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This week on ESPN’s College GameDay, Katy Perry joined the gang to pick games at the end of the show. To say I was excited was an understatement. Full disclosure: GameDay is my favorite show on television, and the picks segment may actually be the best twelve minutes of every week (I hope it’s on when I die from Ebola). There’s nothing better than watching Lee Corso, who might be running on fetus-stem-cell protein shakes at this point, tell a bunch of guys, “Not so fast!” (I even do an impression of him during sex – girls love it).
It’s the least scripted thing on TV and it involves a guy who is so old I’m half expecting him to use “Oriental” to describe a Mexican-American football player. That’s what’s so great about the random special guest. They’re thrown into this hot pot of crazy that’s nothing like the canned late night show interviews. There isn’t any “Tell me that funny story” or “I heard the cast had a lot of fun.” Sure, they plug a new record or movie or, in Stone Cold Steve Austin’s case, the fact that they’re still alive, but with so much surrounding mayhem, the celebrity has to be somewhat “real.” Go look up when Cam from Modern Family went on and see if you still think of him as “that fat gay guy from that show.” After watching him I remember thinking, “That fat gay guy from that show is giving chicks in Hollywood all the HPV.” So when Katy came on, I was pumped. Here was our shot at reality with one of the biggest pop stars alive. Maybe I’d come away with a new perspective, maybe she’d hit on a starting quarterback and singlehandedly ruin the state of Oklahoma’s year, or maybe, just maybe…you know…Lee Corso would die. Endless possibilities.
The problem? Katy never let that happen. Don’t get me wrong, the segment was awesome. I couldn’t look away. When an almost 30-year-old Perry basically presented her lady parts to a college kid, I kept waiting for Chris Fowler (the clunkiest “lets move on” guy in the business) to try and change the subject to her menstrual cycle. It was very entertaining TV, but the whole time I felt like I was trying to be convinced. This segment wasn’t a view into the real Katy Perry. This was Katy “working.” This was a show that she was going to nail. She even brought props–hair dyed, a giant pencil (awesome), heart shaped pictures, and, my favorite of them all, the corndogs. I watch more than the average amount of college football, and I had to look up the LSU/corndog joke, which, by the way, is hilarious. One person claims a whole fan base smells like a food only eaten by people who look like stillborns and it becomes their defining attribute. I love it. It’s like when you walk through an “urban” neighborhood and one guy yells, “Look at that guy with the fat head!” and twenty other “urban” people on the stoop laugh (as if a skull could get fat), and it’s such a weird jab that you can’t even deny it or else you’ll look too offended (a very specific example – it may have happened to me). Love it. But how did Katy know about the corndogs? How could someone going to their first ever college football game know about something that’s so insider? She didn’t–she studied, she was coached, she was there to sell you and me on the idea that Katy can hang. More than a few dudes cracked a Natty Light Saturday morning as they said, “Katy Perry is pretty awesome,” and the word “gay” was never uttered.
The whole thing reminded me of rush. Every year there would be a guy who came in and owned the first two weeks of school. He’d be at every party, know every chick, laugh the loudest, and somehow remember everybody’s name. It was like he had been studying how to go to college. I used to call him the “Rush MVP” and absolutely every semester had one. To me, that guy always ended up disappointing a house. He could never add up to that “MVP” status. Because, you know what? Just like Katy Perry, he spent the whole process trying to convince a group of people about his awesomeness. The big difference here is I don’t have to live with Katy Perry after I turn off the TV. I’ve been entertained; life moves on. The Rush MVP, on the other hand, has to now live up to an impossible ideal.
I get a lot of emails for the TFM Podcast about where to rush and how to act during rush and, weirdly, what to wear (have your mom lay out your clothes, like me). At first, those questions were tough for me to understand. I didn’t have a site like TFM. There wasn’t a stream of tweets to read about the way “frat guys” should act. The only idea of fraternal life that I ever had was “Animal House,” and there wasn’t a scene with a bunch of pledges getting yelled at for wearing cargos. We’re living with the irony that the more information there is, the more confused and afraid we actually are.
My biggest advice to someone with questions like those is to be yourself. It sounds reductive and simple coming from an old man, but Christ, it’s the truth. Beyond the fact that you’ll end up disappointing everyone around you because you’re not the bill of goods you sold them, you’ll end up somewhere you don’t want to be. College is a weird time, especially at first, and the desperation to fit in somewhere is palpable. But “cool” is quite literally nonexistent from the age of 20 on, whether we want to believe it or not. “Cool” only matters within confines and college has very little confines, save for the ones you set for yourself. So don’t worry about joining a house with a good reputation that will matter to NO ONE in a year or two. Don’t try to put on a show, or make your parents buy you a bunch of props (cough…boat shoes). Worry about where you fit. Who do YOU like to hang out with? Well, besides your D&D club…nerd..