The Other Chris Brown

During the football team’s appearance in the NCAA National Championship game last December, a distant relative placed a call to senior Chris Brown’s home in Hancock, NY and solemnly told Brown’s father how proud he was of Chris despite the Raiders’ poor performance that day. After a moment of bewilderment, Brown’s father realized the situation, one that had become increasingly familiar during the Raiders’ rise to national prominence.

“You know, you might want to take a closer look,” Brown’s father said. “I don’t think we’re talking about the same Chris Brown.”

They weren’t. And on the advice of Mr. Brown, let’s all take a closer look at his son – the other Chris Brown on campus.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Chris Brown the econ tutor. An affable, involved, and well-dressed member of the class of 2005, Brown looks and acts like the Colgate student they put on the cover of university brochures. That’s what’s so horribly hilarious about the cruel joke that someone (maybe God, maybe a sadistic worker in the admissions department) has been playing on him for the last four years. Since the man who shares his name took over as the Raiders’ starting quarterback in 2002, Brown’s life has had a certain surreal quality to it – like that of a typical Colgate student, but with Dark Side of the Moon playing perpetually in the background.

I first contacted Brown when I inadvertently e-mailed him an interview request for my weekly football article. It was not the first time such a mix-up had occurred. Or the second. Or the hundredth. “That kind of thing happens all the time,” Brown says.

Let’s have a few laughs at the man’s expense, shall we? When interviewing to go abroad to London with the economics department, the professor in charge questioned the feasibility of Brown going overseas, what with his extensive commitments to the football team and all. In the end, Brown found a way to fit London into his schedule.

Along with the frequent e-mails he gets from Colgate’s athletic department, other schools’ newspapers and dim-witted Maroon-News editors, Brown receives “tons of stuff” in his mailbox that doesn’t belong to him. These items have included, among other things, a new toothbrush and a letter from a disgruntled ex-girlfriend of the Raiders’ quarterback. “Yeah I opened it; I mean, it was addressed to me,” Brown says with a smile. “That was pretty awkward.”

The best – or maybe the worst – part is that Brown was himself a record-setting quarterback back at Hancock High School. He set the school’s mark for passing yards as only a sophomore and eclipsed his own record the next year. I mean, what are the odds? It’s like a guy named David Schwimmer doing the lighting on “Friends” after a legendary career as an off-Broadway actor.

Although not recruited by the school, Brown strongly considered trying out for Colgate’s football team- until he caught a glimpse of the list of official recruits that is. “I figured there was only room for one first-year quarterback named Chris Brown on the team,” he said. Alanis Morissette couldn’t think up irony like this.

Brown, who also started for his high school basketball team and starred as an all-state pitcher on the baseball diamond, began to receive congratulatory remarks from the kind folk of Hancock when his namesake started tossing touchdowns two years ago. In a town separated from Hamilton by less than two hours of country highway, locals apparently had a tough time coming to terms with the fact that Colgate football’s newest star was a different Chris Brown than their neighborhood phenom. In Hancock, it is the Raiders’ senior quarterback who holds the title as “the other Chris Brown.”

These days, Brown’s athletic pursuits are limited to pitching for the club baseball team and various intramural teams, but the senior finds plenty of ways to keep busy. He is a devoted brother of Delta Upsilon, a participant in University Theater, a tutor for the economics department, an officer of the first-year honors society Phi Eta Sigma and a self-proclaimed “huge supporter” of Raider athletics. “I never miss a hockey game,” he boasts. An honors student whose senior thesis examines the economic and social effects of the Oneida Casino on the surrounding area, Brown’s future is brighter than the midday sun after a long movie. He has already accepted a job offer from the Corporate Executive Board, a consulting firm based in Washington, D.C.

A Google search for “Chris Brown,” returns 11.4 million entries. On the first page of results alone, one encounters Chris Brown the songwriter, Chris Brown the Tennessee Titans running back, Chris Brown the chemistry professor and Chris Brown the male model. It’s not easy being a Chris Brown in this world and it is exponentially more difficult to maintain sanity as a Chris Brown on the Colgate campus.

Yet Brown handles his situation gracefully. He is quick to laugh at what might be the single most astonishing coincidence since the famed John Jacob Jingle Heimer Schmidt incident. With a Colgate hat planted firmly on his head and a smile stuck on his face, Brown continues to find ways to separate himself from the thousands of other Chris Brown’s out there.After all, what’s in a name?