Friday, May 31, 2013

The Decline of Politeness and Civility

"S'up?" said the kid.

Looking back, he was probably older than that. I'm reaching the age that anyone who doesn't have more than a few scraggly hairs on his chin is a "kid" who just finished puberty last week.

"Hello," I had said when I first saw him. So he said "S'up?"

It's a new word. It's a stupid word. And I'm probably overdressing it by adding in the apostrophe, like lipstick on a pig. More like a ponytail on a bald guy.


It's a question, a combination of "what's" and "up." I don't know if it's a new slang term, or if the people who say it are just too lazy to actually say the "what" first. Like it's such a heavy burden on their jaw, they're afraid their lower mandible will snap off if they talk too much.

While other people are growing increasingly alarmed about the deterioration of language — we've been alarmed about the deterioration of language for the last few hundred years, so I'm not too worried about it — I'm more concerned with the deterioration of manners and what passes for civility in this country.

Forget the increases of road rage, where someone would like to run someone off the highway because they were cut off in traffic. Forget the increases of air rage, because people are, understandably, quite sick of being treated both like children and cattle on airplanes. Forget the increased righteous indignation that shows up on social media, especially during election season.

It's the little things I worry about, because the big things often follow the little things.

Starting with "S'up?"

Whatever happened to "hi," or even "hello?" I understand the need for brevity and simplicity, but "hi" is the shortest greeting you're ever going to make. Even "s'up" has three letters plus that damn apostrophe.

Do you pause there? Is it more like "Sssss. . . up?" Or is the word actually "sup?" The kid was eating lunch when he said it. Maybe he speaks in The Queen's Very Formal English, and he was telling me what he was doing.

But monosyllabic kids aside, these highly informal greetings are everywhere.

"Hey, Dude," says the barista at my favorite coffee shop. Or "What can I get you, Bro?"

Dude? Bro? What are we, surfers?

"Here you go, man," they say when they hand me my coffee.

"Man." That's a little better. We said "man" in the 70s when I was a kid.

And for those of you who are saying, "70s? Kid? I was married with my own kids back then!" just leave me to my own mid-life crisis, please, daddy-o.

Speaking of politeness, "please" and "thank you" seem to be doing okay, but I'm worried about "you're welcome." It's wilting away with lack of use.

No longer do people say "you're welcome" when they're thanked for something. Now it's "no problem." Or "sure."

"You're welcome" is a polite way of saying "it was my pleasure to assist you." And while "no problem" seems to fit the bill — "it was no difficulty whatsoever" — its informality cheapens the sentiment of the sincerity of the gratitude. It gives a false sense of humility.

It's like the phrase "it was nothing," which is like the French "de rien," or the Spanish "de nada." Both mean "of nothing" or "it was nothing."

I'm not a big fan of saying my efforts were "nothing," because it diminishes the person's gratitude along with it. However, it's an understandable sentiment. When the person thanks you, you're in effect saying "It was the least I could do as a fair and compassionate human being, and I'm more than happy to have done it."

Which is why saying "sure" makes me crazy.

It's so dismissive in its utterance, it comes out more like a grunt.


If it's possible to shorten the pronunciation of a one-syllable word, I think this one does it nicely.

It's the "s'up?" of the thank you ritual.

We're seeing a growing disintegration of the basic niceties that separate us from New Yorkers, niceties that polite people of a certain age continue to practice. But as we get older, there will be fewer and fewer of us to observe them.

Of course, it could be worse. I could continue to be faced with my least favorite, most hated, yet unfailingly polite greeting of all.

"Hello, sir. Can I show you to your table?"

"GAAAH! I'm too young to be a sir!" my brain shrieks. And I just have to smile, nod my slightly graying head, and thank the young whippersnappers who escort me and my family to our table.

"Thank you," I tell the hostess as she's walking away.

She looks over her shoulder, waves her hand, and calls back.


The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and my other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.


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Monday, May 27, 2013

Full Video of Tony Kanaan's Press Conference After Winning the 2013 Indianapolis 500

This is the full 25 minute press conference of Tony Kanaan, after he won the 97th Indianapolis 500. It was his 12th race, and he finally managed to grab a victory. The race finished under caution (yellow flag) after Dario Franchitti put the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car into the wall with just a couple laps to go.

A few interesting things to note:

  • The last four winners: Kanaan, Franchitti (2012 and 2010), and Dan Wheldon (2011) had all raced together for Michael Andretti a few years earlier. And while they may not have been able to win with Andretti, it does say something about Michael Andretti's ability to pick winners.
  • Kanaan told a story about his good luck charm, which was told at least twice during the ABC broadcast of the race.
  • Car owner Jim Vasser has never won the Indianapolis 500, but did win the 1996 IndyCar Championship.
  • The number 11 car — not just Kanaan, but any driver wearing it — has never won at the Indianapolis 500.

Here is the full transcript of the press conference:

Tony Kanaan, Jimmy Vasser
Sunday, May 26, 2013

THE MODERATOR: Tony, welcome. I couldn't help but think of the fact, going back to the 1950s, there was a popular driver named Sam Hanks, and in his 13th start was able to win. You have led nine races or so in a row. You have been in position to win. I think all of us could imagine the feeling that this time it's really going to happen. Take us through it.

TONY KANAAN: I don't know how to start. But we had a great car. I knew that from the get-go. We had a great plan. I mean, it's one of those days, man. Everything was so smooth.

Jimmy was calm. I was calm. Nobody yelling, anything. I felt it was everything under control.

But I had 11 times that I've been here the same thing. So when it was six laps to go, went yellow, I wasn't in the lead, I said, This might be the day, today might be the day, because I was in Ryan's position plenty of times.

I knew I had to get the lead on the restart because it could be a yellow, which happened to me plenty of times here, and it did. How life is funny. The yellow was my best friend.

People are saying he did it on purpose. Obviously not. I can see him mad out of the car. When he saw I was in the lead, he was shaking his head, like waving at me. It was special, very special.

I never had a doubt I could win this thing. I talked about it many times that I could do it or not, but this place is still going to be special. Today it worked.

It was a lot of numerology. If we talk about Jenna Fryer, Jimmy, Zanardi, I don't know, man. The 11 and 12 haunt us the entire month. I think we're going to be 1112 is going to be my number next year (laughter).

Every time I got married, I won a championship or a race. I'm OK, honey, I don't want to win anything anymore. I'm good (laughter).

THE MODERATOR: Jimmy, I don't think anything can possibly replace the thrill of winning as a racer, which you have done, but you have to have your sense in part of putting together a team with this guy who has been so close. It has to be a wonderful feeling.

