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Do you have a starting or backup quarterback?

quarterbackSo, with my first post on the blog (by the way, thanks to all the readers and sharers), you probably realized that football season is one of my favorites. It’s a nice break from the reading, grading, and writing required for life as a graduate student, instructor, and professional writer. So, in the spirit of one of my favorite days of the week, I’m going back to football today.

Last week, while I was watching the NY Jets play the New England Patriots, I was reminded how important it is to have a strong quarterback on the field. Jets rookie Geno Smith tried to hold his own, but with three interceptions in the fourth quarter, it was clear the Jets were at a disadvantage without their starting QB Mark Sanchez. (We can discuss in another post how important a strong supporting line is for strong QBs like Tom Brady.) But, because my mind is always on writing in some form or another, I realized there is a great teaching opportunity here.

As writing instructors, we are always telling our students how important a strong thesis is. It seems like I’ve tried all the analogies I can think of. But, since this time of year, football is on my mind, too, what about the strong starting quarterback that calls all the plays and keeps the offensive line moving forward?

Imagine an offensive line without a quarterback? Without one at all, it wouldn’t work. With no one calling plays, the team would come to a standstill. Without a thesis, a paper just doesn’t work, either. Writers don’t know where to go with it, and the readers don’t either. The paragraphs just sort of sit on the page lined up with one another, but the ideas don’t move forward.

Now, imagine you have a quarterback, but it’s a weaker, backup version. A paper with a weak thesis might make some ideas click, but overall, the paper just isn’t as strong as it could be. Rather than being left on their own without anything guiding them, the paragraphs make a few connections, but still, something that makes it all link up is missing.

In comes the starter. A strong, starting QB can take even a lackluster lineup and make some great plays. A really strong quarterback can make a connection with a wide receiver 50 yards down the field. In the same way, a strong thesis can help an idea that’s 10 pages into a text connect back to an idea on the first page.

But, let’s face it. Most of our students start out with a backup Geno Smith rather than a starter Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. Their thesis, if there at all, is weak and can’t seem to make the plays work. But, let’s not forget that even backup QBs can become strong leaders if worked right. In 2013, Colin Kaepernick, backup QB to Alex Smith, took the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl for the first time in 20 years. There have been others to do it, too, including the great Terry Bradshaw. But, it takes work. Lots of work. But, this should give us all a little hope.

So, I’m going to try this new approach to thesis writing in my classrooms, and I’m going to hope that all those backup and rookie QBs will soon be making their debuts this season as starters. And, I hope that with some work and determination, they will lead their teams to writing Super Bowls.

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