Maybe I'm not the Bearded Lady, after all.
My point deals with President Obama's State of the Union address and a long blog I posted several months ago.
We're talking junior colleges.
The blog posted in September was titled, "Champions and Orphans: The 1968 Fresno City College-College of the Sequoias football feud." In a nutshell, it's the story of two remarkable football teams and two ambitious coaches told against the backdrop of a dramatic year in local and American history.
Never miss a local story.
But only a nutshell the size of Alaska could hold the blog itself. I did a computer count -- 105,001 words.
I've been in touch with a grand total of four (4) people who, I'm convinced, actually read the blog from start to finish. Three said they liked it. Then again, all three were part of the story. The fourth, a dear and tactful friend from childhood, said, "Wow, there sure were a lot of names." I got the message.
The other comments (made in person or on the Internet) fell into two camps.
Some wanted to know where such a long blog, a story that obviously took months to research and write yet was made free to anyone with a computer, fits into the uncharted (and, perhaps, unchartable) world of Internet communication. That's a subject too deep for me.
Most simply wanted to say I'm daffy. A curiosity piece. The Bearded Lady, but of the digital universe rather than an old-fashioned traveling freak show.
A Bee editor asked about responses to my blog. I said many people thought I was an eccentric old man. I said they vowed never to even begin reading a blog of such length. My boss laughed. I'd written the blog on my own time and at my own expense. If it generated a few hits on fresnobee.com, well, so much the better for the company.
I'm a believer in the market. The digital market had spoken. Case closed.
But I couldn't help thinking that rejection of the blog simply because of its length had the effect of supporting one of the blog's main points: junior colleges get no respect, especially on the cultural scene.
Don't get me wrong. The blog revolves around football. The Fresno CC Rams of 1968 were coached by Clare Slaughter. The COS Giants were coached by Al Baldock. The Giants lost only two games that season, both to Fresno CC. The Rams got off to a slow start, then rolled to the state championship.
But the story as I wrote it took me in unexpected directions. Real people, I discovered, populate the junior college world. In addition to the classroom, they are part of a junior college culture, one that molds them, one that they change.
The football players/students at Fresno CC and COS of 1968 were part of the American culture in that unusual year. In a small but very real way, they contributed to the shaping of America. "Champions and Orphans" is an attempt to tell their story. As I told Vic Lamanuzzi, the Rams' star running back in 1968, I missed much of the story. Without doubt, I said, others could tell it better. But, I added, "Champions and Orphans" is a start.
I prefer "junior college" to "community college" for two-year schools of higher education. Just about no one, I discovered, tells stories based on the junior-college experience. William F. Buckley wrote "God and Man at Yale." There's never been "God and Man at Reedley College."
I found some books about junior colleges on Amazon.com. I bought a few. With one exception, they had all the juice of an Inspector General's report.
It seemed odd to me that, considering the tens of millions of students who have passed through California's two-year schools in the past 100-plus years, a rip-roaring story of the junior college cultural/political experience as instructive of the broader American cultural/political experience has never been told. If it has, I didn't find it.
Maybe the junior college, because of its nature and history, can't fulfill such a calling.
Then President Obama on Tuesday delivered his 2015 State of the Union address.
"By the end of the decade," the President said, "two in three job openings will require some higher education. Two in three. And yet, we still live in a country where too many bright, striving Americans are priced out of the education they need. It's not fair to them, and it's not smart for our future.
"That's why I am sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college -- to zero."
My aim here is not to speculate on the wisdom of such a proposal or its chances in Congress. My point is to suggest that Obama is pushing junior colleges out of the policy shadows, and the schools aren't likely to return to darkness. Granted, Obama sees two-year schools as junior college advocates have always seen them, as functional and egalitarian avenues to career success. But perhaps a collateral benefit of this policy debate will be an appreciation among writers for junior colleges as a worthy source of human drama.
That's all this daffy freak of a newspaper reporter tried to do in "Champions and Orphans."