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So now as they are talking unionization for student-athletes, further polarizing the concepts of "student" and "athlete," comes this group of "nerds," as they call themselves, who totally and completely embrace the relationship between the classroom and the locker room.
Dr. Seuss might say: They are nerds. They're in herds. They are stirred by words, those nerds in herds. Nerd is the word for those herds of nerds. WORD.
And they are the nerds of Stanford, whose recent music video "N-E-R-D-S" (hashtag #nerdanthem) teaches anyone watching, through the power of hip hop music and hip college kids hopping that academics are neat-o, awesome and swell, too.
Video lyric: "No reason to be stressed; we 'bout to ace this test; Nerd Nation never rests."
The president, CEO and founding mother of Nerd Nation is the effortlessly cool Chiney Ogwumike, the heartbeat of Stanford women's basketball, who could very well be coming to a WNBA team near us. Ogwumike, perhaps the Connecticut Sun's first pick (and the first pick overall) in next week's draft, does happiness from a confetti gun, raining a million little pieces of it all around her.
The Nerd Nation video, as well as its predecessor, Nerd City, is easily seen on You Tube or through Google. Hundreds of bespectacled Stanford athletes (they sell nerd glasses at the Stanford bookstore) sing and dance their way through a sunny afternoon (Lyric: "When we put our frames on, you know we got the games on"). Stanford grad Richard Sherman of the Seahawks even makes a cameo, while women's basketball coach Tara VanDerveer and university president John Hennessy channel are also seen gyrating.
"We made one of these two years ago for Nerd City," Ogwumike was saying Saturday at Bridgestone Arena, where the Cardinal prepared for the national semifinals tonight against UConn. "Last year after Nneka (sister Nneka Ogwumike now of the Los Angeles Sparks) left, there was a huge power vacuum on our team and I was just focusing on putting myself in a good position to be a leader, so no crazy music videos.
"But this year, YOLO," Ogwumike said. "You know. You only live once. I'm a senior and have to go out with a bang. This song celebrates the culture of Stanford, but that culture isn't only Stanford. Nerd Nation is anybody that studies hard, respects athletics, respects academics and are equally good students as athletes and athletes as students."
But it's the way the nerds chose to convey the message that resonates. No dry, intellectual, NCAA-issued public service announcement here. The mien, means and medium are attention-getters for kids, many of whom attend Stanford games now wearing nerd glasses.
Stanford sophomore Jasmine Camp, who conspired on the lyrics and beat with Ogwumike, said some autograph-seekers even sported the specs Saturday.
"Chiney literally is Nerd Nation," said Ashley Westhem, the sports editor of the Stanford Daily and friend of Ogwumike. "She's the founder of the concept. She's always had a great presence on campus. It's important to show that the term nerd isn't derogatory. We're proud to be nerds. I'm a nerd. We all had to give up our social lives in high school to get into Stanford. It shows it's OK to be into reading and books. That's the message."
Indeed. And maybe it's a message that should make its way to Northwestern and the band of football players - as if football players have been bequeathed to speak for everyone else - that the thing called a scholarship might have some value after all. You know. Free education. That old thing.
"Athletes should have a voice," Ogwumike said. "But at the same time, I've been so blessed by what the NCAA has given me that I can't complain about anything. I'm 50-50. Switzerland, right? Athletes should feel in control of their own bodies and own destinies. At the same time, I'm here getting almost a million dollars' worth of education at my dream school. I can't complain."
You're going to love her, Sun fans. All this and an already made-for-the-WNBA game, too.
"The one thing I now about Connecticut is that they're huge women's basketball fans," Ogwumike said. "You know I love people. I'm a people person. That organization is just great. Great people. I feel like that's a place like that I would thrive. But right now, I'm just excited play (today) and then have another opportunity to play. If that happens to be in Connecticut, I'll be a happy girl."
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.