Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Crimson All Over

That would be Crimson ... as in red-faced ... as in embarrassed beyond belief.

It appears as if one of the ten thousand men from Harvard turned out to be a fraud.

And a grand fraud at that ... a king-sized fraud, right up there on the level of Frank Abagnale Jr. -- the guy immortalized by Leonardo DiCaprio in "Catch Me If You Can."

In fact, you could say that the only thing not fraudulent about Adam Wheeler is his fraudulency.

We once had an American president whose nickname was "His Fraudulency," and it was not George W. Bush. It was Rutherford B. Hayes, who -- like Bush in 2000 -- lost the popular vote in the election of 1876 to Samuel Tilden ... but won it after much legal wrangling and controversy.

So, you see, fraud is as American as apple pie.

Still, you can't help but laugh that those in charge of the store at the Hallowed Halls of Hahhvahhhd got played by some kid. Adam Wheeler didn't just pahhhk his cahhh in Hahhhvahhhhhd Yahhhd ... he pahhhked his ass there, too. For two years. Not only that, he racked up academic honors and scholarship money.

But like all thieves, Wheeler got greedy. He applied for a Fulbright Scholarship, using falsified records and work that investigators claim was plagiarized from a professor from -- are you ready -- Harvard!

This keeps getting better and better, doesn't it? All told, according to the Middlesex County DA, Wheeler fleece the Johns for more than $45,000 in grants, scholarship and financial aid money. He is now under indictment for charges stemming from identity theft to halitosis, because not only is it not nice to fool mother nature, it's even less nice to fool Harvard.

I know it's against the law. I understand. But excuse me while I try to stop laughing here. I'm a Northeastern boy. And when I was in college, the pecking order of large, prestigious schools in the Boston/Cambridge circle went something like this: Harvard, MIT, Boston College, Boston University ... and waaaaaay down there, at a distant fifth, was Northeastern.

We were a co-op school that, at the time, didn't mind giving people not blessed with egghead intelligence a change to earn a college degree. We tried to compete with these other schools, but failed on many, many levels. The worst one -- at least where I was concerned -- was the annual Beanpot Hockey Tournament. And what brings us full circle is this: One year, in the Beanpot (a tournament featuring Harvard, BC, BU and NU) we played Harvard in the first round and lost, 9-2 (not unusual, NU is a distant fourth in the Beanpot, too).

Every stinking time Harvard scored a goal, the band got up to play "Ten Thousand Men of Harvard." I swear, I left my seat to go the men's room and while I was there, I heard that damn song.

It's different now, but in those days, Harvard and BU were the big hockey schools while BC was a cut blow ... and NU was about 20 or so lengths back from them. Unless Harvard and BU played each other in the first round (every third year), they'd meet in the final ... and BU would almost always win.

Which, of course, led to that now-legendary chant uttered by all Harvard aficionados everywhere: "That's all right, that's OK, you'll be working for us someday."

Ahhhhh. Harvard. It has so much going for it. It is the absolute epicenter of eastern elitism. I have fond memories of walking into the Harvard Coop one day in 2004, just before the Democratic National Convention was to invade Boston, and seeing a table of books just inside the front door ... all of them with pictures of a scowling George W. Bush, and with titles and opinions that painted a less-than-flattering picture of Dubya's presidency.

I immediately nicknamed it the "Bush Sucks" table.

Walking through Harvard Square is a unique trip too. If Harvard is the epicenter of eastern elitism, then Brattle Street is the Ground Zero of the epicenter of eastern elitism.

One rather cloudy Saturday afternoon, I happened to wander up Brattle Street, wearing a pair of sunglasses (not needed, due to the overcast skies), and sat down to watch a puppet show. The puppeteer was singing "The Hokey Pokey" and making political comments ... all at once. He spotted me, with the shades on, and told me I looked like the "Karl Rove of Harvard Square."

Needless to say, our puppeteer was not a Karl Rove fan. Nor was I. I feigned disgust, and had some fun with it.

Then again, Harvard and cheeky kind of go together. It's Harvard, after all, that puts on that hilarious (to them, anyway) Hasty Pudding Award ceremony every year where guys generally have to dress like women ... and women do something else equally humiliating. And it was at Harvard where the National Lampoon got its beginning.


The Harvard Lampoon, established in 1876 (maybe the lampooned His Fradulency? Wouldn't that be delicious), is the oldest English language humor magazine left. It sold the name to National Lampoon, which was begun -- naturally -- by two Harvard graduates, and derives much of its income now through those rights.

And if you ever go to a sporting event, the Harvard Band injects itself into the mix like no other musical contingent does. It's actually pretty funny. In my younger days, when I could climb the mountain of stairs leading to the Harvard Stadium press box (something that I won't even attempt now), Harvard entertained Holy Cross on a beautiful, crisp fall afternoon, and I got the assignment to cover it.

Football at Harvard is one of those uniquely New England things, as far as I'm concerned. Nobody's under any illusions about it. It is what it is, and sometimes, if you're good and sick of watching these factories like Alabama and Southern Cal, go to Harvard Stadium. It's a refreshing change of pace.

Anyway, out comes the band onto the field ... with one guy dressed in complete ecclesiastical regalia in honor of the College of the Holy Cross. He carried around this pitcher of "holy water," and, well, I don't need to tell you the buffoonery that resulted from that. It was like "The Vatican Meets the Three Stooges."

Understand that just about all of Harvard's piercing humor stems from the notion that "we're smarter than you, better than you and more privileged than you." It is a thumb-your-nose-at-the plebes" type of humor that -- if you have any kind of an inferiority complex at all -- can grate on you.

I can't say it bothered me all that much (well, except the nine times the band played Ten Thousand Men of Harvard at the Beanpot). I even got a kick out of the "cardinal" spoof at the Holy Cross game.

So, for the Crimson administration to be taken in by this fraud ... well ... it's just too rich for me. It leads me to believe that I, if I'd wanted to be that industrious and devious, could have done the same thing. And I'm sitting here thinking that rather than this Northeastern degree (which, by the way, I'm happy with), I could have schemed my way into a Harvard MBA or better. And I'd probably be on easy street.

Then again, maybe not, too. I'm guessing that a lot of those executives at AIG, Goldman Sacks, Bear Sterns, et al, have Ivy League MBAs too. St. Luke said it first (and JFK paraphrased it), but the saying goes that "of whom much is given, much is expected."

Apparently the folks at Harvard -- not to mention Adam Wheeler himself -- changed that saying around a little so that it reads "to whom much is given, much more is expected."

All kidding and snotty sarcasm aside, I cannot imagine how an institution such as Harvard doesn't vet its applicants better. It blows me away that kids all over America are moving heaven and hell to study at state schools, even, because the spigot for financial aid has been turned down to a trickle. And it really bothers me that schools such as my alma mater have changed their philosophies to the point where kids of ordinary academic ability have to practically go there with their hats in their hands and beg for the honor of being admitted.

And yet this Adam Wheeler guy fabricates everything about himself, and not only gets a Harvard education out of it, but pries $45,000 in academic benefits out of it.

I suppose that qualifies as grand theft, so I won't take issue with DA Gerry Leone throwing the book at this kid. But there are a whole slew of the best and the brightest over there in Hahhhvahhd Yahhhd who -- by this time next week -- should be collecting unemployment.

I'll be real interested to see whether that happens.

Then again, you know what they say ... you can always tell a Harvard man, but you can't tell him much.

No comments: