I don’t care for football as much as I care for defending those who participate in it, who participate in anything, really. And so in this sense I have no beef with the person who wants to become a grandmaster chess player, or who wants to be seriously good at poker, or who wants to become the all-time high scorer in Asteroids, no more than I have a beef with s/he who wants to write poems. I just don’t like those students who would rather play games than do the reading assigned. But ask me how I would deal with a student who has been working at chess rather than Joyce, and you have a really interesting question. I would tell her/him, if they were becoming good at chess, showed promise, to leave school and pursue that. School will be here still even if you fail. But I’d find difficulty saying the same to someone becoming good at Super Mario Bros, because even though I can’t defend this, I’d say this situation contained a difference in kind. Maybe it doesn’t. But I wouldn’t want to jip anyone out of an education, which does not mean they have to be in college to get that, just that some people lack the motivation to educate themselves themselves. Not all, just some. And really it just comes down to reading, to learning how to read well, to learn how to choose what and what not to read. Maybe it’s because chess players have to read, have to learn how to make choices, to become good, that I’d advise these two cases differently. Maybe I'd just judge the person as a thinker: does s/he seem to be able to educate his/herself? The person who excels at chess really doesn’t think differently than the person who excels at most anything else, that is if they excel. You learn the elegance of the thing, how to be elegant in it, like how a poet learns to be elegant in words. And if Super Mario Bros did the same thing, then I’d approve it.
But football, you know, I have found to be the only way I can make conversation with people whom I love but have never understood. My father doesn’t read. He doesn’t understand what I do or how I do. But he understands Trotter, Owens, McNabb, Pinkston, etc. We have at least that.