One Trick Jacks

January16/ 2000

…… Among the casual clichés of recorded history “Jack of all trades and Master of none” ranks in the mid 20s in the latest CNN/USAToday poll.   It implies that the person being described has a modest amount of adroitness in numerous areas but is not accomplished in any of them.   Am I the only one noticing that we insist upon ascribing universal knowledge to those adroit in a single area.  When, in truth, they “don’t know jack”. 

We slough daily thru a cultural swamp where bright shiny geegaws are prized.  If it glitters, makes a Sportcenter highlight, or preens on a red carpet we ooh and aah at it and immediately give it messianic omniscience.

In the 70s “we” figuratively trekked to Nepal seeking “truth” from diaper wearing mahas.   Four moptops from Liverpool had percolated to the top of our cultural crockpot and, in our desperate search for “the meaning of Life”, we figured maybe along with their musical talent, they had figured it all out.

The ’79 movie Being There epitomized this media-fueled assumption that an individual celebrated for one particular skill or achievement is somehow blessed with all the answers.  Peter Sellers’ character Chance The Gardner was so simple-minded that his most inane utterance was taken as from on high.

We are now hip-deep in the era of  “Chance The Celebrity”. 

Today all it takes to be a quoted authority on the conundrum of the day is demonstrated acumen in any of a host of singular skills …… hitting a baseball, emoting on cue, looking fine in a bikini, driving a golf ball, or coaching a basketball team among others.  The more distant the demonstrated skill is from the issue in question seemingly the greater the ascribed expertise.

Is the issue that these savants so quickly out-kick their expertise coverage …. Or that desperate lemmings will blindly follow any one-trick pony over the cliff de jour.    (NOTE:  I do realize that all that previous line needed was “it was a dark and stormy night” to qualify for an award in literary puffery.)

The recently well-documented attempts to draw very successful basketball coaches into the global economic crisis is only the latest knee-jerk search for anyone who has an answer.  Can Ol’ Roy or Jim Calhoun devise an in-bounds play to get “the DOW” back up to 1,000.   Is there really any difference between proper rebounding techniques and manipulating the Euro relative to the Yen?

Since no one seems to know what to do, lets find famous guys/gals who can do “X” well and give them a shot at solving “Y”.

This is a perverse form of acumenical payback.  The “great unwashed” with no demonstrated acumen whatsoever, is forever pontficating on the playcalling abilities of “coordinators” ……  the acting skills of ingénues ….. the honesty of “refs” …..  the long range shooting skills of “small forwards”.  This inane blathering is somewhat encouraged by the luring of their interest thru ticket sales and telecasts.  Sports marketers encourage “look at us and tell us what you think.”  “Not that we think you know “jack” but whattheheck you can blather so long as you frequent our sponsors or buy $10 trays of soggy nachos.”

The assumption that those who know nothing might know something is a frightening topic for another day.  Lets concentrate on today’s topic that those who we know can do one something well, might be able to do all things well.  It stands to reason that Tiger’s ability to hit a one-iron should carry over to his having a solution for over dependence on fossil fuels.  George Clooney’s screen magnetism should be transferable to stopping genocide in Darfur.   Jane Fonda’s looking good in leotards and leg warmers made her a natural to  represent us in Viet Nam.

Analysts of the Chance The Celebrity Syndrome say that these overly admired savants recognize the singular shallowness of their expertise and seek out opportunities to prove they are not simply brainless scarecrows in the cultural cornfield.  Not content to simply hang on a stick and frighten crows (which, after all,  is what a scarecrow is designed to do!), they want to have a voice in the planting, growing and harvesting of the corn.  …… “If all I can really do is scare crows, you might one day find a newer, shinier, scarier scarecrow ….. and I will be discarded.  Let me prove I can do something else so I can remain forever revered and King of the cornfeld.”

Unlike his legendary mentor, Ol’ Roy isn’t asking that at all.  Name another celebrity whose tagline is “I ain’t that smart.”  Roy’s response to The Calhoun Question was 175 words too wordy.  The reporterette was successful in getting ORW chasing his tail trying not to “be Calhouned” into a snarky sound bite retort.   As I read ORW’s lengthy explanation to “do I feel guilty about how much money I make” I sensed the homespun Hall of Famer’s angst.

His afore-mentioned legendary mentor would have muttered “I feel sorry for poor people” in that familiar Kansas twang.  His Franklin Street disciples would have swooned into puddles of light blue goo.   Dean’s “I feel sorry for poor people” ranks beside Lindsay Lohan’s “pollution is yucky” in the People Magazine’s Index of Celebrity Inanities.

Sports celebrities should stick to “my favorite movie is Patton ….. my favorite food is steak ….. my favorite magazine is SI’s Swimsuit edition.    Now excuse me I gotta go play ball.”



A Peter Sellers’ question …..
Who wrote the Pink Panther Theme


   Butch Davis Gets Calhouned …… the same intrepid N&O reporterette that tried to gotcha Roy, did Butch on Tuesday.  The same “don’t you feel guilty that you make so much money” ambush.   Butch did a variation of Roy’s answer and ended the silliness with the following ….

Q: Would you take a paycut, though, or participate in a furlough?

Davis: “That’s not a question — that’s a political hot button, and not really a question that any coach should be put in a position to have to answer. … The leadership of the University, that’s probably more in line with a decision they would need to make.”

 The reporterette, Robin Pickeral, still did not say how she is helping the economy or how highly-paid N&O executives are doing their part.

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