by Con Chapman
BOSTON, Mass. Charged by his bosses with drawing more viewers to Channel 2, the Boston public television outlet that gave birth to such favorites as Julia Child’s “The French Chef,” Jeremy Korg found himself with a case of producer’s block.
“I would sit on the couch, channel-surfing back and forth between our channel and others and get so depressed,” he says. “Yes, we were more literate but our stuff lacked impact. It was a faculty sherry hour up against Monday Night Football.”
All that changed when he woke up one morning hung over after drinking a bottle of pinot noir. “I formulated a transvaluation of values, a conversion of a familiar theme into a different context,” he says in his characteristically pretentious style.
The result? Ultimate Faculty Fighting, a combination of “All Things Considered” and “Ultimate Fighting,” the martial arts competition that has replaced boxing as America’s favorite bloodsport.
“We throw two academics together in a Texas death pit and let the fur fly,” Korg says. “We’ve got Stanley Fish, Camille Paglia and Cornel West signed up. These people know how to fight dirty,” he says with a demonic grin.
Before Ultimate Faculty Fighting academic disputes were resolved according to a sort of Queensbury Rules of intellectual combat. The author of a monograph would cast aspersions on another academic in an aside such as “Professor Quiller’s reliance on the Knocht-Herrlinger presumption of non-linearity among asymptotic paradigms is misplaced.”
The victim would reply in a letter to the journal that published the article or write a paper that launched an offensive of its own. The counter-punch in one famous exchange was titled “An Animadversion On Heuristic Teleological Reasoning in Uhrquart’s ‘Notes on a Phenomenology of Critical Solipsism.'”
The UFF currently has an eight-team Atlantic Division but hopes to expand to sixteen teams with a Pacific Division next year. As the season opens tonight Harvard is the prohibitive favorite to win the championship due to the return of Lawrence Summers from the Obama administration.
“Larry is the Michael Jordan of abrasive academics,” Korg said of the man who resigned as President of Harvard after suggesting that the paucity of female scientists might be attributable to innate differences between the sexes.
“Larry’s like those highlight films where Jordan switches hands in midair,” Korg says. “He opens his mouth and criticizes you as excessively sentimental, and before he closes it you’re accused of lacking analytical rigor too.”
Con Chapman is the author of two novels and The Year of the Gerbil, a history of the 1978 Red Sox. His humor has appeared in The Atlantic, The Boston Globe and on Salon.com, among other places. He blogs at conchapman.wordpress.com.