First, as penance for my Cancun spring break getting in the way of bringing you your weekly dose of Feeny last week, I provide you additional wisdom from the 1990s: What Saved by the Bell Taught Us About Sports from Outkickthecoverage.com. Enjoy! Then keep reading for what wisdom Feeny has for us this week.
Father Knows Less – October 8, 1993
Episode Summary: Alan wakes Cory up late at night to watch the end of a baseball game. Cory fails a test the next day and Mr. Feeny won’t let him re-take it. The father and son relationship is a special thing. It’s a model everything after your dad when you’re a little kid kind of thing. It’s a put a whole stack of baloney on your sandwich like your dad kind of thing. It’s a taking your model of what a man is from your dad kind of thing.
It’s a wake your son up late at night in the 7th inning of a Phillies possible no-hitter kind of thing. Which is exactly what Alan does in this episode. More ginormous baloney sandwiches. More Pepsi. More potato chips. More guy secrets. More father-son bonding.
Feeny enters the episode at the 6 minute mark, collecting tests, pulling the test out from under a sleeping Cory who only answered one question. Cory expresses that the no-hitter kept him up past midnight.
Feeny then insults baseball as if it’s something frivolous because it’s not academic. Hmmm… Feeny… watch yourself! But there must be a greater purpose. Feeny always has his pedagogical tricks up his sleeve.
When Alan comes home that day, Cory explains what happened, spilling the secret to Amy as well. Alan’s in the doghouse, we have a subtle sexual allusion that I didn’t understand when I was little and originally watched the episode, and it’s up to Alan to go talk to Feeny. Alan and Cory go see Feeny at the fence.
Alan explains that he had made plans to hang out with Cory, that something else came up (Damn you, Leonard Spinelli!), and so he woke Cory up from the no-hitter to make it up for him. He asks if Cory can make up the test.
Feeny: Cory may not take the make up test. The F stands.
Alan: I thought you said you understand.
Feeny: I do understand. But understanding and condoning are two entirely separate concepts.
Alan: So you’re going to fail a boy for spending time with his father?
Feeny: In my 35 years of teaching, I’ve heard every excuse imaginable for why somebody fails a test. What’s my excuse? If somewhere down the line, a child fails at something because I once abrogated my responsibility to impart knowledge.
Alan looks at Cory.
Cory: I’ve gotta listen to this everyday.
Alan (pointing behind him): House.
Alan and Feeny then have a very uncomfortable conversation where Feeny defends his perspective because he’s entrusted with the education of 32 sixth graders every day. Alan then replies that if George had a son and was trying to find time to spend with him while working, reinsulating the attic, and doing other things, George would understand.
Alan: … but you don’t have a son.
Feeny: We are obviously on different sides of the fence here.
Alan: Yes we are.
Feeny: This conversation is over.
Alan goes back in.
Cory: Aw, Dad. You got Feened.
Cory calls Feeny a butt, BUT Alan defends Feeny as a great teacher in a world where good teachers are a rare commodity. He asks Cory to head upstairs, then Alan turns to Amy and says, “Feeny’s a butt!” After a tender moment where Alan thinks he knows what Amy’s going to say (Can you say most underrated couple in TV history?) but she tells him that forks go on the right, Amy informs him that he can’t jerk Cory’s life around to make-up for him screwing up and not having time for him. Later, Alan is explaining to Cory what his mother had told him. He ends with, “Cory, I shouldn’t have kept you up late last night. Mr. Feeny was right.”
Later, Cory is hitting his tennis ball up and down, paddle-ball-style on his back porch. He loses the ball over the fence. Sneaking over, a flashlight shines on him.
Cory: Don’t shoot me, Mr. Feeny!
Feeny: Good evening, Mr. Matthews.
The Mr. Feeny-Mr. Matthews double address! Wisdom is right around the corner!
Feeny: Care to join me for a drink?
Cory: Uh, sure.
Feeny: Help yourself.
Cory pours himself a lot out of the decanter that appears to have whiskey in it. Looking at each other, Cory is basically waiting for Feeny to call his bluff. They both take a sip at the same time.
Cory: Hey! This is apple juice!
Feeny: Oh, gee. I must have left it in there too long
Cory: Nice, uh. What do you call this thing?
Feeny: A Christmas present from my sister. She forgets I only take the occasional glass of claret with dinner.
Cory: So how come you’re sitting outside in the dark?
Feeny: I was thinking about when I was a boy just a little bit younger than you are. There was a war going on.
Cory: It’s hard to picture you as a boy. Did your parents call you Mr. Feeny?
