The very name "Al Trautwig" now threatens to reduce my few remaining grey cells to quivering mush (or, perhaps, over-watered oatmeal). I hadn't realized that listening to the gymnastics commentary would be so...dangerous. Won't somebody at NBC think of the professoriate?
(I hope readers from outside the USA are having better luck with their sports commentators.)
As Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man plays in the background, we bring you the first Academic Olympics...blogged live from Orange County, CA. Our schedule is truly one-of-a-kind, folks. Thanks to the nature of the academic lifestyle, we've been able to offer a unique combination of winter and summer sports...
1. TRACK AND FIELD
GRADING MARATHON. The competitors run along a twenty-six mile route that passes through every office building on campus. At designated stops, they pause to grade a full stack of final examinations in their field. Competitors are penalized for illegible handwriting.
BUREAUCRATIC TRIPLE JUMP. Each competitor must fight back against a student grievance, which s/he contests in three different administrative offices. There are bonus points for eloquence, documentation, and concision, but penalties for foul language, threats, and/or tears.
TENURE POLE VAULT. Tenure-track competitors vault over stacked tenure files, landing in a pit filled with letters of recommendations, reader's reports, and student evaluations. Competitors who knock down the bar must automatically participate in the Job Interview Sprint (q.v.). JOB INTERVIEW SPRINT. Open to non-tenured faculty only. Competitors race between job interviews in different conference hotels; some of the interviews are spaced as few as five minutes apart. There are penalties for excessive sweating and broken high heels.
COMMITTEE MEETING HURDLES. Tenured faculty only. Competitors scramble to complete a thirty-item agenda in one hour, facing off against irrelevant complaints from senior faculty, digressions about the good old days, arguments repeated ad nauseam, and at least one major power outage.
2. GYMNASTICS (ARTISTIC AND RHYTHMIC)
POLITICAL BALANCE BEAM. While performing required acrobatic and dance skills, competitors lecture on a hot-button political topic to a group of undergraduates. Enraged students have the right to shove faculty off the beam.
THEORETICAL HOOPS. Using the hoop apparatus, competitors perform a rhizomatic routine that will be kept under Foucauldian surveillance by a scopophilic audience.
ADMINISTRATIVE HIGH BAR. Competitors execute required acrobatic skills on a nine-foot steel bar, avoiding frenzied helicopter parents who fly about, seeking to pull them off. Sticking the dismount--without landing on any nearby parents--is key.
GRADUATE STUDENT SLALOM. Racing against the clock, competitors ski through seminars, oral and written exams, TAships, dissertation proposals, dissertations, and defenses. In years past, many competitors have wiped out along the route.
EVALUATION MOGULS. At the end of the Olympics, competitors ski down the bumpy course, performing two spectacular aerial stunts in order to impress the otherwise uninterested students who will now fill out their course evaluations. Errors may have an unfortunate impact on employment or tenure decisions, not to mention merit pay increases.
ADJUNCT BIATHLON. Part-time faculty ski along a cross-country course, stopping at each of four designated sites to teach one heavily-enrolled lower-division class. This sport incorporates an endurance component: faculty must carry all of their books, exams, papers, etc. with them, as they are not allotted any offices along the way.
4. EVENTS AT THE ICE RINK
CHILI PEPPER FIGURE SKATING. Dressed in colorful, bizarre, and definitely skin-tight costumes, all of which bear an interesting resemblance to academic professional wear, competitors show off their best sexy moves on the ice for a judging panel of undergraduates. Winners receive a coveted "chili pepper" at Ratemyprofessors.
DOUBLE-BLIND ICE HOCKEY. Teams try to maneuver a stack of frozen article manuscripts into their opponents' nets. Games are supervised by blindfolded referees. The winners will have their articles published in the journal of their dreams; the losers teams will be sent xeroxed rejection letters.
CONFERENCE CURLING. Teams (called "panels") slide a stack of papers down the ice towards the goal (called "the audience"), using pens, laptops, and projectors in order to guide the papers along. Teams are penalized if the papers miss the audience, run on for too long, or come up short.
Completely irrelevant and frivolous Olympics commentary blogging ahead.
What's with the shock and horror when gymnasts mess up an "easy" dance move like a triple or quadruple pirouette? Yes, they look much simpler than the Cool Tumbling Stuff, but, really, I've seen quite a few professional dancers fall out of multiple pirouettes. They aren't easy, for crying out loud. While my understanding of dance technique falls into the "autodidactic" category (IANAD), it's more difficult to perform multiple pirouettes with the legs parallel--as the gymnasts (and jazz dancers) do them--than with the raised leg turned out. The turn-out helps the dancer maintain balance and, along with the arm position, controls the speed of the turns.