Thirty’s Something

During a staff meeting in preparation for this anniversary issue, editor Bob Yearick insisted now was the time—after all these years—to reveal to readers what the TSN, in our corporate name TSN Media, represents.

I figured the story behind the letters would be about as interesting to readers as what I had for breakfast. So, I rejected the suggestion as being self-absorbed. But the staff countered, taking turns to support Yearick’s argument. Turns out, each had been asked more than once about the acronym. Plus, Facebook is the place to reveal what you had for breakfast.

So, I reconsidered. Not because I really believed readers were dying to know the story behind three letters, but because it was a good opportunity to share my view on why Out & About has survived for 30 years.

But first, for those who must know, TSN stands for The Softball News, a publication I started back in 1983 as a moonlight enterprise when I was a sportswriter for a small weekly in Maryland. It was my first taste of independent publishing and a lifelong lesson in the travails of being butcher-baker-candlestick-maker. To say it was a mom-and-pop operation would have been exaggerating my staff size by 100 percent. I sold the ads, designed the ads, covered the games, wrote the stories, wrote the headlines, laid out the magazine, then with the magic of wax and a razor blade, pasted the halftones and galleys on graph paper and did a late-night sprint to the printer and returned the next morning to pick up the publication and help deliver it.

Obviously, the experience didn’t scar me for life because in 1988 I began publishing Out & About while still producing The Softball News. Two publications merited a corporate name, so I chose the initials of The Softball News for one simple reason: I thought they were lucky. When The Softball News debuted in ‘83, we were the newest of approximately 50 softball-specific publications in the country. In less than a decade, that number was seven. We were one of the seven.

The secret to that survival? Recognizing an audience and adding energy to their passion. We engaged the audience in ways they found flattering and entertaining.

We didn’t just compile score and standings, we told colorful stories, had dynamic photography, and treated the sport like it was the biggest thing since WWF. We shined a spotlight on weekend warriors by naming Players of the Week, Teams of the Week and Top 10 rankings. And just to stir up the rivalries, every headline was a pun:  Herman’s Meats grills Goldey Beacom Alumni; Casapulla’s peppers Brandywine League foes. In fact, we were able to raise the profile of the game enough that we even had a short-lived TV show on local cable.

Five years later, we took that same energy into Out & About, ignoring the naysayers who complained there wasn’t enough going on in Wilmington to support our endeavor. In fact, during our first six months, more than a few area businesses told us quite candidly—and without animus—they doubted we’d last a year.

Undaunted but far from overconfident, we stayed true to our mission and convinced enough talented writers, photographers and artists that with their help we could be a valued storyteller. Compelling local stories told by local talent has been the key to our success.

That and our genuine commitment to the community. From the beginning we didn’t just chronicle the scene, we worked to expand it. When we saw a worthy enterprise in need of a hand, we tried to lend it. When we noticed a void, we worked to fill it.

In fact, we batted around a lot of ideas regarding the proper way to commemorate this anniversary. A bash for the decades was considered. In the end, we chose to stay true to our personality — more about the community and less about us.

The result, with apologies to ESPN, is our very own 30 For 30…30 events to commemorate 30 years. Ambitious, for sure, but it’s a fitting way to showcase many of the partnerships Out & About has developed over the years – partnerships indispensable to our longevity.

Thirty years? Go figure. To think that I’ve now spent half of my life publishing this magazine is, personally, astonishing.

But it’s also quite rewarding to reach this milestone, to know the community still has value for your contribution. That’s something Out & About has never taken for granted. And something we never will.

Positive Traction

Welcome to our annual Optimism Issue. Tell me you don’t need a dose of good news right about now —even if you are an Eagles fan.

Well, here you go. Inside, veteran O&A contributor Larry Nagengast spotlights the Office of Volunteerism, an under-publicized state agency that connects those who want to help with those who need it. Throughout 2018, as part of our 30th anniversary celebration, Out & About will be partnering with this office to share compelling stories of volunteerism as well as volunteer opportunities you can pursue. There are many.

In addition, the O&A staff has compiled an inspiring list entitled “50 Ways Delaware Gives Back.” Trust me, we reached 50 easily. And finally, contributor Adriana Camacho-Church provides scientific and anecdotal evidence of why volunteering isn’t just beneficial at face value, it also helps the volunteer.

Good stuff. Hope you enjoy. But to be honest, I needed this issue. It’s not the easiest of times to be rosy about the future with all this ranting about walls, shit holes and deportation. Not to mention the daily revelations about sexual abuse.

Silver lining? Maybe revealing the worst about ourselves helps us become better.

Which reminds me of a television interview of a young black teen living in Detroit that I watched last November. I’m guessing he was about 14, and the interviewer asked how he felt about Trump being elected, despite the numerous disparaging comments he made about minorities during the election.

I know the response I was expecting; instead, this is what he said (and I paraphrase): “I think it’s a good thing. For him to be elected after all the things he’s said just shows how much racism is still tolerated. I think him being president is going to expose a lot of things that need to be exposed.”

