Really smart students are sort of a dime a dozen at my school; students who can finish in three years and get into graduate school, not so many.  This guy obviously has some real chops; too bad for me he was in such a hurry and didn’t have time to take any of my courses!  He has a really promising career in front of him; if it unfolds as it appears it will, it will be good for my health and yours down the line.

Unclear if that career will be as long as we might hope, though; the incredibly cool software he will code  after he’s, say, 40 may be left for someone else to do, or not done at all. See, to the best of my knowledge, our smart students do their thinking and like that with their physical brains, Brazinski too.  For some reason, Cal’s idea of how to take care of that particular device is to send it to collide with really big guys, again and again, to entertain the rest of us and pay for our fancy new stadium and coaching office palace.

Maybe that’s efficient use of a class-A brain; Mark weighs 305 lbs and will surely give us some Really Great Hits this season – the kind you can hear over the crowd and the announcers on TV – to go with all the one’s he’s taking and dishing up in practice. In the seven minutes of play he will probably get (that’s the average playing time of a member of our football squad), should be at least two or three of those!  As between doing some wonky computer stuff for a few decades, and steering an offensive lineman into collisions for a couple of years, don’t the fundamental values of a university clearly favor the latter way to use up a good brain?

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

9 thoughts on “Stewardship”

  1. I thought that Frontline show was pretty convincing, so I’m with you! Flag football now. It’s plenty hard enough — I remember from playing as a kid.

    1. Re the three years: how many AP credits did he have? (I don’t really care either way, as I am not obsessed with speed like everyone else.)

      1. Apparently Mark’s not obsessed with speed. He merely planned ahead so his football scholarship would pay the full ride for two Bachelors and a Masters. That’s pretty good planning for a high school kid.

        1. I wasn’t aiming at the kid, I have no problem with him (other than what he’s doing to his body). I think the AP thing is unfair, that’s all, and I don’t think it is admirable. In the old days, you took the hardest classes because you wanted to learn, not for extra brownie points.

  2. Tackle football is a dangerous sport; I saw the Frontline episode ( too and was impressed. I have made clear in previous discussions that I am not a knee-jerk defender of big-time college sports. But a question: do you have any good non-anecdotal statistical evidence for the proposition that playing college — as distinguished from professional — football measurably shorten lifespans, or degrades mental function or quality of life in later years? I do not consider that to be so obvious as to rise about the need for solid documentation. If in fact quality scientific evidence is not at hand, then the post is vulnerable to characterization as being seriously over the top.

  3. the kind you can hear over the crowd and the announcers on TV

    I thought this was a myth, that the sounds of the tackles were artificial and were added to the television broadcast to satisfy the bloodlust of the viewing audience?

    1. They’re not artificial in the sense of being Foley noises, but the on-field noises and play calls are picked up with special parabolic mikes on the sidelines as well as some players being wired for sound and this is added to the audio stream by the producer. You cannot hear the hits over the crowd in any reasonably large or full stadium without help.

  4. Can’t a class-A brain like Brazinski decide for himself if he wants to risk it playing football? It sounds to me like he actually enjoys playing the game. Sure, right now he needs the scholarship to subsidize his higher education, but according to the article he still intends on seeking a spot in the NFL after he leaves school, rather than seeking a career in software engineering like someone else might wish for him. Let’s not ignore that without the football scholarship, he might be flipping burgers instead of developing his intellect and earning degrees, that entertaining others not only helps pay for your fancy new stadium and coaching office palace, but for his expensive education as well.

    So if a Mensa member graduates with a handful of degrees and goes on to be a football star and after that a play-by-play announcer with the rare combination of intellectual depth and intimate understanding of his subject matter earned through hands-on experience, is that really so inferior to using his talents coding incredibly cool software? I code software when I want something that I don’t find available or affordable, have done so as a hobby since the late ’70’s, and have even done some contract work in my spare time coding custom web interfaces to database backends, but I’m glad I didn’t choose to make a career out of it, because for me it gets real tedious real fast. By the time I’m finished with a project I’m usually ready to do something, anything else. If I were a young man with his talents, I’d probably choose football too.

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