Social Science! And who better to perform ethically dubious human experimentation upon than my own elderly mother?
So I come back after preparing a set of questions intended to investigate where and how sports and sports figures transcend their field of endeavor to enter the larger culture or society. She actually can identify a good many members of the Boston Red Sox and the star players on the New York Yankees (David Oritz is her favorite), but that doesn't really disconfirm our hypothesis, if we even have a hypothesis. The Red Sox have become so integrated into the cultural fabric of New England that it takes an active effort to not know this stuff--and a willingness to dispense with about half of all the small talk that occurs in those five-and-a-half or six states.
So, I start off with the Patriots. "You know Doug Flutie and Tom Brady. Name anyone else who has played quarterback for them in the last fifty years." She has to think, but finally comes up with "Drew Blue" by whom she means Drew Bledsoe, and that's close enough that Fake Social Science gives her credit.
Then we go to hockey. "You know Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr. Name any other hockey player. Ever." That's a toughie and she has to ponder a bit before finally answering--
"Oh. I know! That one your cousin Doreen used to babysit for."
After Fake Social Science returns to its seat and regains professional composure after having fallen off the chair laughing, we have to adopt a serious mien and, because of strict adherence to the scientific method, we have to rule that she does not get credit for that answer. (Fake Social Science is pretty sure Doreen babysat for Johnny "Pie" McKenzie, but has been unable to test the theory yet.)
On to horse racing. Everyone knows Secretariat, so I ask her to name another thoroughbred. "Man o' War . . . " she answers. Now Man o' War was Horse of the Year a decade before she was born, but so captured the public imagination that he was still by far the most famous horse in America in her childhood. ". . . Oh, and Seabiscuit, but they made a movie about that," she finishes.
"That's quite all right," Fake Social Science replies in a neutral and academic tone intended not to prejudice the findings. So she gets full credit for that answer. Finally, we return to Jeremy Lin. "Jeremy Lin plays for the New York Knicks," we ask, "Can you name anyone else who has ever played for them?"
"Michael Jordan?" She tentatively offers. Uh. No. "Magic Johnson?" Uh. No again. Oh dear. If Fake Social Science's elderly mother gets this one wrong, she flunks, and Fake Social Science is starting to feel a little guilty about inflicting such torment, so we prompt her a teeney little bit. Patrick Ewing, we remind her, played for Rindge Latin High School in Cambridge and he was on the front page of the Globe and Herald for weeks at a time back in the day. Since she does know that, we give her credit and pass her, although we are sorely tempted to flunk her anyway when she concludes, "But I never knew that Jeremy Lin played for the Knicks until you told me."
And so, thus was inspiried Fake Social Science's Super-Duper Leave-Nothing-Out Sports Poll, just in time for March Madness Brackets Week, a special season for people who don't know anything about a particular sport to pretend to know everything about that particular sport. Our instrument is so detailed and comprehensive that we must divide it into two parts. Please help us investigate Sports by taking the polls below.
Look for Part 2 tomorrow on mymymy's column or in the Fake Social Science peer-reviewed academic journal.
Thanks, and enjoy!
++The Board of Standards of Fake Social Science insists on a public apology for that unprofessional outburst. Okay, okay, I'm sorry. But if the other Fake Social Scientist's Green Bay Packers had beaten the Giants like they should have, we'd never have been in that mess in the first place.