Jerry Seinfeld? Keith Hernandez? What do they have to do with the Civil War? Well…in 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 Keith Hernandez.
GEORGE: Keith Hernandez? The baseball player?
JERRY: Yeah, that’s him.
GEORGE: Are you sure?
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. Among things like an encyclopedic knowledge of uniforms, accoutrements, and the various and sundry soldierly minutiae, it helps to know command (at least down to the regiment level) and of course…you need to know the battles cold. I have to say…I love it when popular culture and Civil War history intersect. It makes me smile. And I’ll bet you a buck that book sales on the Civil War picked up a bit after this show aired back in 199something.
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 (some suggest) 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 (including mine…YAY!), they watch TV shows about history and yes indeed…they (thankfully) follow my Tweets and 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. And not incidentally, this July 2-4, I’ll be in Gettysburg signing books and talking to buffs galore. I look forward to it 🙂