The poetry of “how you played the game”

An oft-quoted line, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game,” sometimes prompts the pithy but wrong response that whoever said it must have lost a game. The truth behind the line, which is actually a paraphrase, is that it carries wisdom even for winners. Especially for winners who aren’t winning off of the field.

Henry Grantland Rice did spend time as an umpire and referee, but the Vanderbilt University graduate is mostly known for writing an estimated 67 million words across 22,000 columns and three books of published poetry. Living from 1880 to 1954, he was recognized as an authority on sports, as the producer of sporting event motion pictures, and as an influential writer of descriptive prose. He often described athletes in heroic terms: Notre Dame’s “Four Horsemen” backfield was called that because of his writing. Since 1954, the Football Writers Association of America has awarded the annual Grantland Rice Trophy.

One of his poems, “Alumnus Football,” is about what happened to a star college football player after he left the field. It praises striving despite difficulty:

 

Bill Jones had been the shining star upon his college team,
His tackling was ferocious and his bucking was a dream;
When husky William tucked the ball beneath his brawny arm
They had a special man to ring the ambulance alarm.

Bill had the speed — Bill had the weight — the nerve to never yield;
From goal to goal he whizzed along while fragments strewed the field;
And there had been a standing bet — which no one tried to call —
That he could gain his distance through a ten-foot granite wall.

When he wound lip his college course each student’s heart was sore;
They wept to think that Husky Bill would buck the line no more;
Not so with William — in his dreams he saw the field of fame
Where he would buck to glory in the swirl of life’s big game.

Sweet are the dreams of campus life — the world which lies beyond
Gleams ever on our inmost gaze with visions fair and fond;
We see our fondest hopes achieved and on with striving soul
We buck the line and run the ends until we reach the goal.

So, with his sheepskin tucked beneath his brawny arm one day,
Bill put on steam and dashed into the thickest of the fray;
With eyes ablaze, he sprinted where the laureled highway led —
When Bill woke up his scalp hung loose and knots adorned his head.

He tried to run the ends of life — when lo — with vicious toss
A bill-collector tackled him and threw him for a loss;
And when he switched his course again and crashed into the line,
The massive guard named failure did a two-step on his spine.

Bill tried to punt out of the rut— but ere he turned the trick
Rick-tackle competition tumbled through and blocked the kick;
And when he tackled at success in one long vicious bound,
The full-back, disappointment, steered his features in the ground.

But one day when across the field of fame the goal seemed dim,
The wise old coach, experience, came up and said to him:
“Old boy,” spoke he, “the main point now before you win your bout
Is keep on bucking failure till you’ve worn the lobster out.

“Cut out this work around the ends — go in there, low and hard —
Just put your eye upon the goal and start there, yard by yard;
And more than all— when you are thrown — or tumbled with a crack—*
Don’t lie there whining — hustle up — and keep on coming back.

“Keep coming back for all they’ve got and take it with a grin
When disappointment trips you up or failure barks your shin;
Keep coming back — and if at last you lose the game of right
Let those who whipped you know at least they, too, have had a fight

“You’ll find the bread-line hard to buck and fame’s goal far away,
But hit the line and hit it hard across each rushing play;
For when the One Great Scorer comes to write against your name —
He marks— not that you won or lost— but how you played the game.”

 

Want to learn more about Grantland Rice? Here’s the first of a 52-part video on him:

Scammers seek to exploit taxpayers’ lack of knowledge, fear

Did you know that you could really cut the amount of taxes you have to pay or reduce the amount the IRS will fine you simply by cooperating promptly when an agent gets in touch with you? That’s what scammers want you to believe. Playing on people’s fear, hatred, and (yes) ignorance, con artists contact potential victims and pretend to either represent the government or offer a way to get around paying the government.

One common scam is demanding immediate payment of taxes or penalties and either offering a “deal” or threatening “penalties,” such as arrest. Key ways to recognize this is that the “agent” wants a credit or debit card number over the phone or email, or the person demands that you pay with a way that can’t be traced, such as a prepaid debit card. Another con is that they offer to arrange things so that you pay little or no taxes — in exchange for paying the scammer, of course. Maybe they’ll offer fake refunds, tax credits or other incentives, even posing as charities that provide a tax write-off. Perhaps they’ll offer ways for you to “hide” your income, so you don’t have to pay taxes.

These scammers may sound convincing, even being able to recite the last four digits of your Social Security number or other personal information, which they may have picked up through identity theft tactics. They may work to supply additional “evidence” that they are legitimate, such as faking follow-up emails or phone calls supposedly from local police who intend to arrest you.