JIMMY VASSER: Absolutely. I never won it as a driver. In fact, I couldn't win it as a driver, so I had to hire the right guy to do it, get a Baby Borg on my shelf.

Tony is the consummate professional. We set out as a team at the end of last year to focus on Indy. Instead of the whole series, the whole season, we took a chassis, in the old school name, called it a special, put it aside, worked on it. All credit to the boys. A lot of hard work over the winter, keeping things together. It's not an easy thing these days from a commercial standpoint.

I'd like to thank (indiscernible), bringing Simona, some of their group, to help finish out a two-car team, carry us through the winter.

Tony was right. The stars started lining up for us. We didn't hit race setup until about two hours to go. Most of you know Tony, but two hours to go on Sunday before the week was over, the worst car he had ever driven, ready to quit, hang up his boots. In a matter of 45 minutes, we hit on something, and it was the best car he ever had around here.

We knew at that point we had the right guy and the car was good enough, we'd have a great shot at it today.

THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.

Q: Tony, you were holding some medals. We couldn't hear the sound. What is the story behind the medals?

TONY KANAAN: I didn't have enough pockets for all the things my fans gave me to bring me luck. I probably have to bring a truck with me behind the car.

There was two things. Zanardi is here, as you know. He brought his Olympic gold medal. Right before the race, he gave it to Jimmy, Jimmy brought it to the bus. I was laying in bed. It was an hour before. Jim as I said, Zanardi asked you to rub it. I actually cuddled with the thing. Still in my bus.

Nine years ago, I went to make a visit in a hospital here in Indy. When I walked in, there was this girl. She was 14 years old. She just had a stroke. She was in a coma. She was going to get a surgery the next morning.

I had this thing that my mom gave me. It was kind of a necklace to protect me, not to bring me luck, because you know the way moms are. She tells me to race slow, which is kind of stupid, but...

So I took it out and I said to her mother, I don't know if you believe in these things, but I had this for a while. It always protect me. My mother gave it to me. I want to give it to you. She was like a life risk.

I gave it to her. She survived. She is doing really well. We kept in touch in the past years. This year, four days ago, she showed up, gave me a letter with an envelope. I opened the letter. Here it was. She said that she had enough of luck in her life, she got married, and she wanted to give it back to me to bring me luck.

So here it is. I think I'll retire that thing now.

Q: The old gang at Andretti Green Racing, you and Dario and Dan and Jimmy, you've all won now. Do you have a thought on that?

TONY KANAAN: I'm sorry?

Q: The old gang at Andretti Green.


Q: You've all won now.

TONY KANAAN: Yeah, I guess Michael used to hire good drivers. Not 'used to,' he still does. Look at the result there.

But, no, we came from a generation, including Jimmy on that, our generation was really tough. At the time I was the youngest. They were the old dogs, the guys that set the example. Now actually here we are. I think Dario proved the old guys can still drive fast. I'm right next to it two years after him.

It's awesome. I think we showed it's so nice to make history like that, have good friends, have friends that really are winners.

I remember one day I was hanging with a team owner, I don't want to elaborate on it, but he said he only hang with winners because if you hang with losers, you become one. I guess it's pretty good.

Q: So you talked about the reception you got out there from other teams. You got the long hug from Dario. You have this crowd of fans out there that mobbed you as you came through. I know it's hard to put that all in perspective and talk about it, but this is a really popular win. What does that mean to be so well-regarded by everybody?

TONY KANAAN: Well, you know, first I think we can prove that theory that says that nice guys don't win. I guess we proved them wrong.

Second, the 11 number never won here, so we made another history. Somebody told me that this morning. I didn't know if it was a negative or positive.

I mean, this place, I've always said it, it's been special to me, and I meant that when I said that. I didn't have to win here. I said that out there. The fans, they actually spoiled me a little bit on my win. When I finished 11th here, starting dead last, I got out of the car and it was exactly the same.

I already had felt a little bit, I hadn't drinked the milk, kissed the bricks, but it means a lot to me, because so many people I can feel they wanted me to win. It's such a selfish thing to do because what are they getting from it? I'm the one that gets the trophy. If you can bring some joy to them, and I think the best thing was try to put an exciting race for them.

I said it before the race: I believed that this win was more for people out there than for me. I wanted it all my life. But over the years, I was kind of OK with the fact that I may never have a chance to win it. Then I started coming back here.

From day one, it catches me by surprise, I can't walk out there, I couldn't before, I don't know now, maybe it's going to get worse, the parade, everywhere, it's just unbelievable.

It's nice. I think wins are important, trophies are really nice, but what I'm going to take forever, it's definitely this.

Q: Tony, you're a student of the sport. I don't know if you had a chance to meet Lloyd Ruby or not. You had been linked with him as far as best drivers to never win the Indianapolis 500. To finally be rid of that title, talk about how well and relieved you feel.

TONY KANAAN: It wasn't a pressure. Robin Miller tried to hammer that every year that I was here (laughter).

Again, it's so hard to win a race. It's even harder to pick a race to win. I'm glad I put myself out of that group and put myself in the other group.

Before the race, it was very special. Parnelli came to me and said, "I want you to win." I'm like, "Whoa, all right." I've always admired the legends of this place. Rick Mears, A.J., Mario, Parnelli. It starts to get into you. Then to have these people telling you they want you to win, it's awesome.

I'm glad I'm on the other side and I can put my big nose on that trophy (smiling).

Q: Did you ever think the bad luck bug might get you as the laps were winding down? When Earnhardt won Daytona, that was such a popular victory. Does it almost feel like that, someone finally got something they've been longing for?

TONY KANAAN: The first question, I never thought about it until one lap to go. I started to check everything in my car. Do we have enough fuel, have four wheels (laughter)? You kind of go crazy. The Pace Car guy, whoever was on the side, this guy is actually celebrating. I'm like, Go, can you go quicker? It's going to be a long lap if you keep doing that.

Up until it went yellow, I didn't. Obviously, we're racing, trying to concentrate on that.

Your second question, I don't know, man. I was already in America when he did that. I thought it was so cool. I came down pit lane. It was not the same, but it was close. I saw a lot of teams and people that thought I really deserved to win. It was awesome. It's a great feeling.

Q: Tony, enough bad luck had come to you before. The first caution, when Graham brought out the caution, were you worried you wouldn't get a chance? When they did restart it, did you think, I'm going to have to go right now in case another caution comes out?

