• Bill Chastain

TOYS AND GAMES: The Jock Class

Back in the day, the mere mention of calculus brought me a wave of anxiety. Differential equations are bad, believe me. So imagine my delight on the first day of a quarter at Georgia Tech when I showed up for calculus and found the place swarming with football players.

Ah, the jock class. My inner Fred Sanford kicked in: “I’m sitting on a gold mine.”

450px-Differencial_quotient_of_a_function.svg By Johannes Schneider – Own work.

Once Professor Brooks entered the room I felt even more confident about my chances for notching a five-hour A. Not only was I in the jock class, some rube freshly fallen from a turnip truck was teaching the class.

Alas, perceptions can be misleading.

Stories are prevalent throughout the history of college sports about cooperative faculty members waving checkered flags for the jocks as they crossed the finish line with easy As. That wasn’t the case with “Farmer” Brooks, who used a high-pitched Georgia accent to splice humor into the ins and outs of derivatives and integrals. The football players often served as props for his comedy.

Like the time he taunted a husky lineman by saying, “Now Osborne, what’s one football plus two footballs?” And, Bucky Shamburger… Brooks asked the golden boy running back/receiver of the Tech team: “Shamburger, how do you spell your name?” After Shamburger slowly spelled his name, Brooks told him, “That’s correct.”

Finally, my favorite.

A defensive back named Maloof told on Osborne for “stealing” his pencil. Brooks smiled: “Osborne, you going to take that from a little old defensive back? I’d take him outside and pump him a few times.” Brooks followed by shadow boxing a one-two combination.

Nobody got a pass in Dr. Brooks’ class–including the athletes, many of whom went on to become successful businessmen. No doubt Dr. Brooks’ lack of coddling–in deference to enabling– served them well.


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©2020 by Bill Chastain. Photo credits: Jill Doty Photography