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Are You the Quarterback?
by -- October 7th, 2011

Me? No. I’m just a grad student, but I can tell you this: football is a lot like grad school: sometimes it hurts and you’re really confused, but you end up winning.

The 2011 Nickerbockers posing with nicknames in tow after the victory (Yours truly second from left).

The 2011 Nickerbockers posing with nicknames in tow after the victory (Yours truly second from left).

You could feel the chill of the late September night as the Nickerbockers took the field. The yet-untested, but already most-highly-celebrated Nicholas School intramural recreational coed flag football team of 2011-2012 had trained relentlessly for this moment. We had known adversity, but never fear.

The first test did not come until midway through the first half. Our opponent marched down the field with eyes focused on the end zone and mouths drooling. Our defense dug in. Having just entered the game and the ball about to snap, middle linebacker Esi “Slater” Waters (MEM ’13, concentrating in Environmental Policy and Economics and specializing in green building and sustainability education) turned to defensive end Caroline “Lil’ Sparky” Winchester (MEM ’13, concentrating in Ecosystem Science and Conservation and specializing in human-wildlife conflict). Slater knew last-minute adjustments had to be made before the play ensued.

Was the other side about to audible? Could it be a sweep-right? A screen pass? A play-action pass?? Slater asked Lil’ Sparky…“Are you the quarterback?”

Oh no.

Before Lil’ Sparky had the chance to explain the complexities/definition of defense, the opposing team snapped the ball and the running back flew down the field. However, after only a few seconds and even fewer yards, the dust cleared and there stood Slater…with the ball carrier’s flag in hand. Her look of astonishment belied the ease at which she had executed the maneuver.

About half an hour later, the final score stood at 28-0 and the Nickerbockers stood undefeated. For Esi “Slater” Waters, it was a baptism of fire into the world of football, but for our team, ‘twas a victory.

I don’t think you could find a better parable than that for the joys and tribulations of your first semester in grad school. If you do find one, let me know. I write these things every week.


  1. Sue Smith
    Oct 10, 2011

    Great analogy…

    I enjoyed this, Pete. Well said.

  2. John Misenheimer
    Oct 11, 2011


    I remember that play, and it cracked me up. I am glad “Slater” was a natural on the field! We will see if she improves her sack count next game.

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