Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Is It Okay to Write 'OK' Instead of 'Okay'?

Well, it appears I’m in the minority.  Again.  What a surprise.  I’ve long been a stickler for proper writing and word usage as it was pounded into the six of us by our mom.  Constantly.  I do the same with my own kids.  Constantly.  

One word that has often irritated me when seeing it in print is “OK”.  To me, that’s not “okay”.  Get it?  It’s not okay with me that writers use “OK”.  Okay?  Besides, how am I or anyone else to know when OK means ‘okay’ or when it denotes the great state of Oklahoma.

This boiled over while reading the prose of an otherwise talented writer at a local newspaper, so I did some research.  It was through this brief study that I learned of my minority status with respect to the particular word at hand, but what I learned caused me to be even more puzzled.  OK is short for 'oll korrect' or 'ole kurreck', which are both ironic misspellings of the term ‘all correct’. History tells that OK apparently arose from an abbreviation trend that was popular in Boston in the early 19th century.  Where was Spellcheck when we badly needed it?

So, I shall continue to use the spelled word ‘okay’ in my writing, both business and personal.  In fact, when I next send something via mail to my sister in Tulsa, the address shall be to Tulsa, Okay.

Monday, October 2, 2017


O.J. Simpson was released by the State of Nevada early today after serving nine years in prison.  Like many of my generation, Orenthal James “O.J.” Simpson was a larger than life figure in the pantheon of sports, first at Southern Cal and then as a Bill and later a 49’er in the NFL. The Juice won the prestigious Heisman Trophy in college and became an All-Pro running back as a professional, the first to rush for over 2000 yards in a season.  He finished his athletic career only to embark on another as an actor, sportscaster and pitch man.  O.J. was charismatic with a magnetism that drew people of all stripes to him.  Despite the heroics of Jesse Owens and the appeal of Muhammed Ali, O.J. was arguably the first black athlete to attain such widely accepted status and it was with this context that I met him in 1993.   I’ll share my thoughts about and impressions of this man.  If you’re so inclined, read on.

My wife Linda and I had been invited by Bob and Randy Costas to join them at the 1993 Super Bowl where the fearsome Dallas Cowboys were to battle the Buffalo Bills.  Bob was on the NBC broadcast team as host of “NFL Live” with recently-fired Bears coach Mike Ditka as his sidekick.   Jim Lampley was also on the NBC team tasked with ‘hosting’ all the events for the network during the long weekend.  

I was to be in LA that week on business, so I met the three of them when they arrived late Thursday afternoon for the beginning of what was to be a whirlwind of a long weekend.   It began with a trip to the Tonight Show and continued with the seriously over-the-top Commissioner’s Party on Saturday evening complete with ‘artists’ painted gold and posing as statues for hours.  The conclusion was to be the game followed by a dinner for the NBC ‘cast’.  I understood early on that this trip would be long-remembered.

On Sunday O.J. (he was everywhere) tossed the pre-game coin amidst the hoopla and pageantry following which he retreated to the Buffalo sideline to report during the game. Contested on last day of January at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, regrettably the game itself had little drama as the Dallas Cowboys dismantled the Bills from Buffalo, 52-7.  While the game was pedestrian and anti-climactic, the half-time show was anything but.  Michael Jackson. Whoa!  It was some spectacular production finished off with “We Are The World”.  Whether you are a fan or not, take a look at the video  I think he even departed on a chopper.

Conversely, the sole excitement in the game was the rumbling ramble by Cowboys defensive tackle Leon Lett, the Big Cat.  Lett gathered up a fumble by substitute quarterback Frank Reich and raced for the Buffalo end zone, 64 yards away.  He almost made it, but was stripped of the ball by Don Beebe just short of the goal line, thus staving off the sting of an ignominious bumble.  Emmitt Smith, the Dallas halfback was the MVP.  Yawn.

