With All Due Respect…

“With all due respect.” The phrase is supposed to acknowledge that the parties of a conversation do not agree on a particular point, and such disagreement is not due to any disrespect. It further indicates there is a degree of admiration due to the listener.

A skillful speaker of English, however, can successfully twist the phrase into a slight in and of itself. The truly beautiful part of using it against the listener is that there is nothing in particular about the phrase that should engender anything from the listener other than a polite response; it almost creates the obligation for a polite response. If you’re the particular sort who takes great pride in knotting someone’s boxers in a bunch, you can lay that on your listener, say something that completely contradicts what they have just represented and they will be left with the sense that you were speaking to them with respect, yet you have come up with something utterly offensive.

This of course can cost a few social points in that you have specifically stated that you don’t mean to be offensive – and clearly because you gave all due respect – and yet your own social filters were unable to screen out the patently offensive comment. However, if the target of your social incorrectness is somewhat more socially inept than are you, you can easily skate on this point with all of your social correctness chits in place.

You can also use the phrase to indicate how little you actually do think of the listener.

When speaking with someone you clearly do not respect, stating that you’re going to make a point to them with all the respect due them, is a bit like offering the sleeves off your vest. Say you’re talking to someone with whom you are actively engaged in an ad hominem attack. In the phrase “with all due respect,” you’ve now embedded the meta-message, “and you’re not due any respect.” “With all due respect, I think you’re a pusillanimous puke.”

In my opinion, the most personally satisfying use is the time when the object of ridicule has no idea he or she has been identified as not having been due respect AND having received the offending comment having been initially disarmed by the that initial faux-acknowledgement. It’s a beautiful Machiavellian double-entendre where that individual may actually compound the insult by acknowledging that what you have said could be true.

The skillful turning of a phrase can be one’s best psychological defense from perceived attack or one of the best implements with which to bludgeon one’s despised other in a socially tactful way.

And so, with all due respect, I must now bid you adieu as I do have some other affairs to which I must attend. My hair needs washing and my socks are due for their matching. I’m sure you understand.

To Be Honest With You…

How many times have I sat in an interview with a candidate or sat in an automobile sales office, or in some other meeting on a sensitive topic where the person with whom I’m speaking says, “To be honest with you…”?

Now, I’m sure the expression is mean to address the idea that what has been asked or that which has been otherwise addressed, is somehow sensitive or somehow difficult to answer – particularly for a sales representative trying to sell me an automobile who wants to recenter the conversation away from potential issues or additional costs. Particularly in the case of an interviewee telling me that he or she is going to be “honest with me” though, I immediately note that something other than the complete truth is about to come my way.

It’s a verbal cue. It tells me instinctively that the person saying it feels they haven’t built sufficient credibility throughout the conversation – or relationship or body of interaction with you – to sufficiently express themselves. OR they’re flat out lying, putting some undue spin on what they’re telling you, or telling you something other than what one might reasonably consider the truth. An interviewee saying “to be honest with you” to me is essentially telling me that “I haven’t been honest with you up to this point, but please accept what I’m about to say as truth.”

In either case, now the listener is focused on a few things other than that which the speaker is expressing. Bingo. That speaker has redirected full attention away from that which he or she has expressed to you. While you’re thinking about whether they’re about to fabricate something out of whole cloth or if your relationship is something other than wholly honest, this person continues talking.

If you’re a sales representative trying to sell a car, this may be a good thing.

For an interviewee, this is potentially fatal. As a job interviewee, it is your ONLY job to be communicating who you are, what you are about and why you are the right fit for the organization. Your ONLY job is to communicate a positive message about yourself, TO ANSWER QUESTIONS. “To be honest with you” screws that up. I’ve now got MORE questions about you. I’ve now got MORE questions about what you’ve already told me. My pace and track has been derailed. Does that mean you won’t get a second interview? I don’t know – it depends. Do you want to take that chance?

It’s loaded. Don’t bring a loaded phrase into an interview, lest you shoot yourself with it.

Dents, Dings, Scars, and Things

Every dent, every ding tells a story. I grew up watching the Boston Red Sox on television, and by the time I was 14 years old, I finally had the opportunity to see them play in Fenway Park for the first time. My friend’s dad ran a grocery chain and had tickets from the Coke distributor – my very first game was witnessed two rows back from the visitor’s dugout on the third base line. Those seats are now worth some $85+ dollars. Back in 1984, not so much.

