It is a place where the jocks rule and nerds worship at their feet. It's a place where only the biggest and strongest can survive. If you are good at something then you are popular, earning the devotion of many.
No, we aren't talking about the NFL. Instead we are talking about high school. In a week where the same "PREVIEWS", "PREDICTIONS", "FIVE KEYS" and "UPDATED ODDS" will rule the sports world I have decided to pull a Robert Frost and take the road less traveled.
In this upcoming article I will compare the remaining NFL playoff stars of the Conference Championship round to high school norms. We all remember the jocks, nerds and everyone in between from the best days of our life. So here they are again in athlete form.
He is the most popular kid in the school. He is untouchable. He is handsome, rich, smart and has the best girlfriend.
In short he is everything that you want to be. That is Tom Brady. Brady is the best remaining quarterback by a landslide and his Patriots are the "popular" group. Young quarterbacks are judged against him and every football fan wants to be him.
In the fictitious NFL Academy, Tom Brady is the jock of all jocks.
The Kid You Sit Behind
Alex Smith is that kid. He is really nothing special, just a random kid you sat behind in class. You didn't think much of him. He had four or five friends and was just okay when it came to grades. He didn't play a sport or act or draw or do anything that set him apart from everyone else.
Now, 10 years later at your high school reunion that kid is a millionaire with a good-looking wife and two cute kids. How did it happen?
Alex Smith was just an average quarterback that was fading into obscurity. Then 2011 happened and Smith became a West Side legend taking down the mighty Saints.
His lowly 49ers are now one home win away from the Super Bowl. How did it happen?
Your Best Friend's Dorky Little Brother
Eli is the kid that is sitting behind a computer playing Minecraft as you walk into your best friend's house. Your friend, who is named Peyton, smiles at you and says, "Don't mind my brother" while he gives a disgusted look at the computer player.
You make fun of him and it is quite easy. He always tries to copy Peyton and his failures are a Kodak moment. He never has friends that are his own age and resorts to following Peyton and you around everywhere. Eli has no idea how to make a soda bomb or play manhunt.
But one day this little kid with huge glasses will make a name for himself. One day he will step out of the Peyton-sized shadow and become a success.
The Yearbook Kid
This is the kid that loves high school. He savors every moment like it is his last breath. Davis is that kid that walks around the cafeteria asking to take yearbook pictures because he never wants to forget the memories.
He records everything. He takes pictures of everything. He never wants to forget his high school days. He relishes getting stuffed in a locker just so he has a story to tell his grandkids. At every graduation he bawls. When 10th grade was over he looked at all his pictures and just cried. The memories had come back to him.
When he finally graduated high school, Davis went up to the principal in tears and hugged every ounce out of that man.
The Juvenile Delinquent
Everyone is scared of him. The hallways part like the Red Sea when he walks through them. He is pretty funny and his friends know that. Everyone else stays away from him. He just screams "bad boy" without saying a word.
No one really knows if he has got into any legal trouble but no one will ask. The detentions keep piling on. So do the suspensions.
But he doesn't care. Because when he graduates, Terrell Suggs already has a scholarship to Ball So Hard University.
He is quite cool and near the top of the social food chain. But he is not the most popular kid in the school. In fact, it is common knowledge that he is second in charge. He is rich, smart, handsome and has a pretty girlfriend. He is the jock's best friend.
Everyone can agree, though, that Tom is much cooler. There is nothing wrong with the sidekick. People still want to be him and respect him. Tom likes him so everyone else likes him.
Thats Gronk. Gronkowski has broken out this year setting multiple tight end records along the way. He is getting serious MVP consideration. But Gronk isn't even the best player on his team.
The 20-Year-Old in Your English Class
The first thing he will blurt out is "I'm not stupid!" He isn't. His brain is still stuck at the 11th-grade level for some reason. Every time he retakes a year he doesn't get smarter. He just has to retake it again. He stays at the same level without improving.
That is Joe Flacco. Flacco isn't bad. But he isn't elite either. In his four years in the NFL, Flacco's stats have remained relatively consistent. He threw for 2,971 yards in 2008 making the jump to 3,613 yards in 2009. In 2010 his 3,622 yards was relatively close to the previous number before dropping to 3,610 yards this season.
If that kid ever wants to graduate, then he has to start studying. If Flacco ever wants to become elite, then he has to become better. They both need to step up their game.