Following the confetti, the presentation of the Lombardi Trophy and other post-game merriment by the victors and their fans, we retreated to the bowels of the Rose Bowl for the NBC gathering.  But of course.  At our table:  Bob, Randy, Mike Ditka, Jim Lampley and his wife Bree Walker who was then an LA network news anchor.  I had met Jim at a National Association of Broadcasters convention in 1972 and crossed paths again in 1976 (a wild tale for another day, though video does exist), so I knew him a little.

 Two chairs remained empty, but only for a bit.  Of a sudden, there stood O.J. and his date whose name I cannot recall.  I was sitting next to O.J. Simpson.  I’m not much of a celebrity wonk, but this was a bit different.  I had admired the guy, only a few years older than I, for a long while.  He had been not only a larger than life player in college and the NFL, but one off the field as well.  The guy was in The Towering Inferno for god’s sake and how about those Hertz commercials?  He always comported himself in a stellar manner to my recollection.  He was tall, handsome and looked, at age 45, as if he could have just come off the field.  We introduced ourselves and began to chat.

The point of all this came next.  O.J. Simpson was one of the nicest, kindest, most genteel, gracious people I’d ever met.  He spoke at length with both of us.  He inquired about our family, where we lived, the ages of our kids, their names, the sports they played.  This went on throughout the meal.  I like to believe that I am a good judge of character and I have to say that O.J. was as genuine as anyone I’ve met, most impressive and not the least bit self-absorbed as one might expect.  That gathering was a perfect cherry on the top of a Super Bowl Sundae and we returned home the next day.

But the ‘party’ wasn’t over, now was it?  Just short of a year and a half later, we all sat transfixed by the events unfolding on television—interrupting the NBA Finals—as the infamous white Bronco wound its way slowly across L.A. freeways.  Of course, this begat the latest “Trial of the Century” which also gave us—regrettably—an introduction to the Kardsashian family through one of O.J.’s attorneys, Robert.  How I wish I’d never heard the name.  Okay, so that was an editorial comment that has nothing to do with Robert or his legal abilities.  In any event, an acquittal ensued with the outcry from many corners.

Through it all, I wasn’t tormented by the irony of it all, but I simply could not reconcile the character of the man I met at the Super Bowl with the one who allegedly committed two gruesome murders.  I called Bob Costas to ask his take on the whole thing.  He confirmed to me that the O.J. that we had met that night in Pasadena was the same guy he had seen so many times with everyone from President to custodian, i.e. a genuinely nice guy.  Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde redux?  Who knows?  The Juice is now 70 years old, free after a nine-year hiatus from the real world and beginning anew.  Hanging over his head is the perception that he got away with murder, a multi-million dollar civil judgment related thereto as well as the rest of the laundry that has yet to be washed.  I’m so conflicted by all of this, but take this to the bank:  We’ve not heard the last of O.J. Simpson.  I cannot fathom that he will simply go quietly into that good night.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Religion = Politics

While awaiting a table for dinner recently, I spied a guy with a plain white T-shirt that had a silk-screened message.  So what, you might respond.  The same happens in restaurants all day, every day.  This message, however, was a bit different.  I read, re-read and tossed it around in the empty cavern of my skull most of the night.  The message, boldly stated, was “Religion is the Politics of Spirituality”.  In this most desperate of political seasons, it resonated with me.  A search of several well-known computer databases to locate the author of this simple concept came up empty.  Perhaps it originated with Zeus, Socrates, Jean Paul Sartre, Bertrand Russell or any one of hundreds of philosophers.  Maybe a bartender made it up.  Irrespective of to whom attribution belongs and from every direction I attack it, the conclusion was inescapable.  It seems so simple; I fear I’m the only one who didn’t know it.  If that be the case, stop reading here.