Don’t let some criminal take advantage of you or someone you love by exploiting your fear, lack of knowledge, or irritation with the tax system. You have the ability to inform yourself by contacting legitimate sources of information, including the Internal Revenue Service itself. Here’s a good place to start: http://www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Scams-Consumer-Alerts.

The video below explains why you shouldn’t even “check out” an email you get that claims to be from the IRS. You can see more videos on the IRS YouTube channel.

 

This YouTube user has uploaded a purported example of one of these type of calls. This is not the IRS. Listen to how the “agent” belittles and threatens the guy. About minute 15, the guy asks the caller, “Are you going to go to Heaven?” and launches into a morality lesson.

Remember that you have the right to legal representation if you are in a dispute with the IRS, including an attorney provided for you if you cannot afford one. Here are a list of other rights as related to the IRS and taxes.

Create a strong defense against becoming a victim of a scam by knowing your rights and responsibilities and acting according to them.

Comet landings, shirts, and human potential

Less than a week ago, the European Space Agency marked a moment with the potential to change the course of humanity. After a decade of travel, the Philae probe detached from the Rosetta orbiter and made the first soft landing on a comet in human history. It was a triumph of human planning, coordination, and scientific achievement. Meanwhile back on earth, key ESA scientist Matt Taylor briefed the global media on the achievement while wearing a shirt depicting scantily clad, sexualized women. The shirt raised an uproar, dubbed #shirtgate and #shirtstorm, and an apology.

See the CNN coverage of the controversy and the apology:

In addition to remarks that the shirt is generally unprofessional for an interview situation, objections related specifically to concerns about women’s lack of participation in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Concerns included that the shirt represents a sexist attitude that objectifies women and focuses on their looks. Find out more from American Association of University Women research and programs.

Those objections prompted a backlash, including the claim that those who spoke out against the shirt don’t care about the accomplishment of landing on a comet, as if it is not possible to both celebrate an achievement and criticize an action related to that achievement at the same time.

Some said that women claim they want to wear whatever they like but don’t like it when a man wears whatever he likes, not recognizing the difference between women claiming the right to display their own bodies and a man claiming the right to display their bodies. They seemed to not understand that the argument isn’t that the human form isn’t beautiful or that nonconformity is bad — some of the greatest achievements come from thinking outside of the norms — but that the problem was a matter of context.

Outcry over the outcry provided plenty of illustration as to why the shirt was upsetting.

Those commenting claimed that women who let some shirt deter them from science are wimps, as if the atmosphere if sexism is in total this one-time occurrence rather than the shirt selection reflecting an overall view of how women are to be viewed by society, for their looks instead of — or at least in addition to — their accomplishments.

Some called those who who objected “feminist bullies” and criticizing Matt Taylor for apologizing. After all, how dare he discover that his action caused an undesired reaction and express regret over that? Instead of seeing the situation as offering the potential for insight, the mind-in-a-rut crowd viewed objections as bullying. Some resorted to bullying of their own, such as a YouTube viewer of the original interview:

Oh no no no, doesn’t matter that he did more in a single days work than any feminist has done in over 30 years, it’s instantly discredited because you know.  He’s wearing a shirt.  And it’s not that women aren’t welcome in science, it’s that as soon as you say “four more years of incredibly difficult college courses you can’t sleep through” the girls turn for the door to get their AA or masters in communications.

Or another response:

The sadest thing here is that he actually apologised for wearing that shirt! Thats not they way we should ALL be fighting this crazy feminazism! He should show his middle finger to every single braindead hateful btich out there! The only real difference betwen average feminazi and Hitler was the power he had. If any single average retarded feminazi would gain the same amount of power Hitler did, millions of innocent people would die. That is why this so called ‘3rd wave’ feminism should be banned by law.

If a woman were criticized for what she wore, some reasoned, then there would be a huge outcry. Except that how women scientists look IS a factor, as this article illustrates, noting that female scientists are far more likely to have their appearance described in profiles.

Consider some of the comments on YouTube in response to this BCC news report showing the excitement of Professor Monica Grady, who has been with the lander project from its early days.

Comments (as of this posting, as some have been taken down previously and some of these could be candidates for removal) include:

Haha it’s almost as If her emotional wailing is more important to this reporter, (and the BBC for that matter) than the actual f@#king Philae landing.

And

nice knockers!!!! and she has brains too……………approved!!!! i take her!