It was the first time I had seen Fenway and the wall up close. The “Green Monster” has dents in it covering decades of baseball games. With each dent, a story is born. The story of each is lost to time, but each one has a story. There’s the September 2, 2001 game at which I sat in the right field bleachers where at the bottom of the 9th inning and 2 out, a perfect game was broken up with a line drive off the wall. To the best of my knowledge, no one ever marked the dent made by Carl Everett’s line drive.

There is no telling what each dent means, but those stories are there.

The same is true in any work of human art, any random encounter one may have. A visit to the Museum reveals a world of story. Certainly, there are visitors who go to see Rodin’s statues and gaze upon the inherent beauty of the man’s work. I, however, wonder what must’ve been going through the artists’ mind and how he controlled his hand in the creation of his work. To know another human’s hands has touched upon a piece of stone, of clay, and scultped a work of art. What was the context, what was the motivation that fed through that artist’s hands to create such a work?

A glance upon the bumper of any random car. A scrape, a dent, a ding. The car next to you held together with duct tape. There’s a story if you’re willing to accept it. The man at the convenience store who can’t find the additional change or the sight of the faded tattoo on his arm. There is a story to each of those things.

The scar from a channel of stitches on the body of a person who has undergone surgery. Certainly, there’s a story to be told if you’re willing to hear it.

Listening is one of the hardest tasks we as humans as asked to do, those who can internalize and appreciate the story behind the marks upon others, understand what it may be like being in the shoes of another.

The world is full of similar examples. Take a look at the car next to you tomorrow morning. Who is driving it? Where are they going? What is the story behind the vanity license plate?

Take a few minutes to observe that which comes from without. There may be great treasure awaiting you.

The Unheralded Unassisted Triple Play

Though relatively unheralded in baseball lore, the unassisted triple play (UTP) is a far more rare occurrence than the perfect game. There have been 23-perfect games in the history of professional baseball – and as anyone who was paying attention to the 2010 baseball season, we know Armando Gallaraga of the Detroit Tigers was hosed of a perfect game on an umpires’ untimely gaff. There have actually been several more games that could in theory be perfect games, but by a 1991 rules redefinition they were written out of the records books. A 12-inning perfect game was wiped out by a 13th inning meltdown in 1959, for instance, as was a 1995 perfect game being thrown by Pedro Martinez only to have the lead off hitter in the 10th inning bring it down.

However there have only been 15-unassisted triple plays in baseball history. Consider this: for the number of possible opportunities for this to occur – generally 17 or 18 times a game multiplied by the 2430 MLB games a year – and you begin to see how truly rare a feat this is. In theory, there would be 4860 opportunities (number of games multiplied by the two pitchers on either side) to throw a perfect game every year, but there would be somewhere in the vicinity of 43,000 innings a year for there to be an unassisted triple play to be executed.

The first unassisted triple play recorded in the history books was having been executed on May 8, 1878 by Paul Hines, but there is some controversy as to whether or not Hines could have executed the “unassisted” portion of the “unassisted triple play” by virtue of where the runners were on the basepaths and how the play is actually described, but under modern rules it would not have been credited as such, and is not included in the list of UTP’s.

And as rare an event as the unassisted triple play is, not unlike the statistical glitch that was the 2010 baseball season for perfect games, they seem to come in clumps. 6 of the first 7 unassisted triple plays occurred in the 1920’s – 2 each in 1923 and 1927 – and the last 5 have occurred in the last decade – there was some 41-years between that last on in 1927 and the next one in 1968 and 24-years before the next one after that. The two 1927 unassisted triple played actually occurred on consecutive days, by two Boston players – one each for the Red Sox and the cross town Braves.

Of the 15-UTP’s, two have happened for the Boston Red Sox and two have happened for thePhiladelphia Phillies – not surprisingly since these are two of the oldest teams in professional baseball. What is somewhat surprising is that two other ancient teams – the Cincinnati Reds, the oldest team in baseball, and the New York Yankees – have never had one executed on their behalf, while one of the newest teams in baseball, the Colorado Rockies, have and only one has happened in the World Series. Most surprising to me is that the World Series UTP did not involve the Yankees, the most prolific representative in the World Series.

NHL’s Original Six

Anyone familiar with the National Hockey League (NHL) knows the “Original Six:” The Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, and Toronto Maple Leafs. These 6-franchises are the legacy of the “original” NHL teams before the league doubled in size in 1967 to 12-teams.

Growing up, I had the opportunity to watch the last two active players from the “Original Six” era play –Wayne Cashman and Rogie Vachon – but I missed watching the last player in the NHL until 1967 who played for an NHL team that was not part of the “Original Six,” Ken Mosdell. How could someone have played for an NHL team that was not part of the “Original Six” before the league expanded from the Original Six?

