A confession with North Texas on the docket: I have never read Friday Night Lights. Nor have I seen the movie, nor an episode of the television series. Each, I have been told, is better than its predecessor. Yet I have not made the time.
Some of this avoidance can be explained by my finding Buzz Bissinger a bit of a prisspot. Or worse, a tourist. Furthermore, Texas has enough misguided, self-aggrandizing nonsense in its history, politics, music, and barbeque without tossing amateur football onto the bonfire.
The larger complaint, though, is relative. I'm persuaded of Texas high school football's allure and drama, but not of its importance. Its devotion seems miles wide but only inches deep. Given the state's population and resources, a quality undergrowth of prep talent becomes inevitable, no more special than Florida or California or Ohio high school ball. But raw numbers do not service the myth of election, so don't waste them on a Texan.
I thought of this while observing the lastest kerfluffle regarding the Poets & Writers rankings of MFA programs, specifically Columbia's lowballing. In toto, the article is a good point made poorly.
Of course Columbia's ranking is joke. But what's equally laughable, though, is the chorus proclaiming an MFA's worthlessness--mostly from those with MFAs and some even from former program directors like Paisley Rekdal. The implication being that since MFA degrees all have null set value, Columbia's is just the prettiest zero. It doesn't matter where your MFA is from, this argument goes, your writing is what counts.
That this line of thinking, put forth by people who are half-Pollyanna and half-Narcissus, can take root so easily speaks poorly of those shepherding American letters into the future. Behind it lies a denial of reality.
The selling point of Columbia is its contacts--honestly, no different than any other program. And what is so dangerous or painful about admitting that Columbia has better contacts than McNeese State?
For Columbia, it means admitting that they have a good writing program for the same reason Texas has good football: resources moreso than talent. For everyone else, it means exploding the myth of their own election: they're lucky to have their contacts. Columbia isn't special; it's just louder.
Hell, I don't know. Maybe they're ranked low because their football team sucks.