Feeny: I used to ask my mother why I could only have butter on my toast two days of the week. And she said because of the war in Europe. And I wondered why there was never enough candy. And she told me because of the war in Europe. And when I longed for a pair of sneakers, I couldn’t have any.
Cory: Those Europe guys stole them?
Feeny: No. The rubber had to be diverted to the war effort. There was a version of a sneaker available but it was made out of recycled tires and left black marks on the gym floor.
Cory: Hey! You took gym?
Feeny: They made me. Anyway, I prayed every night for an end to the war in Europe. Not for any altruistic desire for world peace. Just so a boy’s selfish wish for buttered toast and sneakers. Then I heard that Mr. Truman was going on the radio that night to announce the end of the war. And I went home to ask my father if I could stay up with him to hear the President. Do you know what he said?
Cory: I’m guessing it’s either yes or no, but we both know how well I do on multiple choice.
Feeny: He said, “Tomorrow’s a school day. I don’t want you up with me.”
Cory: So you’re saying your dad really knew the value of education.
Feeny: I’m saying my father didn’t want me hanging around him and his drinking buddies. As a result, the next day at school I was refreshed and rested and ready to learn.
Cory: I see your point, Mr. Feeny.
Feeny: No I don’t think you really do Cory. What do you suppose I learned in school that day?
Cory: I know that this has gotta be a biggie like the Magna Carta or something. I have no idea what you learned that day.
Feeny: Neither do I. You see, Mr. Matthews, education is not about obscure facts and little test scores. Education is about the overall effect of years of slow absorption, concepts, philosophies, approaches to problem solving. The whole process is so grand and all-encompassing that it really can’t be threatened by the occasional late night no-hitter.
The music begins to swell. As do my tear ducts.
Feeny: It is important that a boy spend time with his father.
Cory: How do you know that? Your dad didn’t let you stay up with him.
Feeny: That’s precisely why I do know.
Alan (arriving out on back patio): Cory!
Cory: Over here Dad. Having a drink with Mr. Feeny. Don’t worry! It’s just apple juice!
Alan invites Cory in for dinner after explaining how the store is (Thanks to freakin’ Spinelli and his fire shenanigans!)
Cory looks at Mr. Feeny.
Cory: We ever going to study that European sneaker war?
Feeny: I think you’ll get to it some time in the course of your education.
Cory: Good. Because it sounded really interesting.
Feeny: It was.
Cory: Well, goodnight Mr. Feeny.
Feeny: Goodnight, Mr. Matthews.
Cory goes inside.
Alan: I just want you to know I’m going to have him in bed every night when he’s supposed to be.
Well I want you to know that if I did have a son and the opportunity to wake him up to watch the baseball game or… listen to the President on the radio or for absolutely no reason at all, well… Good night, Alan!
Good night, George!
And thus ends our Feeny education for the week! But let’s recap… what did we learn this week?
1) I have a lot of great memories of my childhood watching baseball games, NCAA Tournament games, football games, and golf tournaments with my dad. He’d stay up late and play video games with me on breaks. I’m definitely one of the lucky ones. As most kids (such as Cory) realize as they grow older, our parents were a lot cooler and made superhuman-like sacrifices for us as we grew up. Feeny is right. It IS important that a boy spends time with his father.
2) This episode is a tough one to watch. We learn more about Feeny’s puritanical upbringing. We learn he was a youngster during the Greatest Generation. We see his vulnerabilities, his mistakes. After getting on his soap box early in the episode, making us Feeny-philes feel uncomfortable, we get a peek inside what makes this wisest of men tick. It’s not always pretty. It’s far from perfect. But in that humbling of himself, his admission to Cory of his strained relationship with his own father, and his thoughtful reflection on what education truly is, Feeny shines through once again as actually wise.
3) You see, wisdom isn’t always knowing the right thing to say. Many who view one or two episodes of Boy Meets World might think that. Wisdom isn’t having all the right answers, quips, and life principles/values down pat. Wisdom is living life, realizing the frailties of the human condition, and learning along the way that we can’t have all the answers, that our solitary perspective is not the right one. We see Feeny take this journey in this episode, and Cory’s better off for it. And so are we, good reader.
So I will leave you this week with a quote from this episode. Feeny has done it again. He always does.
“Education is not about obscure facts and little test scores. Education is about the overall effect of years of slow absorption, concepts, philosophies, approaches to problem solving. The whole process is so grand and all-encompassing that it really can’t be threatened by the occasional late night no-hitter.”
Let the music swell. Because my eyes surely are…
“It is important that a boy spends time with his father.”
They don’t make ‘em like this, anymore, folks. But luckily for you, every Friday here at The Wise Guise, Feeny lives. In our hearts and on this blog.
Until next time, good readers…