Reality outpaces satire

The WooSox want YOU! to fill out your federal student aid forms

You’ve got to be kidding me.

I have a few much more substantial projects lined up but I just want to quickly riff before I have to go to work on this video that, for some reason, the Worcester Public Schools decided to put on their social media pages.

Yes that’s right that’s Charles Steinberg, president of the WooSox and the sort of guy with a PhD who insists on being called doctor, telling Worcester kids to… fill out their FAFSA forms. 

You may be excused for thinking “what?” When I first watched the video, I figured it was an announcement of some sort of scholarship fund and I was thinking oh that’s great a couple kids every year are going to get a $500 check from the Smiley Ball Scholastic Fund and spend it on a puffy Northface jacket. But no! When he got to the line about filling out your financial aid forms, I laughed out loud. 

Kids should fill out their FAFSA forms, he explains, because everyone who works full time for the WooSox went to college, so, you know, you should also go to college! And federal student aid, um, helps you go to college! 

“Every single member of the Worcester Red Sox, who works for us full time, is a college graduate, and we want that for you too,” he says. 

Why the WooSox made this video, and why the schools posted it, is bewildering. What, exactly, do the WooSox and federal student aid have in common? How is it helpful for Worcester kids to have this man tell them to apply for federal student aid but give no information on how or why besides to say that going to college is, in fact, good?

I couldn’t write a better bit clowning on the team’s tenuously thin claim to being a “community partner.” For years reality has been killing satire at its own game and this is a nice little example of it here in Worcester. The cruel banality of this guy, whose project is going to make it harder for regular folks in Worcester to make the rent let alone put money away for college, telling kids to apply for federal student aid. They should do it though because everyone in our front office went to college, he said. That’s why you should too because we did and that’s why I’m the person the schools reached out to to tell you this! It’s just so goofy and funny and an amazingly out-of-touch decision. 

“Let’s get you on your way to college and let’s see you here at Polar Park,” he says, concluding a video which is ostensibly about student loans with a shameless plug for his own business.

If you think there’s even one kid in Worcester who knows who this guy is or cares what he has to say you live in the sort of bubble that would think investing $100 million of city money into a minor league ballpark is a good idea and whoops I suppose that’s how we got here, huh? Charles Steinberg is a celebrity to maybe the 200 people closest to decision-making power in City Hall and to everyone else he’s as anonymous as the president of any other company in the city. Not only is this a functionally useless PSA, it demonstrates a deep disconnect. I hope he was paid handsomely for this spot because why not at this point they’ve already got the hook lodged so far in our mouth we can’t take it out. 

I also love the caveat he gives about who in the WooSox organization holds a degree. Every single member of the Worcester Red Sox… who works full time .... is a college graduate. He’s telling on himself there, a little bit. The Worcester Red Sox front office is a small organization. It’s maybe 40 people. And let’s just put it this way, degree aside you’re not getting one of those jobs unless you know someone. Let’s not be naive here. Everyone else who works for the team, for the most part, is working part time, on a seasonal basis, for wages that wouldn’t cut it to make rent around here even if it was steady, full-time work. Or they’re working full time seasonally for a contracted third-party company like in the case of the catering service, Professional Sports Catering, which seems to handle a good deal of minor league ballpark food service.

That job fair that the WooSox is hosting this weekend, where they’re claiming to have 300 jobs to fill, is for all the other labor required of the ballpark that doesn’t itself require a college degree for the most part. Concessions, ticket-taking, security, etc. These jobs are not the sort of jobs you can support a family on, and they will likely be taken by people already working too much to supplement an income that is not enough. It’s not the WooSox’s fault that people aren’t paid adequately for their labor in this country but it is a little extra ‘fuck you’ that people in the neighborhood will be taking on extra part-time work at the very institution that’s making it increasingly difficult for them to live in their neighborhood.

But yeah, apply for student aid lol I’m Doctor Charles Steinberg I went to college and so can’t you! 

Now, it should be said, that FAFSA is an issue in Worcester and a good public information campaign would be helpful. Across the country, applications to federal financial aid are down over last year, according to a report from the Mass. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and the March 15 filing deadline is fast approaching. There’s research showing that students who get their FAFSA in are a lot more likely to enroll which makes sense intuitively.

I’ve done FAFSA myself. It sucks. It’s worse than doing taxes. It’s not a bad idea to poke and prod to make sure kids actually do it. But the decision to have someone from the WooSox send that message is wack as hell. It speaks to a deep, deep disconnect between the administration and the students. It speaks to an enthusiasm for the ballpark project only held by the innermost townie rings of this city and the warrantless projection of that enthusiasm onto the general population. I mean for cripes’ sake this is a PSA directed at 17-18 year olds. Know your audience.  

But without city leadership this out of touch with the community, how would we ever get a video this funny?

On every level of comedy, the video pops. 10/10. The writers of Parks & Rec couldn’t dream of a bit this dryly funny. The background music. The way the camera pans. The way he shamelessly plugs the ballpark after giving kids zero useful information visa-a-vis the intended subject. The way he wants to say “coming to you live from” but then realizes the video isn’t live and just says “coming to you.. from Polar Park.”

Chef’s kiss :* 

~/~

This is just a quick little guy but if you liked it consider signing up to give me a little bit of money every month so I can keep doing this or sign up for free that’s good too.

Or share this post on social media that really helps a lot.

Share

Now for something actually cool and not punishing that’s happening in Worcester. The Worcester Free Fridge movement is gaining serious momentum and they’re asking for your help. The idea here is to keep a fridge stocked with food people can take if they need it, and it’s stocked by people directly. Have food you don’t need? Put it in the fridge. It’s very simple and it’s a great exercise in the sort of direct mutual aid we need to build a better world. Check ‘em on Instagram, and they’ve launched a Patreon for people to support them directly for a few bucks a month, sort of like how this whole newsletter thing works. 

I lost my grandfather this week. I may write more about him and what he meant to me and my family, but I just finished his obituary and that’s enough for now. Pappy was one hell of a man and he was one of my first and most lasting male role models. In 2015 I went on a 10-day road trip with him to the part of rural Pennsylvania where he was born and raised, and I had four rolls of film from that trip I never developed, but I just dropped them off. Perhaps a photo essay is in order, but we’ll see. 

Anyway, I love him and I hope he’s taking it easy right now up in the great fishing boat in the sky. 

Here’s me and him trying to figure out some sort of fire truck situation that was likely very important to me given the attire. 

That’s all for now folks. Talk soon ciao!