I can’t help but think about all the time I spent in high school gravitating toward the cool kids at lunch and doing everything I could to stay away from the nerds table. Why? Well, women, of course. Why does anyone do anything? But now, after having/getting a woman or two (on their own accord, I promise!), and having to live with the niche I’ve cut out in this world – I realize that I really wish I hung out with the nerds now!
In this Information Age, up is down, left is right, fat is skinny (No? Not yet?) – and NERDS ARE COOL!
So I’d like to take this opportunity to point out a group of “nerds” that have helped make our lives cooler – which should, in fact, allow them to now sit at the cool table. What are my “nerd qualifications”? I’d give you a long drawn out explanation, with postulates and theorems, but then you’d realize I don’t know what those are.
The 10 Coolest Nerds in America
Oakland A’s GM, subject of “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game”
I realize it’s tough to throw a “jock” in the “nerd” category, but is there a better case for it than Beane? He won two World Series as a player, and then, once he moved into the front office, he became the voice for scouting players using sabermetrics (objective analysis of baseball through statistics). He proved how small-market teams to compete with megapowers, like the Dodgers and Yankees. He was an outcast among the old school scouting “cool kids”! And now? Stats are cool.
9. Malcolm Gladwell
Writer for The New Yorker, pop sociologist, author of “Outliers”
Writers are often classified as nerds, much to my chagrin, and Gladwell is no exception. His study of the human subconscious and discussions of how small social events could have much larger implications has given potheads everywhere material to talk about for hours.
8. Neil deGrasse Tyson
Astrophysicist, Director of the Hayden Planetarium, host of “The Universe”
Tyson is most famous for denouncing Pluto as a planet, causing uproar among fellow nerds, only to be eventually agreed with by the International Astronomical Union. To further make a case as a cool nerd, in 2000, he was voted the “Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive” by People Magazine – and I can’t tell you what a tough choice that must have been. He’s a six-time guest on “The Colbert Report” and an incredibly entertaining person to watch interviewed.
Sports columnist, “The B.S. Report” podcaster
Known as “The Sports Guy,” Simmons is one of the greatest “genre-fusionists” of our time (I totally made that word up, by the way). For over a decade now, he has melded sports with pop culture in several mediums, and his Page 2 column on ESPN shot him into the sports writer stratosphere. The nerd part: He writes an NBA Draft Diary, which is basically a live blog about the draft as it happens. It’s the sports equivalent of having a “Dungeons and Dragons” play-by-play announcer. He also wrote, “The Big Basketball Book,” which is the best basketball book ever. It’s big, too!
6. Alton Brown
Through his shows on the Food Network, Brown displays his vast knowledge of the science of cooking and the history of food in America. It’s one thing to know that cutting into a steak fresh off the grill is bad, but it’s another to know why. He has given home cooks a chance to learn about gastronomy without paying almost $40,000 to train at Le Cordon Bleu.
5. Peter Pezaris
Web programmer, co-creator of Commissioner.com and Multiply.com
Fifteen years ago, Fantasy Football was mostly frowned upon by major media and jocks alike. As the Internet grew – and a generation of ‘80s athletes became cubicle-bound employees in the ‘00s – Fantasy Football became a social event, on par with watching Monday Night Football with your buddies. Pezaris and friends built an online Fantasy sports gaming platform that was purchased by CBSSports.com, and remains one of the most popular, as well as the most copied. Consider him the Pete Rozelle of Fantasy Football – but with a different last name.
Political satirist, host of “The Colbert Report”
Colbert started off as a correspondent on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” – which is essentially now the nightly news for an entire generation of Americans. Imagine the genius it takes to create/write a character that portrays a conservative Republican, yet is beloved by liberal Democrats. It’s like a fake Yankees fan working as a reporter on NESN, Boston’s sports channel. How hasn’t someone else come up with this concept? Well, I guess it’s because if it’s not perfect, it sucks.
3. John Clayton
Clayton is the ultimate nerd – sports fans hang on every word he says, without ever questioning whether he has ever touched a football in his life. The mousy glasses, the Prof. Frink voice and the Stewie good looks are all misdirection for any nerd-haters. Hell, former jock Sean Salisbury referred to him as “The Cryptkeeper” and “Mr. Peabody” – and I can’t say I blame him for those comparisons! Yet, the bar talk quiets when he comes on the TV.
2. Mark Zuckerberg
CEO of Facebook.com
He’s the youngest self-made businessman worth more than a billion dollars – all because he found a way for people to post stuff like, “Me thinks Starbucks’ non-fat vanilla latte is laced with habit-inducing heroine!” and “is it Friday yet? ;-P” But really, most people consider this guy cool because he now facilitates a way for you to reconnect with people you once had sex with, plan to have sex with or wish you had sex with … oh, and friends!
1. Steve Jobs
Jobs’ recent death made us look at his accomplishments much closer. You can say that one of the coolest nerds ever directly or indirectly changed several industries in his lifetime, including computers, animation, the movie industry, the record industry, mobile phones and tablets. Our lives would be markedly different had Mr. Jobs decided to become a mechanic. Then again, maybe we’d end up with cars that you can play Angry Birds on and set your Fantasy Football lineups with!
The more I think about it – and the more I look back to see many of my high school’s “cool kids” struggling to get by — it appears the nerds are now the residents of the “cool table.” I hope one of those coolest nerds ever steals my lunch!
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David Gonos spent 5 years as a CBSSports.com Senior Fantasy Writer and three more years writing with SI.com. Over the past 17 years, his work has been published on NFL.com, MLB.com, FanDuel, FoxSports.com and USA Today. Since 2001, he has been tracking down the Top 50-plus Free Fantasy Football Draft Tools online. You can contact David Gonos here.