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Sentence of the Week

February 21, 2011 Leave a comment

[Laura Morton for The New York Times]

I’m still catching up from a large backlog, so this is really last week’s sentence of the week. I reserve the right to write about the sentence of this week. And the winning sentence is actually a perfectly fine sentence. Its failing is a matter of context.

On to the winner. NYT sportswriter Pete Thamel had a piece in the Sunday sports section a week ago about Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. Luck, as you may know, was the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy in the fall. It was widely expected that if Luck chose to leave Stanford early, he would be the #1 pick in the NFL draft, well ahead of the Heisman winner, Cam Newton. But Luck chose to stay at Stanford for another year, both to play one more year of college ball and to continue enjoying student life at Stanford.

Thamel’s article is a good one. In a short amount of space, he lays out the issues well and you leave liking Luck. (A little alliteration there!) But there’s this puzzling passage, maybe the result of some combination of re-writing and careless editing:

Although Luck’s mind was essentially made up [regarding staying in school], he turned to someone outside the family. With his feet shaking nervously, he called Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who stayed at Tennessee for his senior year instead of entering the 1997 N.F.L. draft.

Luck recalled that Manning told him, “If you’re not ready to move on with life, it’s the best choice.”

Manning advised him to never second-guess his decision or worry about injuries. He added that his senior year had helped him be better prepared to turn the corner in his second N.F.L. season, when Indianapolis improved to 13 victories from 3 the previous season.

Luck also received texts of support from a former N.F.L. teammate of his father’s, Archie Manning, whose sons Peyton and Eli faced the same decision.

That last sentence is the winner. Um, given the three paragraphs that preceded it, don’t we know already that Archie’s son faced the same decision? Or did we need a reminder?

Well, as I say, maybe it’s just a slip in the editing process. But it made me stop and re-read the passage to make sure I was following the logic of the article.

Alas, further down the article, there’s what now seems to be the obligatory mention of that notorious war criminal, Condoleezza Rice. Is it no longer possible to write a piece about Stanford without mentioning her, or to televise a Stanford sporting event without panning over to her in the stands? Had anyone ever heard of Stanford before she left to join the Bush administration? It would seem not.

Categories: Journalism, Language

Sidewalk Rage

February 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Yup, it's the United terminals B/C underground walkway at O'Hare

Another day, another WSJ article. This one, in last Tuesday’s paper, was about sidewalk rage.

Signs of a sidewalk rager include muttering or bumping into others; uncaringly hogging a walking lane; and acting in a hostile manner by staring, giving a “mean face” or approaching others too closely, says Leon James, a psychology professor at the University of Hawaii who studies pedestrian and driver aggression.

For the cool-headed, sidewalk rage may seem incomprehensible. After all, it seems simple enough to just go around the slow individual. Why then are some people, even those who greet other obstacles with equanimity, so infuriated by unhurried fellow pedestrians?

Kind of nuts, huh? I sure didn’t recognize myself in any of this. Until I got to the next paragraph:

How one interprets the situation is key, researchers say. Ragers tend to have a strong sense of how other people should behave. Their code: Slower people keep to the right. Step aside to take a picture. And the left side of an escalator should be, of course, kept free for anyone wanting to walk up.

Yes, well, that’s different. What’s the deal, anyway, with those morons at the airport who get on a moving sidewalk and stop, suitcase at their sides, completely blocking passage? I mean, are you serious? You’re going to stand for 100 yards while it moves at 1/2 mile per hour? Are you trying to imagine life as a snail? Stand on the right, move your damn bag in front of or behind you, and get out of the way! Let the rest of us use the moving sidewalk to walk. The idea is to get there faster, not slower.

Geez!

The article continues:

“A lot of us have ‘shoulds’ in our head,” says Dr. Deffenbacher. Ragers tend to think people should do things their way, and get angry because the slow walkers are breaking the rules of civility. It’s unclear exactly why some people harbor such beliefs, Dr. Deffenbacher says.

Hey, Deffenbacher, I’m talking about standers, not slow walkers, and they are breaking the rules of civility. You got that right, pal. There’s nothing unclear at all.

I’m glad we got that settled.

Categories: Life

A Man and His Goose

February 21, 2011 Leave a comment

[Gary Leonard, WSJ]

I’m a little late getting to this article, as explained in part in my post last night about my gap in writing. But better late than never, so let me direct you to the front page feature article in the Wall Street Journal two weeks ago, with the clever title Maria, Maria, I’ve Just Met a Goose Named Maria.

It’s a simple enough story, about a man, a goose, and a park.

Their relationship started last spring when Mr. Ehrler discovered that the goose—whom locals call Maria—liked to accompany him on his daily walks around a lake in Echo Park, a neighborhood about two miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

He’d show up, Maria would find him and the two would walk. A city worker joked to Mr. Ehrler that he was being stalked.

Now each morning, the couple walks the loop of Echo Park Lake together. Maria waddles a few paces ahead with her head stuck up straight and her belly full of tortillas Mr. Ehrler feeds her.

When they’re done, Maria walks, then runs, then flies alongside as Mr. Ehrler, 65 years old, speeds away on his red scooter. She returns to the same spot to greet him the next day.

The problem, alas, is that the lake is polluted and the city has plans to close it city plans to drain it, put a fence around it, and fix it over a two-year period. The environmental-impact report failed to take Maria into account.

What to do? Well, you can read more in the article, about the plans and about Maria herself. She’s really quite wonderful. Click on the slideshow as well and see her flying side-by-side with Mr. Ehrler as he speeds away on his scooter after their walk.

At times, Maria won’t return to the lake, so Mr. Ehrler guides her back to the park, where onlookers lock her behind a fence until he’s gone. Once she was spotted blocks away waddling down busy Sunset Boulevard. A firehouse crew escorted her to the park in an ambulance.

The couple’s fame grows. A waitress at a nearby pizzeria is working on a documentary about them. On Saturday, a group of 100 people plan to sing a send-up of “Maria” from “West Side Story” while marching around the lake with Mr. Ehrler and the goose.

Categories: Birds, Life