And

Look at those tits bounce! Damn!

And

wow shes unhealthy

And

No meals were skipped in the making of this video.

She was joyful at the success, as surely Matt Taylor was, and who is defending her?

Female scientists have spoken out to defend their industries and the shirt choice as well as to criticize it, as this article notes. It is undeniable that SOME people found the shirt inappropriate, and appropriate behavior is not a majority-rules conclusion.

The mean and contemptuous reactions to an article of clothing on both sides show that individuals have a long way to go in how they treat each other, including whether it’s appropriate to tell someone to die (or get laid) for voicing an opinion. If people are unable to listen to each other respectfully, then a million comet landings won’t fix humanity’s problems.

One of oft-repeated criticism of the outcry is that it “ruined” what should have been the best day of Matt Taylor’s life, that he and others will never be able to look back on it with pride and happiness. That does not need to be the case. It might seem unbelievable at this moment, but the excitement surrounding the landing and the way he personally handles the situation has the potential to become the catalyst for expanded minds and richer futures, sort of penicillin for the STEM soul. Perspective has the power to turn what seem like unfortunate twists into triumphs.

Matt Taylor’s apology seemed heartfelt, indicating he had heard the concerns, recognized how his actions related to them, intended no malice, and was genuinely sorry about what happened. It is an apology worthy of acceptance, and those who hope to make progress toward a better atmosphere should consider acknowledging it. The idea that someone can make a mistake and not learn from it, that a person’s actions have no potential for redemption or forgiveness, benefits no one.

Matt Taylor the husband and father showed thoughtfulness in wearing a shirt was made by a friend. She obviously thought enough of him to make and give it to him, even if neither of them predicted how others would react. He might wonder about the network surrounding him and why apparently no one predicted the response and warned him. Are they not offended because the shirt is unoffending or because they’ve become insulated to the attitude it represents? He can look around at the balance of men and women working alongside him and ask if something more could be done to encourage people to appreciate the accomplishments of women, regardless of their appearance.

Yes, he metaphorically landed and bounced. That doesn’t mean that the process is over. Just as he was positioned to help direct the first-ever landing on a comet, he may well be positioned to steer the STEM world toward a new era of inclusiveness.

Somewhere right now, a brilliant girl is reaching the age where enthusiasm for science and math give way to the pressures of appearance and wanting to not seem too smart, so the boys won’t dislike her and pick on her. In a decade, she could be preparing for a career that could lead to as-yet unimagined discoveries. Should the benefit of humanity depend on whether she has enough personal strength and direct support to overcome social pressure?

Somewhere right now, a brilliant boy is taking the turn from being grossed out by girls to dreaming about making one part of his life. In a decade, he could be appreciating potential companions for what they offer as a whole, from their hearts to their minds, or thinking of them as objects to ogle or acquire – never really knowing the full bounty of a partnership because his attitudes and actions drive away real connections. Should his happiness depend on whether he has the personal insight and direct support to overcome living as a stereotype?

Doesn’t humanity, as a whole, deserve the sort of society that does its best to help individuals succeed without being hampered by unnecessary cruelty?

Just as Matt Taylor has the power to fight the stereotype of a stodgy, stiff, uncool scientist, so too can he claim the power of changing the image of a sexist male scientist. Others can also claim that power, from the online gamer to the science instructor to the white lab coat-wearing technician to the code jockey, who has the choice of making a comment or action degrading to women or finding some other way to laugh and enjoy life.

Philae rides a comet through space, the world spins on, and the actions of the present will determine the science of humanity a decade from now, a generation from now, and long after the lander is no more. Sometimes a comet landing and a shirt can provide the course correction for an eternal trajectory. It all depends on how the scientists analyze the data.

Have a laugh at autocorrect fails

Technology, however helpful, can sometimes fail to deliver exactly what the user intends. You can get frustrated, or you can have a laugh at the situation. One site dedicated to spreading the humor of automatically corrected text function failures is www.damnyouautocorrect.com. As the name of the site suggests, its content is not always rated E for everyone, but for those whose humor allows for profane, suggestive or outright bawdy errors, the site can be good for a laugh. Not all content is adult in nature, but enough of it is that it might not be safe to share at work.

The fact that such a site exists, and that it regularly draws contributions, is a reminder to take a look at your communications before you share them — especially in situations where a mistake would not prompt a laugh.