TONY KANAAN: I knew there was going to be time. You can tell the way they conduct the things, the Pace Car got really slow. We were going to finish the race under green. On top of that, I knew a yellow flag with six, seven, eight laps to go, it's a big potential for another yellow right away.

I didn't want to be in the lead because I knew I was going to get caught on the restart. Again, it fell through. I was in the perfect place, exactly where I want to be, right behind the leader, with three to go because I knew a potential yellow could happen. It happened. I guess it was right.

Q: Did you have to set that up at all or did you just go?

TONY KANAAN: You can't predict a yellow. I was second. When it went green, I went. I said, I'm going for the lead. I was going to try to lead the last three laps. I said, I want to be first, because if something happens, I know because I've been back there. Anytime it goes yellow 15 laps to go on, people just turn crazy. I've got caught on that at times. Then it's time to race.

Before you could see it, Please, Ryan, you go. Marco, you go. It's your turn. Rubens said that to me last year. Twenty laps to go, people turn mad. I said, No, then we start racing. I knew there was a big potential, that's why I did what I did.

Q: Jimmy, what makes Tony so special with all his rivals?

TONY KANAAN: I have plenty stories of you, too, Jimmy (laughter). Remember Italy?

JIMMY VASSER: Well, yes. Enough, enough (laughter).

He's been a leader of the drivers since he was younger, back in the days of Dario, Greg. Just a lot of camaraderie. He's always out there to help younger drivers coming up with different information. He's just a great leader of the drivers. That's why it's such a popular victory.

It's not just the drivers. I was blown away driving around in the pace car. Virtually everybody was still in the stands chanting, TK.

Q: Were you making love to the bricks or what?

TONY KANAAN: My wife was kissing the yard more than she was kissing me the entire freaking weekend. We have to see what's up with that (laughter). No, I don't know what I was doing. People ask me if I ever, like, thought how I was going to celebrate. I never wanted to think about it. I just went there and did whatever I wanted to do.

Q: When you finished 11th, was that the first time you knew the fans here at Indy had a lot of love for you or was there an earlier time?

TONY KANAAN: No, I think it started when I had a crash. I'm not going to recall the year. I had a suspension failure on the back straightaway. I was sitting in third place. I had led a bunch of laps. I ended up hitting the wall in Turn 3.

I got out of the car, the entire place was crazy. I think it was 2008. Ever since then, every year it kept growing and growing. Every year that went by that I didn't win, we kept growing the fan base. More people felt sorry. More people felt that I deserved to win.

I don't know. Got out of control actually. It's awesome. Now people probably aren't going to cheer for me anymore. Whatever, next (laughter).

Q: You were talking about numerology. You're going to be the 100th face etched on the Borg-Warner Trophy. Talk about what it's going to be like. How big of a critic are you going to be?

TONY KANAAN: He can't make me look as bad as I look already. I'm pretty sure it's going to be fine.

Q: But as far as the honor, the hundredth face.

TONY KANAAN: Again, it's just a number. Just to have my face there, it's a big deal. Jimmy would probably prefer if it's 112. I don't think I'll make it up to 112.

It's an honor just to be there, for sure.

Q: Tony, if the crash hadn't have happened, you had this 21-year-old kid that hadn't seen the speedway till two weeks ago, he was right on your tail ready to take over.

TONY KANAAN: It was good. He was going to learn a lot in the last two laps, I can tell you that (laughter). He was going to love this place, but he was going to have to come back.

He's a good kid. We go go-karting together in Miami. It's funny because Carb Day, he made a pass on me on the short chute. We don't do that very often. I didn't talk to him. I thought, 'This kid is good.' If he manages to finish the race, he's going to finish well.
It was funny because in the race he got a hiccup in Turn 1. I put the same pass on him. Here you go, kid. With three to go, when I saw him behind me, I said, "All right, man, let's start the lessons here." But it went yellow, so...

Q: Professional sports, there always seems to be one figure who finally gets a championship. Do you already feel like there's that weight lifted after the 11 years?

TONY KANAAN: I don't know what to think. I mean, I don't know what to expect, what's coming. I'm going to enjoy it a lot. It's been a while that I haven't won a race actually. Usually you take it for granted sometimes. When you win very often, it's one more, you're thinking about the next one.

Obviously, this one is the biggest one I've ever have. Now I have a championship and an Indy 500. It's a huge, remarkable achievement for me. I mean, that proves that I can still race for a few more years. Our contract is up this year, so hopefully we'll find something. I don't want to go anywhere. I told Jimmy that before we had won anything. I have the people that I want to have.

I'm going to enjoy it, enjoy my life, enjoy my kid, that he hammered on me last week. He said, Dad, I'm 5 years old and I don't recall seeing you win a race. That was harsh. I told him to go to his grandma's house and look at all the trophies that I have won. It didn't go well with him. I can show him this one.

Q: Tony, this was a record-breaking 500 in many ways. Talk about the perspective from a driver's standpoint with so much uncertainty at the top with the lead changing almost every lap.

TONY KANAAN: It was a chess game. It's funny enough because I don't know how to play chess. I guess you play around.

It was just a good day for me. I mean, I was extremely confident. I never lost my focus. Jimmy was funny. Coming up to Lap 100, I was running second, he says, Next lap is 100. If you want to lead it, just letting you know. I was going to ask if there was any money for that.

JIMMY VASSER: There was.

TONY KANAAN: Allmendinger was a nose away from me, which is hard to do, but he did it (laughter).

It was just a good day. I was extremely confident. But I think with the past 11 years, I've been through everything here, I had none expectations. I said, you know what, we do what we can, put ourselves in a good position. I got yelled by Jimmy, Dude, I know you're showing off, but get back there because we need to save some fuel. I got to the front anytime I wanted to. That proved to me, if I put myself in the right position, everything else fell through, I was going to win. That's what happened.

Q: As a driver, do you like this style of racing? Are you a little bit frustrated, if you have a good car, leading you can't get away?

TONY KANAAN: I'm always a big fan of the best car wins the race, but that doesn't happen very often. I think the race for the fans, it was unbelievable. Obviously for me, we had a very few yellows. By the time we said, OK, this is the last stop. It was like: "Already? It wasn't like a long day."

It was a lot of action going on, a lot of people that didn't want to lead. People had a lot of experience here didn't want to lead. The rookies, I want to do this.

No, I wouldn't change anything. I think the competition has been extremely tough. I hate fuel-mileage races. This is a 500-mile race. There's no way you're not going to play that strategy anyway. If you say all our races are going to be like that, I totally disapprove. I know for a fact they're not. Here, it's three, four hours, so anything can happen.

