Friday, March 11, 2011

I'd love to be a Civil War buff...What do you have to do to be a buff?

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

This is a repost of one I wrote some months ago...I was sorting through some things and thought it would be good for a light-hearted Saturday morning - so there you have it.

Jerry Seinfeld? Keith Hernandez? What do they have to do with the Civil War? a very popular episode of Seinfeld - you know the one...where Jerry sort of gets a man-crush on Keith Hernandez...there is a little dialog between Jerry and George that comes close to my corner of the world. It goes like this:

JERRY: You know who that is? That's

GEORGE: Keith Hernandez? The baseball player?

JERRY: Yeah, that's him.

GEORGE: Are you sure?

JERRY: Positive.

GEORGE: Wow, Keith Hernandez. He's such a great player.

JERRY: Yeah, he's a real smart guy too. He's a Civil War buff.

GEORGE: I'd love to be a Civil War buff. ... What do you have to do to be a buff?

JERRY: So Biff wants to be a buff? ... Well sleeping less than 18 hours a day
would be a start.

Yes...Jerry's right about that. Being a buff is hard work. You need an encyclopedic knowledge of every commander (at least down to the regiment level) and of need to know the battles cold. I have to say...I love it when popular culture and Civil War history intersect. I'll bet you a buck that book sales on the Civil War picked up a bit after this show aired.

But Hernandez aside, lots of academics (not all, mind you, but lots) sort of look down on buffs. They think of them as all "drums and bugles" and no substance. They (it is suggested) don't delve into issues...they don't read all the important scholarship...they dismiss complexity.

I say lighten up a little. Civil War buffs keep interest in this historical period alive. Buffs do buy books, they watch TV shows about history and yes indeed...they (thankfully) follow my Tweets, they watch my Youtube videos, and they comment on my Facebook posts.

I love buffs. Without them, I might not have an audience at all (or at least a much smaller one). So, Mr. Hernandez - I salute you and all like you who find the Civil War fascinating above all else. We are one and the same. If you ever want to talk - just hit me up.


Keith (scholar/buff)


  1. Ken Hitchcock, former head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets, is also a big Civil War buff.

    I wonder if there's a list out there of celebrity Civil War buffs.

  2. This post made me laugh.

    Being a buff is indeed hard work, particularly if like me and others, you try to write a blog outside of your normal day job. (In my case, an international trade negotiator, something pretty far removed from being a professional historian.) I do have an attraction for the normal buff topics (battles and leaders). On the other hand, I also have begun to delve into the "professional" side of things in doing my blog. It really does take a lot of study in one's spare time to learn the scholarship and to think more broadly than the battlefield. The blog has certainly enabled me to research and explore topics in social, economic, and political history that I may not have if I were still a more laid-back hobbyist. Other bloggers also draw me into thinking about things I may never have before. So, I suppose there are varying degrees of "buffs," from all the casusal reader of bestselling war books all the way up to "amateur historian."

  3. Hal Mumme, former Division I football coach (University of Kentucky which went on probation under his watch & a couple other jobs) was. I remember his first year at UK and in an interview he said he had just read Robertson's biography of Stonewall Jackson and at that time I thought it was pretty cool that a football coach had read a book that I had also read.