Bo Jackson, Department of HIstory, Eccentric, Football, Grad School, Graduate School, Hillman Library, History Department, Larry Glasco, Lawrence Glasco, Marvin Harrison, NFL, Pitt, Pro Football, Suzy-Qs, University of Pittsburgh, Weirdness, William Pitt Union
I sometimes think that me being a weird dude — because I often spend my time in contemplation — often attracts people in my life of all types. Including people weirder or more eccentric than me. As those closest to me can attest, I’ve awaken many a morning with ideas to write down, with dreams to interpret and deep epiphanies to discuss. All while still needing to pee and brush my teeth — so I multitask!
Twenty years ago, I was in deep thought almost every day going into my first semester of grad school. I couldn’t help it. It wasn’t part of my original plan to earn a master’s degree. And it was obvious from dealing with the folks in the Department of History at the University of Pittsburgh that many didn’t want me there (see “The Miracle of Dr. Jack Daniel” from May ’11). Either because of my familiarity with them, or because I was Black, or because I was still only twenty-one, or because they knew I’d study race more than class and neo-Marxist theory.
Whatever the case, I knew one thing for certain. That Professor Larry Glasco would end up being my advisor. Glasco was the only professor out of twenty-nine in the department who specialized in African American history, and he’d been there since the year I was born, ’69. He was likely hired in the midst of universities, fearful of black student groups and their protests over mistreatment and lack of diversity — hiring one Black here and one Black there to meet the protesters demands. Actually, not likely. Glasco, like the start of the
Black Studies (now Africana Studies) Department and the hiring of Dr. Jack Daniel, was all a response to protests and a major sit-in by the Black Action Society in the 1968-69 school year.
But I digress. I’d taken a history majors reading course with Glasco my junior year, and we occasionally talked. Other than that, I didn’t know much about the fifty-year old, six-foot-five and very light man.
Though I did begin to find out. Mid-August then and now is big in Western Pennsylvania, as it’s football preseason. Since my NY Giants had won the Super Bowl that January, I was satisfied and not at all in a football mood. I’d gone out that third Sunday in August to go to Hillman Library, continue my work on my multicultural education article, grab cheap grub at 7-Eleven, and sit at one of the benches outside of William Pitt (Student) Union to eat and smell the sulfuric air.
Glasco walked up and greeted me. We talked, mostly about how I planned to fulfill requirements like proficiency in a foreign language (I decided on Swahili, much to Glasco’s chagrin) and what my master’s paper should be about. I didn’t understand — and quite frankly, I still don’t now — why many professors practice this opaque way of giving advice to students, advice that can easily come off as commands.
Anyway, Glasco then chatted me up about the upcoming ’91 NFL season, about the Steelers and the injury bug. Some major draft pick had blown out his knee, torn ACL and MCL. Between that and what happened to then LA Raiders great Bo Jackson in the ’90 playoffs against Cincinnati, Glasco said, “Maybe it’s their diet. Maybe they’re eating too many Suzy-Q’s.”
My mouth fell to the table attached to the bench where I was sitting, keeping it from hitting the sidewalk three feet below. Over-trained muscles, steroids, Astroturf, vicious hits, and your answer is “Suzy-Q’s,” I thought? Really? I didn’t think that what Glasco had suggested was dumb, just weird. Really weird. I said, with a post-gasp chuckle, “Well, I don’t think that eating Suzy-Q’s has much to do with a ligament tear…” Before I could complete that thought, Glasco continued for another ten minutes about diet and how these athletes don’t watch what they eat compared to the guys in football in the ’60s and ’70s. I thought and said, “Really? Because I remember guys who’d smoke during these games, not to mention drinking and eating hot dogs.”
Of course, years of sports research and Sports Illustrated articles confirmed everything I learned from watching and playing sports by the naive old age of twenty-one. Not to mention a former wide receiver by the name of Marvin Harrison, who for years made a point of eating a pack of Suzy-Q’s before a game, only to turn in one of the all-time great NFL careers with the Indianapolis Colts.
But the bigger point from my conversation with Glasco was that I’d found a professor and advisor who was a nice guy, but actually weirder than me. And made me feel strangely comfortable with him and with being at Pitt for my master’s. Still, I sensed that I’d eventually need to go someplace else if I wanted to start and finish a doctorate or do something else educationally. A Suzy-Q hypothesis could only take me so far.