Q: Can you take us through a sense from the last two years of what it takes to get here at Indy, almost not having a ride?

TONY KANAAN: It's a big reward. If it wasn't for Kevin, Jimmy, (indiscernible) putting this sponsorship together, I wouldn't be here. We got a call seven days before St. Pete three years ago. We kept insisting, we knew we could do this. These are hard times for everybody. I've always asked myself, Why do I deserve better than somebody else?

My career, it's pretty successful. I raced for a big team, prime time. I had four awesome teammates that we enjoyed a lot. I won a lot of races. I was grateful for that. So I never felt sorry for myself.

It was just a situation. This is life. It's plenty of ups and downs. You've got to go for it. You take the opportunities. If you're fortunate enough, I believe if you're a good person, good things will come to you.

We've been surviving. We have our struggles. We fight. We're going to fight for the pace car now, who is going to have it, all that stuff.

JIMMY VASSER: Chip didn't give me the Pace Car.

TONY KANAAN: He gave Zanardi a car.

So, yeah, it's rewarding. It shows that if you never give up, many good things might happen for you.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Congratulations.

TONY KANAAN: Thank you.

(FastScripts by ASAP Sports)


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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Unofficial Results of the 2013 Indianapolis 500

Here are the unofficial results of the 2013 Indianapolis 500.

Driver, Team, Laps completed, Finish
1. Tony Kanaan, KV Racing Technology, 200
2. Carlos Muñoz, Andretti Autosport, 200
3. Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport, 200

4. Marco Andretti, Andretti Autosport, 200
5. Justin Wilson, Dale Coyne Racing, 200
6. Helio Castroneves, Team Penske, 200

7. AJ Allmendinger, Team Penske, 200
8. Simon Pagenaud, Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports, 200
9. Charlie Kimball, Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing, 200

10. Ed Carpenter, Ed Carpenter Racing, 200
11. Oriol Servia, Panther DRR, 200
12. Ryan Briscoe, NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing, 200

13. Takuma Sato, A. J. Foyt Enterprises, 200
14. Scott Dixon, Target Chip Ganassi Racing, 200
15. Ana Beatriz, Dale Coyne Racing, 200

16. Tristan Vautier, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, 200
17. Simona De Silvestro, KV Racing Technology, 200
18. EJ Viso, Team Venezuela/Andretti Autosport/HVM, 200

19. Will Power, Team Penske, 200
20. James Jakes, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 199
21. James Hinchcliffe, Andretti Autosport, 199

22. Conor Daly, A. J. Foyt Enterprises, 198
23. Dario Franchitti, Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Contact
24. Alex Tagliani, Barracuda Racing, 196

25. Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 192, contact
26. Katherine Legge, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, 193
27. Townsend Bell, Panther Racing, 192

28. Josef Newgarden, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, 191
29. Sebastien Bourdais, Dragon Racing, 178
30. Pippa Mann, Dale Coyne Racing, 46, mechanical

31. Buddy Lazier, Lazier Partners Racing, 44, mechanical
32. Sebastian Saavedra, Dragon Racing, 34, contact
33. James Hinchcliffe, Panther Racing, 3, contact


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Sebastien Bourdais Hits Wall in Pit Row, Is Out With Bent Wheel

Sebastien Bourdais took himself out of the race when his breaks locked up as he was entering pit row. The locking brakes veered him sharply to the left, he hit the wall, and bent his front left suspension. If there were 20 more laps in the race — we're on 178 now — he might have been able to replace the suspension and get back out, but I'm doubtful they'll be able to do it in time.


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So Far, So Good - 2013 Indianapolis 500

I'm not one of those racing fans who wants to see wrecks. There are plenty who do, but that's not real racing.

I've been pleasantly surprised so far that this year's Indianapolis 500 has only seen four drivers drop out of the race so far — JR Hildebrand and Sebastian Saavedra for contact with the wall (and Saavedra for another driver's tires), and Buddy Lazier and Pippa Mann pulled out for mechanical reasons.

However, the ABC race coverage (we're getting the feed out of ABC 7 in New York City) has been less than forthcoming. No one I've talked to knows exactly why Lazier or Mann went out, or who Saavedra made contact with to get bumped out.

My friend and racing expert, Ken, told me he expected 15 cars to finish on the lead lap today, and so far, we're way ahead of his prediction. There are only four drivers out, and two drivers off the lead lap — Katherine Legge (6 laps) and Josef Newgarden (7 laps).

With any luck, this will remain a safe race and we won't see any more wrecks. Any wreck is always a potential life-threatening injury, as we saw in 2010 when Dan Wheldon lost his life in Las Vegas. It may be boring to the bloodthirsty, but any race with few accidents is always the better one.

Besides, it makes for a more exciting finish at the end.


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Talking About Sport Sponsors Linguistically Awkward

Pay close attention during the Indianapolis 500, the Izod IndyCar Series, and the entire month of May, and you'll hear a lot of brand names being mentioned in relation to certain events, products, and entities.

James Hinchcliffe is driving the "#27 GoDaddy car."

Ed Carpenter is driving the "#20 Fuzzy's Vodka car."

Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon drive for "Target Chip Ganassi Racing."

The drivers are using "Sunoco racing fuel," especially Townsend Bell who's driving the "#60 Sunoco car."

Sponsor-talk has become a second language to these drivers and media types, but to the average listener, it's a whole new language.

The issue is that every racer needs sponsors in order to have enough money to race. One of the things the sponsors get are frequent mentions during interviews, and photos with the drivers in their ball caps. I remember watching Franchitti being interviewed back in 2009 or 2010, and switching hats with every question by the interviewer. That's so he could have photos taken of him wearing each sponsor's cap, so they could put it on their marketing materials and in their corporate lobby.

Advertising and sponsorship messages are always a big linguistic mess, and I feel sympathy for the drivers who just want to drive, but have to talk about all of their corporate sponsors instead. It's one of those necessary evils of the most expensive sport in the world.


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Buddy Lazier Out With Mechanical Issues

It seems Buddy Lazier is now out of the race with some unidentified mechanical issues. He was never quite able to keep the pace, or keep his car working properly, and they're finally calling it quits. Lazier completed 44 laps, and put an end to his ride while everyone else was on lap 66.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and my other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.


