Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Gatsby Complex, Part 2: The Tom Buchanans

Welcome back, everybody. Last week, I decided that I was going to start my first blog series on Diana Dishes. This series is focusing on three of my favorite things: literature, sports, and entertainment. Last week, I focused on the correlation between F. Scott Fitzgerald and the Lost Generation to today’s celebrities and athletes. This week, I will begin actually looking at the novel The Great Gatsby itself. The first character I’m going to discuss is Tom Buchanan.

The narrator of The Great Gatsby, Nick Carraway describes Tom Buchanan, his college classmate, as having been
“[. . .] among various physical accomplishments, had been one of the most powerful ends that ever played football at New Haven-a national figure in a way, one of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterwards savours of anti-climax. His family were enormously wealthy-even in college his freedom with money was a matter of reproach [. . .]. [He] drifted here and there unrestfully [. . .], but I felt that Tom would drift on forever seeking a little wistfully for the dramatic turbulence of some irrecoverable football game.”
Tom Buchanans aren’t always rich, privileged students. Some actually come from poor backgrounds. They are the ones who feel entitlement. They have always been the best looking, the most popular, the most talented, the best dressed, and do not care who they have to step on to get it. Things have always come easy for the Tom Buchanans-until they had to work for it. Tom Buchanans go to Yale because of connections, but even making the Yale football team requires work. Even though, Tom is talented enough to make the team and get National recognition, the pros are not in the cards. He is rich enough that he does not have to work (even though he does), but like the narrator says, he is directionless. He has no idea what to do with himself. Tom marries Daisy, but she is not enough. He has a daughter, but she is not enough. He has polo ponies, homes all over, and a mistress, but none of these fulfill Tom. Nothing like the glory he felt on the football team.

There are many Tom Buchanans in sports and entertainment.
They have been told from a young age how great they are. So, from early youth, they have been getting privileges. They develop an air of entitlement-the belief that because they are who they are they have rights that aren’t deserved by the “peasantry.” Help in school, underage entrance into clubs, “jobs” from boosters, they are given everything except a plan.

Lindsay Lohan Gets the Most Out of Her Night by Not Sleeping

With their success comes a type of high, an adrenaline rush, it is a natural high that they chase forever, because they fail to realize that there is an expiration date on that talent.
Tom Buchanan peaked at age 21. He can’t seem to find a direction from that point. He’s a 30 year old man who can’t get past age 21. Since Tom Buchanan is a football player, let’s deal with football shall we.

There are 26,407 public and 10,693 private high schools in the United States of America.
That’s a little over 37,000 sets of seniors in the country. Let’s just make it a given that there is 1 great quarterback, 1 great WR, 1 great RB, 1 great LB/DE on each team. You are looking at about 148,000 football players looking for a position on a Division 1 football team. Here’s the bad news, there are only are 120 NCAA Division 1-A football schools and 109 Division 1-AA football schools. There about 200 Division II and 200 Division III football schools and about 75 NAIA football schools. That’s 704 schools. The NCAA only allots 85 scholarships per team (give or take a few they may have lost because of violations), but teams have on average about 125. Let’s just focus on the scholarships, because let’s face it, most want to play college football because of the scholarship. That is about 60,000 scholarships available for 148,000 students (that’s only if a school has 4 great senior players).

According to the NCAA’s website,

  • According to recent statistics, about 2 percent of high school athletes are awarded athletics scholarships to compete in college.
  • Approximately 5.8 percent, or less than one in 17 of all high school senior boys playing interscholastic football will go on to play footall at a NCAA member institution.
  • Approximately one in 50, or 1.8 percent of NCAA senior football players will get drafted by a National Football League (NFL) team.
  • Eight in 10,000, or approximately 0.08 percent of high school senior boys playing interscholastic football will eventually be drafted by an NFL team
BCS National Championship - Alabama v Texas
So, Tom makes it to college football, but he fails to get drafted, what next? Tom Buchanan had money to fall back on, but what about the poor Tom Buchanan’s? What do they fall back on? What other skills have they developed? Some have spent four years in college and graduated with a BS degree that’s not worth the paper it’s written on. Some will become high school coaches, some will become college coaches, and some will not. Some will be trapped at age 21. The one’s who couldn’t even make it to the college level-trapped at age 17. Could you imagine how horrible it would be to peak at 17 stuck with a coulda, woulda, shoulda? The climax of his life takes place before he can truly appreciate it, and there, he will wander directionlessly pursuing a moment that has past. You’ve seen them; the ones who come back to high school reunions bitter about the present living the Glory Days…So, what is a Tom Buchanan to do?

Well, our guy Tom floated from city to city, lived the good life, and committed adultery. Some try to find that elusive high in illicit affairs. Some try to find the high in drugs, alcohol, gambling, and hard living. Some learn from their mistakes and make a fresh start changing their lives for the better (Drew Barrymore), some make mistake after mistake (Dwight Gooden; Darryl Strawberry; Amy Winehouse), some die (Corey Haim; River Phoenix; too many musicians to name). They don’t know what to do for a second act. Some hang on long past their relevancy (Bret Michaels; Flava Flav).

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One of the greatest Tom Buchanans is Michael Jordan.
To quote, Ouiser Boudreaux, “[He has] I have more money than God,” six rings, two gold medals, 5 NBA MVPs, beautiful kids, nice homes, a different girl every time you see him, and he has even bought his very own NBA team. Yet, he never appears to be satisfied. Don’t believe me…Check out his hall of fame speech. For some reason he seems to be unusually bitter and for no apparent reason.

Sometimes, we do these athletes a disservice when we only focus on the athletics, musical talent, or acting skills. You can place emphasis, but you should not entirely focus on anyone thing. All careers (even teaching) have an expiration date, don’t be afraid to move to act II.

Next time-The ladies of The Great Gatsby

"Glory days well they'll pass you by/Glory days in the wink of a young girl's eye/Glory days, glory days" -Bruce Springsteen sings me out until next week...

The Gatsby series was inspired by a conversation with my Twit Bro. Kimani "Deja's Daddy" Holmes. Check him and my buddy Rob Reed on their podcast the Atypical Sports Show .

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