Hero: Eric Cornell

A couple weeks ago at I had the pleasure of playing against, and pitching to, Eric Cornell (Nobel Prize, Physics 2001) in the Staff Council Softball League at the University of Colorado. After once again experiencing his down-to-Earth enthusiasm, his volunteering to be the umpire for the first inning or so, I realized that I admire him enough to acknowledge him as a hero on my blog. Little did I know when I realized this was that he’d written a short article in an effort to save the softball league from bureaucratic insanity. The Colorado Daily published it on my birthday. Should that link expire, I’ve saved it on my page here.

He also sponsored a resolution proposed to the student government for them to do what they can – at this late stage of the field renovation plans – to keep the league going next year.

On Thursday of last week I joined a handful of other softball players and league volunteers (I volunteered in ’04 and ’05) to communicate to the student government how important the league was to the campus community. I was happy to incorporate the concept of social capital, made popular by the book Bowling Alone. A handful of the students had heard of or read the book, so that was a good sign.

I mentioned “bonding” among people in the same or related departments, and “bridging” that occurs between people from different department who would not ordinarily interact. Through this, I noted, we get a sense of community by, for example, seeing people we know as we walk through campus. Knowing more people also promotes smooth conflict resolution, or as I said “we’re less likely to be a jerk” when we either know the person or have a know are aware that we know people in common with someone we’re working with. Many students nodded in recognition. I could have acknowledged Guns Germs and Steel for that idea, but decided I’d been academic enough.

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