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Burn the Boats

Ruffling Big Bird's feathers, again

By October 11. 2012 10:49AM

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Mitt Romney's assault on popular public television educator Big Bird was a moment of scary juxtaposition for me, because it made me realize Mitt and I have something in common, besides extremely heavy eyebrows: We have both, at one time or another, roasted Big Bird (not literally, but I'm sure he tastes just like $5,000-a-plate chicken dinner).

When the actor who voices the puppet was announced as the commencement speaker for my alma mater, it gave me all the material I could handle, and more, for the weekly column I did at the school paper. I spent the rest of my college education divided between not going to finals, looking for a job, and doing interviews with the AP, New York Times, Inside Edition and other outlets about the column, getting no job offers in the process.

PUBLIC ENEMY NO. 1. You know, again.

My column was essentially a humor column, and a lot of people who hadn't read it regularly thought this was a real newsman's take on the issue, which I still find funny. Anyway, rather than come up with fresh material today, I'm just going to dust off this old chestnut. Enjoy.

STUDENT ADDRESS TO THE GRADUATING CLASS OF 2004:

(SPONSOR'S NOTE: Today's column is brought to you by the letters D and J, and the number 7.)

Students, parents, faculty, homicidal sharpshooters who have donated enough money to the school to pay for an athletic facility and administrators, thank you for hearing me out for one final time.

I stand here today to deliver to you the words that have haunted your futures ever since your parents signed off on the first of many enormous checks to Villanova four years ago, and those words are: Your commencement speaker is Big Bird.

Yes, in just a few short minutes, the man who plays the "Sesame Street" character who taught you many practical life lessons, such as how to count to 10 in Spanish and the importance of buying bird seed in bulk, will talk to you about the values that have brought you here (such as not cutting in line) and where they will take you in the future (not far, especially if you are going to work for a major accounting firm).

And parents, I have a pretty fair idea of what you're thinking. It's probably something along the lines of, "My child's education cost me more than a Black Hawk helicopter, and in the end, I might as well have just sat him or her down in front of PBS for four more years to accomplish the same feat as this education. Plus, I would never have to sit in rush-hour traffic again, with the amazing in-flight speed the military claims the Black Hawk can achieve."

Yes, parents, this is very true, but before you continue your diatribe, please consider that it could be far worse. Until Big Bird agreed to deliver the address, it looked as though the Villanova administration was going to give Oscar the Grouch the green light. Not that he would have been a worse speaker, but can you imagine an honorary degree from the university rotting in a garbage can?

But before I depress the parents anymore, let me move back to the students.

I know, Class of 2004, that you are expecting me to give a sentimental, sunset picture of life at Villanova University. However, inasmuch as my grades are not high enough to qualify me to be the actual student speaker, I can say whatever I want, including the fact that the letters of the words Villanova University can be rearranged to spell Trivially Envious Van, which would have been a great name for one of the members of Wu-Tang Clan.

Because you have been too busy doing body shots, Class of 2004, you are unaware that your graduation class will go down in Villanova history as one of the most ill reputed, and here I'm not referring to Big Bird. Remember how you've never seen your men's basketball team in an NCAA tournament game? Or how about the cashier who was arrested earlier in the year for stealing your tuition money? How about the fact that the campus never seems to come alive until Candidate's Weekend, when the university's leeches ogle another campus-load of moms and dads from which to suck fresh blood?

It was also a year of near misses. For instance, Kelly's, the bar of choice that was supposed to reopen over the summer, in time for your 21sts, never did. Fortunately, the good folks at Kildare's opened a pub in King of Prussia this year, and Class of 2004, should you choose to trek over there after commencement, to the greatest bar the Main Line has to offer, I'll have a drink with you. You're buying.

But perhaps this is all a bit harsh to hear on your commencement day, Class of 2004. I should be a bit more upbeat, considering that, unless you are a business major or going to grad school, you are desperately unemployed and prepared to move back in with your parents, who would really rather you fly from the nest, so to speak, and head elsewhere, so they don't have to do your laundry any more. I should also be a bit more upbeat because, if you've even spent 10 minutes in Tolentine Hall over the course of your time here, you have been exposed to asbestos levels high enough to render an entire herd of wildebeest immobile due to radiation poisoning.

Ha ha! Just kidding, Class of 2004. The lethal asbestos problem is actually in Bartley Hall.

Seriously, though, as you march out of the stadium today, be sure to hold your head up and smile, because you've completed a rigorous course of academic study that will leave you prepared for whatever real world situation you may face tomorrow.

Or, as Big Bird would say, "My God! Cuatro years at school and you STILL don't have a job?"

I'm even more irreverent on Twitter @joe_arney.


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