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Sebastian Saavedra Out From Contact, Blocked Out By Unknown Driver

Sebastian Saavedra is your second driver out of the Indianapolis 500, after contact with a so-far unidentified car. Saavedra tried moving right before passing on the left, only to have the other make tire-to-tire contact with him, sending him into the wall in Turn 4. Saavedra coasted to a complete stop just past the exit of pit row. All he could say on the radio is "someone should get a penalty, someone should get a penalty."

At this point, the ABC feed has not told us what happened (that's what we're listening to in the media center), because as likes to say, "it's none of your business."

It was pretty minor damage, compared to the dramatic blowing-apart of the cars, but Saavedra is out for the day.

Also, even though Saavedra went out on lap 34, Katherine Legge needed 3 more laps to catch up with him.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and my other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.


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JR Hildebrand Goes Out on Turn 1, Lap 3

The weather has already claimed its first car today. JR Hildebrand of the #4 National Guard car slipped out of the very shallow groove in turn 1, just as lap 3 started, and hit the wall. Hildebrand looked like he was trying to decide whether to move in front of James Hinchcliffe in the #27 GoDaddy car, when his tires failed to bite on the pavement, and he smacked into turn 1.

My friend and former auto racing PR pro, Ken, predicts that there will only be 15 cars that cross the line on lap 200 at the end of the day (including cars that are a lap down, and ones that are out for mechanical and contact reasons). Since it's so cold here today — it's 62 degrees right now — we're not going to see a lot of rubber laid down on the track, which means no real groove for the cars to ride in, which means we're going to have a lot more of these slide offs.

Charlie Kimball is also having electrical issues at this point.

Ed Carpenter has lead for the entire race so far.

At 12:33, JR Hildebrand was checked, released, and cleared to drive. I assume that means his next race, since his car was wrecked.


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Motor Sports is a Team Sport

Jim Harbaugh, former quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts and current head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, was in the Media Center a little while ago, talking about his chance to drive the Indianapolis 500 pace car this year.

He spent some time up in the media center answering questions, including one from me (Q: Do you ever see yourself coaching in Indianapolis? A: "We only support one organization, and that's the San Francisco 49ers.")

He was also asked about the similarity between motor racing and the NFL. His answer was a good one, and one that I think most people don't think about: motor sports is definitely a team race. While the drivers are the biggest part of whether a race is won or lost, the crew plays a big part in that, and not just on race day.

It's the crew who spends hour after long hour in the garage, disassembling and reassembling the cars. They're the ones who practice day after day putting on tires, adding fuel, and making sure the car gets out of the pits in the shortest amount of time possible.

From my vantage point, I can see Townsend Bell's pit and the #60 Sunoco car. At 10:00, two hours before the start, Bell's team was practicing their pit stops again. They were swapping tires, making sure they could shave every fraction of a second off their time. On Friday, there is even a pit stop competition where teams compete to see who can make the fastest stop. This year, Helo Castroneves' Shell team won the pit stop competition.

Castroneves said his team practices their stops every day, making sure they've got them down cold. It's important, when so many races are won by fractions of a second.

When you consider the margin of victory in Friday's Freedom 100 was .0026 seconds (2.6 thousandths of a second), .10 seconds gained or lost in the pit can mean the difference between first and second.

Update: Pippa Mann has a great column in Racer Magazine about her experience at this year's 500. There were a couple of times she talked about "we" for her team, and referred to herself in third person:
However, now it was back to the smaller issue that we were going into the race with a driver who had never raced the DW12, who had yet to really run in traffic, and who had yet to drive a complete lap in the much colder temperatures of race day weekend.

Notice the "we were going" and "with a driver". That shows a lot of "team first" spirit on her part, and very small, humble ego that was about to climb into the cockpit. To me, that line demonstrated how a real motor sports team operates. The driver may operate the car, but it's the entire team that got it out there in the first place.


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The Speedway at Night is a Beautiful Sight

It's a badge of honor among the journalists covering the Indianapolis 500 to see who showed up early, and who's the slog who showed up late. Who's tough enough to slog it out without dropping? Who can show up so many hours before the actual start of the race, and still be alert enough to be doing post-race wrap-up by 5:00?

"What time did you get here?" is usually the first or second thing we say. It's a competition between everyone in the Media Center.

"6:00. It was just turning light out."

"I got here at 5:30. Got a great shot of the Pagoda in the dark."

"Jeez, I at least slept in the car."

"I grabbed a quick nap at my desk."

The TV crews show up because they start their morning shows, so they can give traffic reports, and reach the people who are awake at 6:00 on a Sunday morning. The radio guys are here, because they're doing traffic, and because this is what they've always done. The newspaper reporters aren't here yet. And the PR staff has been here since at least 4:00 in the morning.

I'm here because I hate traffic any day of the week, and Race Day traffic is some of the worst I will encounter all year.

Not this year. I think I got the hang of it. After four years of waiting in line at the main gate, trying not to run over drunk pedestrians, and parking far, far away from my "office," I think I got it figured out.

I left at 4:30 in the morning, thinking I could beat some of the traffic and not wait in line so long. I ended up hitting the Credential Gate by 5:20, and it was smooth sailing in. I was able to park in the media section of the infield lot (finally!), and walked a few hundred yards to the Media Center.

Everything is quiet right now, but the buzz is starting to build. There's some guy in front of me (I think he works for the Speedway) playing video games on his computer. A French guy is standing near my desk, talking to someone at home, as the skies lighten outside. James Black from the 16th and Georgetown racing blog showed up a little while ago, and some of the national sports guys are starting to show up.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and my other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.


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Friday, May 24, 2013

Dean of American Motorsports Chris Economaki's Presence Still Felt in IMS Media Center

Chris Economaki, the Dean of American Motorsports, has a special place in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Media Center. It's the pole position. The place he occupied for decades covering the Indianapolis 500, and later, the Brickyard 400.

He's even so revered here in Indianapolis that they named the press conference room after him, down on the first floor of the Media Center. After every race, all the journalists gather in the Economaki Press Conference Room for the post-race interviews, as well as any interviews after accidents, as well as Qualification Day and special press conferences.

Economaki's career in motorsports journalism started when he sold copies of the National Speed Sport News newspapers at age to 13, becoming a columnist a year later, and finally becoming the editor by the time he was 30. He went on to become the owner and publisher some years later, turning out issues until his daughter, Corinne, took over until its last issue in March 2011. He was even chosen by Microsoft to write the auto racing history portion of Encarta.

But that's only scratching the surface. Here's what else he did during his long and storied career, as told by Wikipedia.