Score well in the most important subjects

Fall brings the start of a new school year for many, and along with it comes the opportunity for valuable learning that will linger long after that math quiz or history paper has gone to the recycling bin. Teachers are charged with bringing certain knowledge to students, but some of the most important subjects in the school experience will also be taught by parents, peers, and others they encounter.

Grades, homework, and report cards have a place in the learning process at many schools. However, in striving to earn a good grade, students can focus on the immediate goal and miss out on the more important concepts delivered with the lessons or in the process of learning. They’re trying to absorb information, do the right thing, win the praise, pass the test, so that they can move on to the next subject and begin the treadmill all over ahead. Some will focus on their studies, others on socializing. Both activities are important, for those growing up are practicing skills that they will use later in life.

That’s the point.

Children may be too young to know, or they may need to be reminded, that the purpose of school isn’t just to finish this paper or earn a certain grade-point average. They’re also supposed to be learning information that translates to the real world, from checkbook balancing to the history of the U.S. Constitution and why they should vote. They’re experiencing the insight offered by a story while they’re writing a book report. They’re learning how to deal with boredom and over-stimulation and time management. Students who understand that can come away with a richer experience.

Students are learning how to handle challenges, in general, in the specifics of a term paper or confusing concept. They’re learning how to handle success and disappointment, how to manage conflict, how to practice social skills. They’re working on their reactions to when someone else makes a mistake or succeeds.

It is up to those who do understand that school is both a now experience and contraction of a foundation, including parents and school volunteers, to help teachers nurture the best outcome for students. Offer connections between their lesson and daily life, either theirs or yours. Listen to how they feel about their experiences or let them talk out a problem until they discover a solution. Model ways to handle emotions. If you, as an adult, can’t figure out how to communicate these things, then perhaps it is a good idea to take yourself back to school (through classes, books, support groups, online learning) to learn the most important subjects: fitting knowledge into a life context, using good social and emotional management skills, and making learning a lifelong pleasure. Both you and the child will benefit.

Be aware of shopping-habit marketing

Companies are studying your shopping practices to figure out ways to market their products to you on an individual basis. Can your awareness of your own habits manipulate them to get better deals?

An article in the New York Times describes how retailer Target studied buying habits to predict what you might purchase and use that information to lure you into buying other products from them. Some people don’t like the idea of being studied and marketed to, but that doesn’t change the fact that it happens on a daily basis, from the cookies planted on your computer to track the sites you visit to the list of items associated with your credit or loyalty reward card.

You can try to avoid the tracking by regularly clearing the cache and cookies from your computer, avoiding the use of rewards cards, and paying only with cash. You can also be aware of the practice and know that your buying habits could trigger coupon incentives that you can later use and knowing that the company is seeking to maximize its profits by engaging in a practice that benefits it.

Ponderables: If companies can gather information that people are knowingly providing and use that to market to that individual, is that harmful or helpful? Is such data collection too invasive? Should be people be allowed to access their own personal files of data? What are the long-term implications for the marketplace in terms companies that can afford this type of marketing strategy, and choose to use it, compared to companies that choose not to use it or ones that are so small that they cannot afford it?

Decision-making discomfort

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Sometimes, people put off acting on a difficult decision because they suspect it will involve uncomfortable emotions or circumstances. They can feel deep down that staying on their current path is violating their values or prompting them to not be true to themselves or is in some way unhealthy for themselves or others, but choosing a different path seems too painful or daunting. They end up avoiding the long-term benefits of making a good decision to avoid the short-term discomfort of sadness or uncertainty.

It can be easy to get caught up in the illusion about decision-making that it’s necessary to first know if the outcome will be “right” in order to act. While it is important to weigh suspected outcomes, the reality is that results may be so complicated that it might not be possible to know right away – if ever – whether things are better or worse because of a choice. Sometimes, the consequences of decisions are immediate: going to jail after deciding to break the law or discovering you’ve avoided a potential accident or breakdown on the road by deciding to have your car’s rattle checked out. Other times, you don’t know who you would have met or how you would have grown on your own had you not been pouring your time and energy into maintaining a relationship that is ultimately incompatible or what experiences you might not have had if you hadn’t taken a chance that a relationship with someone might be just what you both need.

Uncomfortable emotions are a natural part of life. Sad things happen. Discouraging things happen. Things that have the potential to inspire anger or fear or doubt happen. If you practice experiencing and managing these uncomfortable emotions, your skill-building efforts will have taught you that you can handle them when you have to move through them as they accompany a difficult decision. Fear of short-term emotions won’t be an additional reason why you avoid making a choice that could lead to many positive emotions and circumstances in the long term.