In another world, he might have been a great professor. Instead, he was given God's work: helping freshmen improve their written compositions.
He does all the right things to rise above this. He publishes, presents at conferences, networks, and even makes friends with Deans. In fact, his last book went beyond the expectations set for academics: it sold well.
This left him looking in the mirror, daily, at a failed professor. He hadn't yet earned the academy's golden ticket: a tenure-track job.
Therefore, Jon decided to become an MMA fighter.
A black eye and swollen lip would surely get him noticed at the monthly faculty meeting! His attempt at becoming a fighter was thwarted, first by films like Here Comes the Boom, which seemed to usurp his idea of the teacher turned brawler, and second by his innate drive towards scientific analysis.
Thus was born his newest book, The Professor in the Cage. It starts off as a memoir of another "failed" professor in American higher education, and ends up an insightful look into humanity's long term fascination with watching two men beat the snot out of each other.
It is less a story about war, bullying, and duels, and more a story about what is innate in the male version of our species, from an evolutionary perspective. Some have already said that it can be seen as a "guide to men."
Men—intellectual men—who read this can nod along with the pages in subconscious agreement. They may try to explain "smear the queer" to their equally intellectual wife, and to themselves, while gaining a disdainful glance.
The book is smart, funny, and well researched. It analyses the male "monkey dance" associated with bravado, dueling, and chest bumping that invariably leads to fists thrown (or members of the crew pulling a friend to safety). Jon looks at both the scientific and literary histories, to see what makes men crave physical dominance over one another.
His conclusions are humorous, provocative, and unsettling. Cultural conservatives might pick up on the work and make it the book they have been "waiting" for. Will they use his research to show how "men are men" and "women are women"?
The Professor in the Cage takes a light-hearted approach to understanding the psychology and science surrounding man-on-man violence. Gottschall finds a way to integrate two seemingly incompatible worlds, and does it with excellent prose and the style of a grand storyteller. If you find Jon in a bar in Pittsburgh, order him a cheap bourbon, punch him in the arm, then ask him outside for a dance.