With not so much research, one finds that far from being the “original” six, the NHL began in 1917 with 4-teams only two of which – the Montreal Canadiens, and the Toronto Maple Leafs ‘- remain. The only other member of the “Original Six” with a claim to the mantle of “original” is the Boston Bruins, founded in 1924 as the first US based NHL team and the only other team in existence when the NHL became the only league competing for the Stanley Cup. The remaining members of the “Original Six,” the Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings – were formed in 1926 as “expansion teams.” Further, while the name “Ottawa Senators” may sound familiar to modern day NHL fans, the team eventually became the St. Louis Eagles before ceasing operations.

As it happens, then, the “Original Six” turns out to be a matter of a bit of marketing and truly only differentiates between the wave of modern-era expansion teams and the teams that comprised the NHL for the quarter century between 1942 and 1967: Like so much in life, the definition of the word “original” depends on one’s starting point. The “Original Four” were the Canadiens, the Montreal Wanderers, Toronto Arenas, and the Ottawa Senators. A fifth team, the Quebec Bulldogs, was technically a member of the league, but did not compete until 1919 and The Arenas were a “temporary” team created by the owners of the Toronto arena to replace still another team as ownership of that team was in dispute.

For 25-years from the founding of the league, it was in flux with teams folding, moving, withdrawing from competition, forming, and even cancelling competition for the Stanley Cup due to a flu outbreak; From 1917-1942, the league expanded and contracted due to economic forces of the Great Depression and the outbreak of World War II. In this era, the league ranged in size from a low of 3-teams when the Montreal Wanderers withdrew, to a high of 10-teams from 1926-1932.

By 1942, the “Original Six” were the remaining teams, and represented a much different league than that which began operation out of the demise of the National Hockey Association (NHA). For the second 25-years of the NHL’s existence, this stable of teams remained constant and became the basis of the expansion of the league. While not wholly inaccurate – after all, the league is not calling this group “Charter Members” only “Original Members.”

Consider this for a moment: that temporary team without even a proper name, the Toronto Arenas, won the Stanley Cup in the NHL’s first season and evolved into the Toronto Maple Leafs. It is interesting then, that the team created to fill a void, became the first champion and one of the two oldest franchises in the modern league.

Perhaps more interesting is that the NHL itself was created as a temporary solution while the National Hockey Association (NHA) sorted out its business dealings. In the meantime, it has grown into a 30-team league and a history just a few years shy of a century ‘” a longevity surpassed only by the two leagues of Major League Baseball.

REFERENCES:

Do Original Six teams still matter in the NHL: http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/columns/story?id=2773591 
Toronto Arenas: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toronto_Arenas

Original Six: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Original_Six 
History of the National Hockey League (1917-1942):http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_National_Hockey_League_(1917%E2%80%931942) 
NHL Expansion History: http://www.rauzulusstreet.com/hockey/nhlhistory/nhlhistory.html

The Old Woman and Hockey: A Bond

Growing up, I lived across the street from an elderly woman, Minnie. She was the stereotypical “old lady” who just didn’t like kids in a neighborhood just crawling with kids. Frankly, we were all a little afraid of this large, scary woman who really didn’t like us. My family moved to the neighborhood when I was 4, and for the next 6-years I pretty much lived in fear of this woman.

1980 saw the US Olympic Men’s Hockey team defeated the heavily favored Soviet team to advance to play for the gold medal – “Do you believe in miracles?” At age 10, I had no idea what had happened, but I knew it was something big. Jim Craig, the US Goalkeeper, was from Massachusetts and was a bit of a crush for Minnie. To this day, I have no idea how I came to be in her favor, but it was like a thaw had occurred. She began to share with me her significant collection of Sporting News back-issues, and fostered in me a love of the Boston Bruins. What a pair we must’ve been – the elderly shut-in and the junior high student standing together on her front porch, with nothing apparently in common, talking about the Bruins.

I don’t think I ever learned the origin of this love of hockey – whether it was simple infatuation with the hometown hero or if it went back to a childhood in the Canadian Maritime Provinces – but it was real and it was genuine. She taught me to love Rick Middleton and Terry O’Reilly…and the Bruins.

She did not live to see the 1987-1988 Stanley Cup Finals, and perhaps it is just as well given the way her beloved Bruins fell to the Oilers, in 4 ½ games. With the arena air-conditioning battling to control the rising temperature, the electric system in the Boston Garden became overtaxed and ultimately failed. The 3-3 game was canceled in the second period. In the next game, the Oilers won their 4th Stanley Cup on home ice.

