Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Intelligence as Curse

October 20th, 2009 · 6 Comments

KwameHarrisWe’re headquartered on the Stanford campus this week, which has brought to mind one of our favorite football scouting reports ever: John Clayton’s strangely damning take on Kwame Harris, an All-Pac-10 offensive lineman for the Cardinal in the early part of the millennium. Clayton loved Harris’s arms, technique, and strength, but didn’t likehis head—and not because of any lackluster Wonderlic scores, either. No, Clayton’s biggest negative was:

Harris is so intelligent that some teammates have a hard time relating to him.

This stuck in our memory for a host of reasons. The biggest one is probably that we’re so accustomed to having “intelligence” lauded as the be all and end all of workplace attributes. And, certainly, success requires the sorts of critical-thinking skills associated with high IQs. But as Clayton implied, can vast differences in intelligence among co-workers lead to dissension? Collegiality can be vital to success, too, particularly in an endeavor such as pro football—as so many ex-players have remarked, you want to enter an extremely violent situation with men who feel like your brothers to some extent. If someone on the team is isolated because their brain operates differently, can that undermine the whole enterprise?

This also made us think about Lisa Simpson’s infamous happiness-versus-intelligence graph. Assuming that greater intelligence does indeed lead to more melancholy, you can see how a man of Harris’s tremendous brainpower might seem like an oddball in a locker room’s fratty atmosphere. Fart jokes only go so far when your idea of humor ranges more toward the comedic stylings of Aristophanes. (We covered a similar topic here, in a post exploring the correlation between literacy and suicide.)

We’re sad to report that Clayton was proved right in his skepticism about Harris’s pro prospects. The Stanford dominator turned into a journeyman in the NFL, and an object of much derision among fans. He’s currently looking for pigskin employment. At least he’s got that music degree to fall back on—though we reckon it’s tough to score a first-chair violin gig nowadays, too.


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6 Comments so far ↓

  • Gramsci

    It got pretty embarrassing when Harris kept calling the weakside linebacker “Schopenhauer” instead of just Will.

  • tsg

    I’m hardly qualified to comment, but I seem to recall quite a bit of crude sexual humor in “Lysistrata.” I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to assume that Aristophanes wasn’t above cracking fart jokes now and then too.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @tsg: I do recall the fantastic giddiness of first encountering the fart scene in “The Canterbury Tales.” If Chaucer could do it, why not his Greek predecessors?

  • tsg

    @B.I.K: A quick use of the google turned up this:
    “Something which has never occurred since time immemorial – a young woman did not fart in her husband’s lap.”


    Oldest joke on record just so happens to be a fart joke! Sadly, the humor of this one is lost in translation for me.

  • Jordan

    On the other hand, he presumably got his degree paid for by a football scholarship, so it’s not like he won’t get anything out of the deal. Maybe there’s football analysis in his future? That would seem like a fairly logical place to go. But then having a degree in hand an a lack of crippling injuries leaves him in a much better place than a lot of ex-football players.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @tsg: I actually get that one. Not especially funny, but it’s somehow comforting to know that women have been disclaiming scatological responsibility since time immemorial.

    @Jordan: It is worth noting that Harris did manage a longer-than-average career, at least for an offensive lineman, so he probably has millions in the bank. The knock on him is that he never justified the high draft choice spent on him–he was a first round pick.

    I would be curious as to whether he’s trying to get back into the league, or just rolling around in piles of money while reading Wittgenstein and listening to Brahms.