The turn of the scholastic year brought in a new freshman class at the elite National Checker Academy. Sponsored and operated by the National Checker League, the Academy put on a four-year accredited undergraduate program leading to the degree of Bachelor of Science in Checker Studies.
The curriculum was tough and demanding. Only the best could gain admission, and yet, despite major checker scholarships being offered by Big Ten universities, many a top high school player instead opted to brave the rigors of Academy study.
Tuition was free and the Academy provided room and board. Those who made it through the program--- and that certainly wasn't everyone, not by a long shot--- committed to five years of professional play, although many would go on to a lifetime career.
This year, the Academy invited Marvin J. Mavin to address the incoming class, and that invitation raised some eyebrows in the checker community. Usually the frosh were addressed by someone, well, a bit more on the academic side, someone more erudite and polished.
Of course Marvin was a star player, no doubt about it. But there were some who felt he didn't properly model the high academic and self-disciplinary standards that the Academy rigidly enforced.
Marvin, for his part, didn't really know what kind of a speech to give. So he figured he'd just sort of play it by ear.
Marvin was advised by Academy officials that there was a certain dress code observed at the Academy. All students wore suitable formal business attire at all times, which consisted of a white shirt or blouse, brown tie, a conservative brown suit or pant suit, and brown wing-tip shoes or pumps.
"I ain't wearing no tie," Marvin said at once. "You ain't gotta strangle yourself to play better checkers. You gotta breathe, man."
But his longtime girlfriend, business executive Priscilla Snelson, who was invited to be present with Marvin, put her foot down, and when she did, there was no opposing her.
So Marvin came to the lecture dressed in strict Academy attire, and after a brief introduction by the Dean of Freshman, Dr. Rollie Pastor, Marvin took the podium at the front of the Academy's ultramodern Tinsley Hall.
Marvin looked out over the audience. There were about a hundred members of the freshman class as well as many of the faculty, not to mention invited guests and a full compliment of newspaper, radio, and television reporters. And although Marvin didn't know it, his lecture would be live-streamed on the internet for a worldwide audience.
"Well, uh, hi there," Marvin began. "I'm like, you know, glad to be here. And stuff. Yeah."
Priscilla, from her front row seat, gave Marvin a cautioning look.
"Like, you know, you guys are good and all that..."
"We're not just guys," one young woman piped up from her seat in the back. "Women play professional checkers too!"
Marvin, a bit surprised, said, "Oh, sure, you bet. Real good too. I didn't mean ... well, anyhow. Like I said you guys--- and gals, okay?--- you're all good..."
"Why do you have to say 'guys and gals'?" the young lady in the back retorted. "Can't you just say 'checkerists' or 'people'? Why does this have to be a gender thing?"
Priscilla nodded approvingly but again Marvin didn't notice."
"Look here, I ... anyhow I wanted to start off with a really good problem and see how fast you guys--- people--- can solve it."
But by now nearly everyone in the freshman class had started to mutter. Even some of the faculty were shaking their heads.
"Okay, here's the problem," Marvin said. The following diagram was projected on the big screen at the back of the stage.
"Okay there it is, fellas .... oops ..."
The muttering now turned into much more as catcalls rained out upon Marvin. Again, some of the faculty joined in. It was getting out of hand, and Dr. Pastor stepped up onto the stage, motioning Marvin away from the microphone.
"Mr. Mavin," Dr. Pastor began, addressing the crowd, "doesn't realize we respect and acknowledge all fifteen genders..."
Someone in the audience interrupted, "That's gender identities and there are sixteen, not fifteen!"
"Yes, excuse my error," Dr. Pastor replied. Thankfully the crowd was quieting down. "I'm sure Mr. Mavin won't repeat his errors. Isn't that right, Marvin?" Dr. Pastor concluded, looking directly at Marvn.
"Yeah, doc, didn't mean to make any of you boys angry."
That was it. The crowd erupted again and two uniformed security guards appeared on stage, quickly leading Marvin off, telling him it was for his own safety.
About half an hour later Priscilla met up with Marvin at the Security Office, when the security staff felt it was finally safe for him to leave.
On their way to the car Priscilla did little more than glare before finally saying, "I've warned you time and time again to be careful about disrespectful remarks."
"Disrespectful?" Marvin replied. "All I said was ..."
"Don't you dare repeat it!"
"But honey ..."
"Don't 'honey' me, either!"
"Okay, okay, I'm sorry. Can we go get a beer or something and kind of like make up?"
Priscilla shook her head in dismay.
"Like, maybe when we get to the airport?"
"Get in the car, Marvin. Sometimes, I wonder just what I see in you."
Marvin, at this point, knew it would be best to keep very quiet and do as he was told.
The students at the Checker Academy never did get to solve Marvin's problem. Can you? We guarantee that the solution is 100 percent gender free. See what you can do and then click on Read More to check your moves.
8-11 23x16 11x20 30-25 7-11 25-22---A 11-15---B 22x13 14-18 13-9 15-19 9-6 20-24 6-2 24-27 2-7 27-31 Drawn---C.
A---Black loses a man after all.
B---Or 11-16 same play.
C---The White king will be too late to successfully attack the Black men on 18 and 19, for instance 7-10 31x22 10-15 19-23 a clear draw.
Editor's Note: While today's column may be viewed as 'politically incorrect' by some readers, we firmly believe that everyone has the right to be treated fairly and with respect. However, we also think that in today's world political correctness has been taken to incredible extremes. As the man once said, "Can't we all just get along?"