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Posts Tagged ‘grammar’

I was thinking about George Steinbrenner yesterday as my daughter and I watched the Oakland A’s drub the Royals 9-6 at Kauffman Stadium.

The combination of the 95-degree heat, still air and Brian Bannister pitching something akin to batting practice (There goes another A’s home run!) put us in close to a catatonic state. Fortunately, however, along about the fifth inning, my daughter had the good sense to suggest that we get some water. The $4.25-each investments brought us around a bit.

But, like I was saying, when I was reasonably conscious I was thinking about Steinbrenner. I was thinking particularly about a letter to the editor that appeared in The New York Times last Thursday. The writer, Paul Kaplan of Roswell, Ga., said that Steinbrenner was responsible for diminishing baseball for about two-thirds of the fans.

“That is roughly the percentage of teams that start each season with no realistic chance of becoming champions because they can’t afford the best players under the twisted system that Mr. Steinbrenner exploited,” Kaplan wrote. “Yes, he was a brilliant businessman, but he spoiled the sport that so many loved back when it was played on a level field.”

What can you say, other than “Amen”?

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Maybe you read last week about the Missouri General Assembly approving — and Gov. Jay Nixon signing — a bill that will give $150 million in tax breaks for automakers and aimed at Ford Motor Co.’s assembly plant in Claycomo. 

Part of the money to finance the tax breaks will come from changes in the state pension system. The reforms — all good, in my opinion — will raise the retirement age for most state workers from 62 to 67; require a 4 percent contribution from employees toward their pension funds; and require them to work 10 years before becoming eligible for retirement benefits, instead of the current five years. 

Nixon called the pension changes ” a fiscally responsible measure to modernize the pension system for future state employees and ensure the solvency of this retirement system.”

John Burnett

I just about jumped out of my chair, however, when I read what state Rep. John Burnett, a Kansas City Democrat, had to say about the pension reforms. 

“We just did some brutal, brutal revisions to the pension system,” Burnett said.

I understand that Burnett represents an area — northeastern Kansas City — that has a lot of blue-collar workers and many government employees. But, my God, hasn’t Burnett hasn’t been reading about the international financial crisis? The one that has been fueled by overly generous pension systems in southern European countries, including Greece, Portugal and Spain? 

Here in the States, our governments — state, local and national — have been doling out extremely generous pension benefits for decades, and it’s catching up with us, like it did with the European countries.

Wake up, John! The fabric in the golden parachute of government employment is fraying and about to tear asunder.

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Overheard at Sutherlands…..A man with a piece of corrugated tubing asks the checkout clerk if the store has a type of corrugated tubing similar to what he has. The clerk shuffles through some product paperwork and replies, “We don’t have no corrugated nothing.”

Six words, four negatives. Gotta be a record. I didn’t know whether to applaud or cry.

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Like many other Big 12 fans, I’ve struggled with the question of whether Missouri should switch to the Big Ten Conference, if an invitation is extended. 

In a flash of grammatical and linguistic obfuscation, I found my answer a couple of days ago. In Saturday’s Star, sports writer Blair Kerkhoff reported on e-mail correspondence between two Big Ten officials that shed light on where the Big Ten might be headed in its quest to expand from the current 11 schools. (I know its odd that the Big Ten has 11 schools, but the Big Ten is a brand name that probably won’t change, even if it ends up with 15 members.) 

It was actually the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch that got its hands on the e-mails, and Kerkhoff properly credited the Dispatch. The e-mails were between Ohio State president Gordon Gee and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany. In his message, Gee informed Delany that he had spoken to a University of Texas official, who had told him that if Texas was asked to join the Big Ten it would have a “Tech” problem. The problem, seemingly, was that Texas would be hard pressed to pull up stakes and leave fellow Big 12 member Texas Tech in the lurch. 

Jim Delany

Here’s where it gets interesting, and curious. Delany — remember, he’s the Big Ten commissioner — responded like this, and I’m quoting word for word, letter for letter: “We are fast-tracking it but need to know the $ and observe contracts. Also need to make sure we leverage this to increase chances of hr additions. Finally double chess # of moving parts including not harming brand as we executy.”  

The first sentence, which is a sentence, is pretty clear. The second, although not really a sentence because it lacks a subject, is nevertheless decipherable. With “hr,” he apparently was referring to “home run” additions to the Big Ten, and Texas would fill the bill. But that last sentence — lacking both subject and verb — left sports writers throughout the Midwest scratching their heads.  

Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune had this to say: “Is ‘executy’ a typo for ‘execute’ — or some altered version of ‘extra cutey’? And what’s with the chess reference? Either Big Ten power brokers have their own language, or Delany is all thumbs.” 

Here’s my thought. One of the reasons that Missouri reportedly is interested in the Big Ten — besides an influx of money into its athletic programs — is that the Big Ten schools, which include, among others, Minnesota, Northwestern, Penn State and Illinois, generally are a cut above the Big 12 schools academically. So, you would expect the commissioner to be a pretty sharp fellow, wouldn’t you? 

From his e-mail, however, he looks like a guy who butchers the King’s English and doesn’t edit his writing before hitting the “send” button. As a person who respects the nuances of language and grammar, I’ve always understood the importance of double checking what I write before hitting “send.” Of course, I’ve made mistakes and sent messages that I wish I could have back for further editing, but I don’t think I’ve messed up a message of great sensitivity, like Delany apparently did. It’s best to assume that any e-mail you send could end up in the wrong hands and could come back to embarrass you.   

So, that does it for me: Missouri should stay in the Big 12 and avoid the lure of the league where the commissioner can’t spell and has trouble fashioning a complete sentence.

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