As I thought about it, though, I tried to recall the long-ago Sunday school lessons, college classes in philosophy and religious history (I perhaps didn’t attend as often as I might have) as well as subsequent readings, but over decades too many brain cells have been sacrificed on the altar of good times.  I did manage to conjure up images going back to battles between tribes of idol-worshipers (with competing idols, of course, sounding like today’s political campaigns, probably with negative ads) in 12,000 B.C., to the Israelites, through the Crusades, past the Spanish Inquisition, the unimaginable horrors of the Holocaust and the more recent carnage between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland with many stops in between.  Logically enough, I ended my memorial tour with the battle being waged today against the U.S., Iraqi coalition countries, Afghanistan, Israel, most recently Russia and the rest of the non-Muslim world by a relatively small, but fanatical band of radical Islamists.  In some sick, twisted interpretation of the Koran they have created a veritable Manifesto of War against the rest of us, collectively referred to contemptuously as “the Infidel”.  Having read the Koran myself, I didn’t reach that interpretation any more so than I concluded that slavery and polygamy were fine ideas after reading the Bible. 

This battle, while being waged in the name of Allah and called by many a “jihad” or “holy war”, is in its simplest form a political skirmish, much like the ones being waged ad nauseum on our televisions, radios, live streams and in the few newspapers extant, though with a critical difference being the tragic loss of human life as a result of the former.  There is nothing “holy” about this war as it has little, if anything, to do with religion.  The T-shirt doesn’t lie. When distilled, these hostilities are simply religious politics.  The difference is that in the case of the Muslim extremists, individuals are willing (or at least brainwashed) to intentionally sacrifice themselves as “martyrs” to further the ostensible cause of establishing an Islamic caliphate or state.  Now that is either the ultimate political dedication or “holy” stupidity.  Perhaps they are one and the same.  Unfortunately, this particular “war” has already had tragic consequences on many continents, including our own, with tens of thousands of casualties and no end in sight. 

As it has so many times in history, the politics of religion has sidetracked the search by many for the spirituality they seek in an increasingly complex world.  For those who are spiritual, whether Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Gnostic, Pagan or whatever, most believe that “god” is God, whether someone happens to call Him God, Jehovah, Allah, Yaweh or Bill.  Each who believes also strives--some more zealously than others-- to reach his or her own spirituality in spite of the “politics” that are calculated to keep us from that goal if it is sought outside of an organized, recognized religion, i.e. one that has ‘not-for-profit’ IRS status.  Not that any well-recognized and organized faith in and of itself is necessarily a hindrance to one reaching a personal peace, but again, the T-shirt doesn’t lie.  Having now thought about it in these terms, doesn’t it seem like the current political climate is much the same, i.e. it’s the politics and the surrounding debate of which particular “sect” is the true route to salvation (or vision of government) that is the root cause of the bickering, arguing and negativity (the electoral replacement for bloodshed)?  The religious belief system which purports to offer the quickest, guaranteed path to Heaven or Paradise or wherever it is to which our soul ascends at death seems to grab a majority of the attention of the flock.  It is a primary point in the religious proselytizing process calculated to retain the faithful and gain converts as larger numbers of “believers” translates to more power—and money.  Sound familiar?  It’s the same path the American electorate and its political parties travel during the “political season” and what we currently endure:  the battle for power.  Whoever offers quick, easy solutions and most important, painlessness in the process stands to gain the most.  Our Congress is full of mostly twisted individuals who care about two things:  Power and money.  The way they keep it is to keep the status quo.  Think about it.  Every election cycle we hear the cries of “Throw all of the bastards out”, but behind the cry is the whisper of “Except for my bastard”.  Think about it.  Look at the reelection percentages.  Power is the intoxicant whether political or religious.  But I digress.

If politics and striving for “religious” power are eliminated from the divine equation, the quest for spirituality would be much simpler wouldn’t it?  Instead of religious guerillas fighting in a “holy war” to find martyrdom and killing those who would dare to espouse a contrary dogma in some sort of morbid bid for recognition as the single, dominant worldwide religion, this “political battle” should be waged on a local level with clergy of all stripes assisting each individual in the quest to reach a personal spirituality and peace, however one completes the journey and achieves the goal.  The same is true with our own political process.  When the nonsense is stripped away, it all seems very simple.  About as simple as a plain white T-shirt. 

And now you know the rest of the story.