  • Economaki began as track announcer at a number of major races in the 1940s and 1950s. He began at the July 4, 1961 running of the Firecracker 250 NASCAR race at Daytona International Speedway for ABC Sports. He covered most ABC Wide World of Sports motorsports events, including several Indianapolis 500s, Daytona 500s, Formula One Grand Prix races, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the East African Safari, and the Bathurst 1000 in Australia. He would also cover Wide World's less glamorous motorsports assignments, such as demolition derbies.
  • For several years during the 1960s, he contributed "Sport of Speed" segments twice each weekend to the NBC Radio Network program Monitor.
  • After 23 years he switched to CBS Sports. He covered International Race of Champions (IROC) events, Daytona 500s, and Formula One Grand Prix events.
  • He contributed to ESPN's SpeedWeek, and TBS' Motorweek Illustrated. Economaki also covered Formula One races on ESPN in 1987 and 1988 alongside British race driver and commentator David Hobbs, before being replaced by the younger Bob Varsha from 1989.
  • In 1988 he was the expert pit reporter for Australian television station Channel 7 for the first ever NASCAR race run outside of North America, the Goodyear NASCAR 500 at theCalder Park Thunderdome in Melbourne. Economaki had previously worked for Seven during the Bathurst 1000 telecasts of the late 1970s and early 1980's, mainly working as a pit reporter.
  • He covered several types of auto racing, including sprint cars, Championship Cars, stock cars, drag racers, and CanAm cars.
  • Economaki was a part of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network coverage of the Indianapolis 500, contributing essays and analysis.

I'm a bit of a journalism geek, reading past works sports writers and columnists like Roger Angell, the New Yorker's revered baseball writer; Studs Terkel, broadcaster and author; and, Mike Royko, Chicago newspaper columnist, and the reason I became a newspaper columnist myself.

So I've been interested in the history and legacy of Economaki, and what he's done for motorsports. And until I started writing this piece, I was never quite sure of all the things he did. I just knew he was considered the top motorsports journalist ever, but I didn't know exactly how much he had done for the sport.

Economaki, who died in 2012, never bothered to learn how to use a computer. He wrote everything on a typewriter, even when everyone else in the media was tapping away on laptops. Economaki kept it old school at the 500, banging out his column on an old Olympia typewriter. Tim Sullivan, Indianapolis Motor Speedway public relations, kept the Olympia in storage, and put back in Economaki's spot year after year, waiting for the Dean to show up. During my first year at the 500, I spotted the typewriter, asked Sullivan whose it was, and he told me about Economaki. I was hooked.

One of the other things I love doing is being in the places of cultural history, treading the same ground that other notable figures from history have walked on. Just last week, I was in San Francisco, and visited Lawrence Ferlinghetti's City Lights Books bookstore, which not only was the publisher of many Beat writers, but the place served as their unofficial headquarters for several years.

I walked in that store, running my hands over the tops of the books — I love the comforting smell and feel of a good bookstore — and thought about breathing the same air and walking on the same floors where Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs had stood decades before.

I get that same feeling every year I show up in the Media Center, and see Economaki's place in the media center. Economaki's last appearance at the 500 was 2008, the year before I ever started covering the race for this blog, so I never had a chance to meet him.

But, the Speedway is a wellspring of tradition, so no one has taken Economaki's spot, and never will. His desk will continue to sit empty in his honor. And this year, Sullivan put Economaki's manual Olympia typewriter out in his traditional spot, as if he may show up any time and write just one more piece.

Sullivan and I have had a couple email conversations about Economaki's typewriter over the years and what was going to be done with it. I even suggested putting it in an acrylic case and putting it on display in the press conference room, but in the end, he decided to put it back into Chris' seat, in the "pole position" of the media center, and put up a little sign next to it.

Coverage of the Indianapolis 500 and the entire world of auto racing, is what it is because of Chris Economaki. Even though our paths never crossed, I know I'm walking on holy ground every time I walk past his desk, and I try to do my job a little better because of him.

A Solution to Intrusive Advertising

(Many of these blog posts originally appear as newspaper columns, including this one, which is why there are references to you reading this piece in a newspaper.)

I saw an interesting ad by a famous graffiti artist named Banksy. It's a lot of text formatted in the shape of a Coca-Cola bottle on a red background, raging against advertisers who constantly shower us with ads in public, and then complain when someone uses those ads for their own artistic purposes.

"They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen, and they bully you with it," said Banksy's ad. "They are The Advertisers, and they are laughing at you. You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law means advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity. F--- That. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours."

(Update: In what may be an ironic twist, the words were written by Banksy, but the bottle design was created by Karina Nurdinova, a graphic designer from Italy. I say ironic, since she took Banksy's intellectual property, and, well, touched it.)

Banksy builds to a soul-stirring crescendo that demands orchestral music to swell in the background, while he rides a horse and roars his battle cry to the army about to storm the gates: "They owe you. They have rearranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked your permission, don't even start asking for theirs."

It's his last point that's most interesting: advertisers have changed our world so they can shout at us.

They shout at us from buses, billboards, and the sides of buildings, cluttering up our scenery.

They shout at us on our TV shows, our radio stations, and even our DVDs.

They charge $30 for a t-shirt with their logo, making you pay for the privilege of advertising to your friends.

They put dealer stickers on the backs of our cars, to tell everyone behind us where to get one just like it.

We've gotten so used to these assaults, we tune them out. We develop new technologies to skip their TV commercials, and they whine about our efforts. So advertisers look for new ways to force themselves on us.

They're parasites who would, if the technology existed, leach their way into our dreams.

Don't get me wrong, I understand advertising is necessary sometimes. For one thing, it supports this newspaper. You wouldn't have a newspaper to read if there weren't ads in it. The same is true for magazines and TV networks.

But you also have the option to not look at them. You could avoid reading a newspaper or magazine. (If anything is going to get me fired from this paper, it's that last sentence. So don't do that to this paper; all others are fair game.) You could change the TV channel during ad breaks, or record shows on your DVR and fast forward through the ads. Or, you could just not watch TV at all.

Rather than accept that we don't like them, advertisers fight our attempts to escape, spending millions to keep shouting at us, because they can't take no for an answer.

It's gotten so bad that many people are cutting their cable and satellite subscriptions, and paying $8 a month for Netflix or Hulu+. They borrow DVDs from the library, and watch videos on YouTube.

On my work blog, I have offered a better solution to advertisers, but I wanted to share it here: I will spend 30 minutes watching your videos and commercials, reading brochures, and considering your promotional material for $100.

I won't promise to buy anything, because that's not what advertising is about. An ad is not a guaranteed sale, it's an attempt at persuasion. I already get to choose to say no, so I still maintain that right.