I thought about her the day of Game 7 of the 2010-2011 Stanley Cup finals. I can picture her large frame in a drab housecoat and slippers cheering on Tim Thomas, Shawn Thornton, David Krejci, Zdano Chara, Milan Lucic, and Mark Recchi, although I can also imagine her sometimes ribald commentary about how to actually pronounce some of the names and asking “exactly what is a ‘Canuck’ anyway?” There might even be a play on the phonemes that the slang for “Canadian” and the slang for carnal activity share in common, although I cannot say for certain. I got to share a bond with this woman in a way that I think she had not allowed herself to share with anyone in a very long time.  

So here’s to that elderly woman, long since deceased who was doubtlessly cheering on the Black and Gold “B.” Godspeed Minnie, and God Bless.

VIDEO: 
Game 4 1987-1988 Stanley Cup Finals: http://youtu.be/7yTVfJNQQiw

Getting Through Airport Security

The announcement over the airport PA system reminds the traveler not to accept packages from unknown persons and to keep a watchful eye over his/her own luggage, “in this time of enhanced security.” Any frequent air traveler has come to be weary of the TSA security checkpoint, after all no one really wants to deal with having their belongings or person scrutinized, but more often than not it is prolonged by other, unprepared travelers.

Here’s what you can do to speed yourself through TSA security.

1) Empty your pockets before getting in line. I carry a soft-sided bag, anything in my pockets goes into the side pocket – change, keys, wallet, belt, phone, everything. Make a plan and remain consistent about where you stow your belongings – travel is difficult if you lose track of your wallet. In line, I unbuckle my belt which either goes into a bin with my jacket and shoes or it goes into the bag.

One quarter in your pocket will double your time in the screening area. You’ll set off an alarm, the TSA agent will ask you to check again, and through the machine you go again…or through a hand screen.

2) Know how many bins you will need to screen your belongings and pack your bag appropriately. It sounds like a simple thing, but you know you have on a jacket, you’re wearing shoes and a belt, and carrying a notebook computer. The jacket and shoes can go into one bin, the computer goes in alone. 2 bins. Have change in your pocket? Watch? Grab the correct number of bins to avoid having to reach back or otherwise disrupt the process. Put them down on the table in front of you. Down goes the soft bag, which goes on the conveyor first, then my bins slide in right behind it. Maybe you’re carrying liquids – you’ll need another bin for these.

3) Wear slip-on shoes. Unless you’re a minor or a senior, you’re taking off your shoes in the security check point. Do yourself a favor and make it easy on yourself to not only take them off, but get them back on once through the checkpoint. Thigh-high boots, laced up dress shoes or sneakers take some time to remove, but getting them back on is a chore. Your goal is to get through the security check point as quickly as possible, and that means collecting your belongings after having been screened. The jacket comes off, and into a bin. The shoes come off, and into the bin with the jacket.

4) Notebook computers have to come out of their bags and go through the x-ray in a tray by itself. I carry my notebook in my soft-sided bag, packed right on top and the last thing I put in. Once at the security checkpoint, I unzip my bag, drop the computer into a bin alone. At this point, it’s almost one swift motion.

5) Once cleared through the checkpoint, be prepared to collect your belongings. The bag comes through, then the bin with my shoes, then the computer. I grab my shoes and slip them on – if you regrettably decided to wear those boots, or dress shoes, you’re carrying them away and putting them on in another area after having walked around a small section of the airport in your stocking feet. The notebook is taken out of its bin, and back into my bag. I now have my belongings and can now move out of the screening area. A short walk out of the screening area, the belt goes back on and the contents of my pockets are then replaced. If there’s a time crunch, those items are already stowed in the bag, and you can retrieve them later.

6) Be polite. When approaching the first agent who reviews your boarding pass and identification, be polite. Look the agent in the eye, answer questions when asked, smile. Their job is to make sure you’re appropriately in the area; your goal is to get screened as quickly as possible. There is no reason not to be polite. 
7) Know what you can and cannot carry onboard. Know how much liquid or gel is permitted to be carried; and do not carry any prohibited items. Since there is an evolving list of items that are prohibited, if there’s a question in your mind about what you can carry, check with the TSA first. Their “Prohibited Items” list is available at http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/prohibited-items.

If you’re thoughtful about what you’re carrying through security and come to the checkpoint with a plan for getting your belongings (and yourself) through the checkpoint, you will save yourself and your fellow travelers time.