One Man's Con Artist is Another's Sociologist

The headline said "Sports scholar dogged by scam."

It caught my eye because when Bay Area newspapers talk about sports scholars, they're usually talking about Harry Edwards, a U.C. Berkeley sociology professor who thirteen years ago, in an introductory class on the sociology of sport, uttered (over and over) the only specific phrase I can remember from my undergraduate years: "Sports inevitably and unavoidably recapitulates society."

Thus I'm always on the lookout for Harry Edwards media mentions: he's proof that I did indeed once go to college and learn things, even if I have pretty much forgotten it all since then.

This particular Edwards mention seemed especially intriguing; the subhead read "Impostor milks Cal professor's reputation for cash."

How, I wondered, could anyone possibly impersonate the singular Edwards - a towering, shaven-headed man, who with his barrel-chested physique and professorial beard and glasses looks sort of like a cross between Shaquille O'Neal and Sigmund Freud?

The article was somewhat disappointing in this regard. It turns out the imposter simply does his thing over the phone. But one can't help but admire his skill; according to the article, the fake Edwards calls sociology professors around the country, explains that he will be in town the next day, and that his nephew, who happens to be in town as well for a job interview, is in need of some emergency cash. If the sociology professor proves a willing mark, the imposter, posing as the nephew, meets with the professor and accepts the loan that Edwards will ostensibly pay back the next day.

According to one victim of the scam, the imposter "has to be a Ph.D. He's been in sociology for at least a master's level. He knows too much about it."

Whenever I used to take a sociology class in an effort to keep my workload for the semester sufficiently light, I always used to wonder how the people who were majoring in the subject planned to utilize their degree upon graduation. Thirteen years later, I finally have an answer.

-- G. Beato

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