Think about it: big brands already spend $100 or more a month just to get a single person to see one of their ads somewhere; I'm doing everything I can to avoid it. Each month, they just wasted another $100, and I won. They didn't get what they wanted, but still spent $100 in the off chance that they might snare me for 30 seconds in front of the TV.

But if they give me $100, they will have my undivided attention for 30 minutes, which is 29.5 more minutes than they're getting from me in a total month. I'll watch, listen, and read, and then we'll go our separate ways. I may or may not buy their product, and we can even do this again the following month. They've spent the same amount of money, and will have met their immediate goal of getting me to see all of their marketing material. It's a win-win.

Besides, if I decide to buy the product, I'll use the 100 bucks they just gave me.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and my other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.


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Sunday, May 19, 2013

2013 Indianapolis 500 Field is Full, But Not Final

As of 1:00 at the Indianapolis 500, the 9 remaining spots for the Indianapolis 500 have been filled.

25. (21) Josef Newgarden, 225.731 mph
26. (15) Graham Rahal, 225.007
27. (6) Sebastian Saavedra, 224.929

28. (55) Tristan Vautier, 224.873
29. (18) Ana Beatriz, 224.184
30. (63) Pippa Mann, 224.005

31. (41) Conor Daly, 223.582
32. (91) Buddy Lazier, 223.442
33. (81) Katherine Legge, 223.176

Driver Michel Jourdain Jr. — the Mexican driver with the French name — has not made an attempt yet. He has until 6:00 to take a shot at qualifying, and if he qualifies, Katherine Legge gets bumped, and she gets to try.

And that's the magic of bump day — the last driver gets bumped, gets a chance to qualify, and bumps the new #33, and so on. Once the gun sounds at 6:00, that's it. If a driver is on the track when the gun sounds, he or she gets to finish their attempt, which means it's nail biting time for the current #33.

I've seen bump days where the last driver got bumped, and days where #33 survived and celebrated as if they had just won the entire thing.

It's a little after 2:00 today, and we have less than four hours to hear from Michel Jourdain.


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Day 2 of Qualifying for the Indianapolis 500

It's been a hard season for IndyCar racing. Dreyer and Reinbold Racing has said they're running in the 500 this year, and shutting down, because of a lack of sponsorship money. IndyCar CEO and fan favorite Randy Bernard was ousted, and Tony George tried to buy out the series. On top of that viewership is still declining for IndyCar racing as a whole, and everyone is trying to figure out how to bring fans back.

All of these difficulties have given us a limited field in the Indianapolis 500 this year. We have a field of 34 drivers and 33 available spots. All drivers, except for Buddy Lazier, have two cars, a race car and a backup; Buddy Lazier has one car.

After 24 drivers qualified yesterday, we have 10 drivers to fill 9 more spots.

The drivers we have remaining to qualify are
  • Sebastian Saavedra (Dragon Racing)
  • Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman Lanigan)
  • Michel Jourdain Jr. (Rahal Letterman Lanigan)
  • Ana Beatriz (Dale Coyne Racing
  • Josef Newgarden (Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing)
  • Conor Daly (A.J. Foyt Enterprises)
  • Tristan Vautier (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports)
  • Pippa Mann (Dale Coyne Racing)
  • Katherine Legge (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports)
  • Buddy Lazier (Lazier Partners Racing)

One of these people is going to be horribly disappointed today. While it won't affect race day, ultimately, I think the fans are going to be the ones who are hurt the most, because this could be a sign of a dwindling Indianapolis 500. A few years ago, during the Great Recession, there were difficulties in finding teams to enter for The Big Race. This year, they were able to find exactly one more team to take the plunge (Buddy Lazier? Dreyer and Reinbold?). But what will this portend for next year's 500?

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and my other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or for the Kindle or Nook.


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Day 1 of Qualifying for the Indianapolis 500

After a hard day of qualifying on Saturday, May 18, Hoosier Ed Carpenter found himself on the pole for the 2013 Indianapolis 500. We're seeing a lot of the same names we've seen in the past — Dario Franchitti, Helio Castroneves, Will Power, and Tony Kanaan — but we're seeing a few new names too, like Carlos Munoz, the rookie from Colombia driving for Andretti Autosport, and James Jakes, who's driving for Rahal Letterman Lanigan.

Here's the first 24 drivers for the 500. Today (Sunday) is Bump Day, where the remaining 10 drivers will compete for 9 spots.

1.  (20) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy 02:37.3689 ( 228.762)
2.  (26) Carlos Munoz, Dallara-Chevy 02:37.6581 ( 228.342)
3.  (25) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Chevy 02:37.7139 ( 228.261)

4.  (5) EJ Viso, Dallara-Chevy 02:37.7907 ( 228.150)
5.  (2) AJ Allmendinger, Dallara-Chevy 02:37.8264 ( 228.099)
6.  (12) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy 02:37.8342 ( 228.087)

7.  (1) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Chevy 02:37.9614 ( 227.904)
8.  (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy 02:38.0596 ( 227.762)
9.  (27) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Chevy 02:38.5411 ( 227.070)

10.  (4) JR Hildebrand, Dallara-Chevy 02:38.2830 ( 227.441)
11.  (98) Alex Tagliani, Dallara-Honda, 02:38.3209 ( 227.386)
12.  (11) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy 02:38.6260 ( 226.949)

13.  (22) Oriol Servia, Dallara-Chevy 02:38.7206 ( 226.814)
14.  (19) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.0318 ( 226.370)
15.  (7) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy 02:39.1543 ( 226.196)

16.  (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.1808 ( 226.158)
17.  (10) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.2434 ( 226.069)
18.  (14) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.3681 ( 225.892)

19.  (83) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.3768 ( 225.880)
20.  (16) James Jakes, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.4268 ( 225.809)
21.  (77) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.5219 ( 225.674)

22.  (60) Townsend Bell, Dallara-Chevy 02:39.5438 ( 225.643)
23.  (8) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Honda, 02:39.8117 ( 225.265)
24.  (78) Simona De Silvestro, Dallara-Chevy 02:39.8398 ( 225.226)


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Friday, May 17, 2013

Keeping Up with Language Changes

The English language is an ever-changing, malleable tapestry. It's always changing and growing. Words that never existed even ten years ago are now mainstream words that we use without hesitation. Words that existed three hundred years ago don't mean what they once did, or we stopped using them altogether.

Even the rules and styles we desperately cling to like a life raft, as our language roils and churns beneath us, change on a whim.

As a writer, I'm constantly studying language and its changes that have developed over the last nearly 30 years, since I was in high school. I've learned that we hold on to our favorite rules with a manic fever.

"You can have my Oxford comma when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers."

It's funny to watch people sputter in anger when you tell them a word's meaning has changed, or that a rule we learned in seventh grade English was never right in the first place. You wouldn't believe how mad people get when you tell them "it's okay to end your sentences with a preposition."

I love throwing one of those little language tidbits out there and sitting back to watch people's reaction. Last year, I posted on Facebook that the Associated Press said they were no longer going to prevent their reporters from starting sentences with "hopefully." The level of stubborn anger from people who said they weren't going to allow some dumb international news organization to tell them what to do was hilarious.

I pointed out more than once that "this doesn't mean you have to, it means the AP is not going to admonish their reporters over it," but these people would have none of it.

And I've caused more than one gasp in a room when I'm giving a talk and I say "you can end your sentences with a preposition." The rule was created by a Latin scholar in the 1700s who tried to impose Latin rules on a language that didn't follow those same rules. It has long been accepted by even the most die-hard grammar snobs that saying things like "in what did you step?" is the height of foppish pretension, and they all agree that this never should have been taught in the first place. But that doesn't stop the grammar bullies from reciting their 7th grade English lessons about sentences and prepositions.

Of course, I don't have room to talk. I still get agitated when someone says "she brought the drinks to Steve and I" instead of "Steve and me." But despite my loudest shouts of "Steve and me. It's Steve and ME!" at the TV news (some of the biggest offenders of this rule), some dictionaries and style guides are starting to recognize that the "and I" is Common Usage, and they're no longer loudly correcting people about it.

(Not me. I'm going to keep shouting at the TV as long as I can.)

Common Usage is that Get Out of Jail Free card when you're faced with angry grammar bullies who feel the need to correct any and all grammar "errors" even though they 1) haven't kept up with grammar changes since 7th grade, and 2) often confuse style choices with grammar rules.

This is actually something I deal with on a regular basis. I hear from would-be editors who feel the need to "correct" my work, and tell me when I've made grammar errors.

"You can't start your sentences with 'and,'" they say.

"Actually, you can. It's an acceptable method in certain types of writing. Besides, it's a style choice, not an actual hard and fast grammar rule."

"Nuh-uh," they say. "I remember when my mom gave my sister and I —" GAAAH! "— a book on grammar rules, and it said you can't do that."

I follow novelist Elmore Leonard's admonition to the grammar bullies about how they need to keep their booger-encrusted fingers off his writing. He said, "If proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative."

And that has been my excuse for the last 25 years. Language is forever growing and changing, from new words to new rules to new styles. As a writer, I need to keep up with it, and just go with the flow. I can't cling to old myths that should have never become rules in the first place.

Hopefully one day some young writer will respond to a grammar bully one day by saying, "I happen to follow Erik Deckers' rules of writing. . ."

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and my other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.


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Friday, May 03, 2013

Ten Social Media Commandments

I've been a social media user and professional for the last several years, have made many observations over the years, and seen many trends come and go. Based on my experiences, plus pulling out my hair over the things that just make me nuts about Facebook and Twitter, I've come up with these social media commandments.

1. Thou shalt not act all "healthier than thou" and post pictures of healthy food you're eating, or try to make us think that it's totally enjoyable. We all know that people who have switched to soy bacon from real bacon die a little with every piece they eat. So a status update that says "Totally loving my soy bacon. Nom nom nom!" is a lie, and an abomination in our eyes. So is the soy bacon. Also, don't say "nom nom nom" unless you're Cookie Monster.

Sub-Commandment 1a. If you have to tell people that your healthier substitute food is "just as good" as the original food, that's code for "I cry myself to sleep at night." I once saw someone post a photo of a watermelon "cake" — a large round piece of watermelon adorned with several kinds of fruit — with the caption, "Who needs cake?" My response: Everyone who isn't tricked into thinking that fruit is just as good as chocolate cake.

2. Thou shalt not post pictures of food in general. Chances are, I'm sitting in my office eating a Lonely Entrepreneurs Frozen Microwave Meal and feeling sorry for myself while you're posting photos of your double cheeseburger with a fried egg.

3. Thou shalt posting things other than motivational tweets to Twitter and Facebook all the time. They are boring and repetitive, and sometimes you contradict yourself from day to day. If they really worked, you would be so successful and busy, you wouldn't have time to post them, let alone use social media.

4. Thou shalt stop posting angry political rants from either side of the political spectrum. Chances are they came from a not-very-accurate source to begin with, but when you post nothing but that, it gets tiresome. Complex political viewpoints cannot and should not be summarized in a seven-word caption on a photo of an angry cat or Willie Wonka. I'd rather see photos of your health food.

5. Thou shalt check before you post anything about the government trying to take things from people, that they stopped putting In God We Trust on money, or that they're trying to sell Alabama to Mexico. (Seriously though, do you think they'd give us a good price for Alabama? I'm just asking for a friend.)

6. Thou shalt stop using photos of your children, or you as a child, or your pet in your avatar. I have no idea what you look like. I am pretty sure you're not a cute kitten, since they don't have thumbs, and cannot work a mobile phone. Also, thou shalt not use a photo of you at the beach at sunset, with the sun at your back, from 200 feet away. For all I know, that's a stick in the sand.

7. Thou shalt refrain from posting your Twitter conversations directly to Facebook. No one wants to see half of a conversation, such as you making lunch plans with your friends.

"Hey @edeckers, do you want to go to lunch today?"

"Where do you want to go?"

"No, I had that yesterday."

"That sounds good. What time do you want to meet?"

"Cool, see you then. #SoExcited!"

8. Thou shalt stop posting "selfies" of you making "duck lips" in the mirror. Selfies are photos of yourself. Duck lips are when you, well, make duck lips. If you do take a photo of yourself, please make eye contact with your reflection, rather than looking at your phone.

9. Thou shalt stop posting your exercise updates every morning at 6 am. I don't post updates of how long I'm sitting at my desk or on my couch. Mostly because they make me feel guilty and like I'm going to die at my desk one day, facedown in a Lonely Entrepreneur Frozen Salisbury Steak.

10. Thou shalt not post vague messages to people you don't address by name, like "I wish people who say they love you would quit stabbing you in the back and talking about you to their friends. Unfriending me and hoping I won't notice is the final straw." Everyone who sees it has no idea who you're talking to, and the person you're addressing won't see it in the first place.

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and my other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.


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