And we worry about explaining the world to our kids? Perhaps we should consider asking the kids to explain the world to us.

Partisan mulishness may dominate the news outlets, but it’s the fresh perspective of millennials that is my cause for optimism. My kids, their friends, and virtually every young person I meet accepts the world for the complexion it is today, not what it was in the good ol’ days.

They didn’t grow up in Ozzie and Harriet America. And they’re not fettered by tired racial or sexual stereotypes. Furthermore, if we’re really being honest, the good ol’ days weren’t all that good, especially if you were in the minority.

In the good ol’ days, I was using a typewriter, making calls from a phone booth, getting up every time I wanted to change the channel. Times change. Attitudes should keep step. As a 60-year-old white guy who sent his first tweet a week ago after encouragement from his 22-year-old daughter, I’m optimistic they will.

Getting Sidetracked

This was not the column I was going to write. Traditionally, I would use this space to introduce our annual Worth Trying Issue, then go on to make a few hopeful suggestions for the new year.

But a funny thing happened on my way to the next paragraph…

While I was composing, a good friend emailed me a link to a story in The News Journal concerning an outbreak of violence at a youth football tournament in Middletown in early December. The behavior resulted in one event (Big East All-American Bowl) being terminated mid-tournament and a second event, scheduled for the following weekend (National Youth Football Championships), being cancelled.

The events, wonderful opportunities for young athletes to showcase their skills—not to mention a significant boost to the local economy because many of the 40 teams expected were from out of state—got called off because of horrendous parent behavior (fights among parents, the assault of an official, and other threats and confrontations). One incident occurred during play in the age 7-and-under division, as an irate parent challenged an official to meet him in the parking lot after the game. Yes, the 7-and-under division.

As my friend and I exchanged impassioned give-and-take regarding the pros and cons of cancelling the tournament, the comments of a parent quoted in the story grabbed my attention:

There should have been more state police at the games because these teams come from all walks of life and you never know what you are going to see.

Now, I’m sure equating certain “walks of life” with bad behavior was not the parent’s intention; however, that is unequivocally how I interpreted it. I doubt I am alone. It’s the classic other-side-of-the-tracks stereotype, a reference that strikes a nerve with me.

For years, a guy I grew up with used to kid me about “doing all right for myself considering I came from the other side of the tracks.” No insult intended—in his mind it was a compliment —but his fundamental assumption was something I couldn’t reconcile. Implied in his statement was that people on his side of the tracks were superior. Implied in his statement was that those on the other side were not, because of where we lived.

Now, it’s easy to dismiss my reaction as being overly sensitive. Compared to the bias minorities face, it certainly is. But consider: 30 years later I’m still bothered by a little joke suggesting people from my side of the tracks are inferior. Imagine daily doses of it.

This is the slippery slope we traverse when we make hasty generalizations. Often, we don’t realize we’ve gone too far until we’ve gone too far. Then it’s too late.

Isn’t it ironic that we demand to be viewed as unique, yet are so quick to pigeonhole others? We assign behavior characteristics based merely on geography, income, religion, political affiliation, race. It manifests itself everywhere, from our political debate to the policing of our streets.

So, the real tragedy in Middletown isn’t simply that a football tournament got cancelled. It’s that good kids from the wrong side of the tracks got lumped in with bad ones and opportunities vanished—opportunities that don’t happen in daily doses.

We’re attracting the wrong crowd. These events draw a bad demographic. Let’s just pull the plug!

No! Evaluate the situation with the proper perspective: You were the unfortunate victims of bad behavior, despite commendable intentions. Bad behavior occurs in all walks of life. So, you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. You institute a code of conduct, require a refundable deposit based on sportsmanship, beef up security.

Or, put another way, you throw out the bad apples. Please don’t cut down the tree.

As for the introduction of this issue, I can introduce it in a sentence: Welcome to our eighth annual Worth Trying Issue, in which our esteemed staff and contributors share opinions on people, places and things they deem worthy of your time. Enjoy.

Experiences: Lifetime Gifts

On my son’s wall hangs this memory, a framed scorecard and photograph signed by Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay, who threw a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds on Oct. 6, 2010—the first playoff appearance of his storied career. We bought it at Citizens Bank Park during the first homestand of the 2011 season. I remember it well.

When I heard about Halladay’s fatal plane crash last month, I immediately thought of this image. I was thankful that my son, a lifelong baseball player who continues that pursuit in college, got a chance to see this Phillies great in person. I was glad that as father and son, we experienced that magical Phillies run from 2007-2011. And I was reminded of the many wonderful Phillies moments I’ve had with both my son and daughter—from crab fries to a world championship.

In fact, I’ve spent quite a bit of time lately cruising down memory lane. Mostly in preparation for this magazine’s 30th anniversary, which will take place in March 2018. In planning for that issue, I’m enjoying sifting through images of the magical moments Out & About has had the good fortune to witness. There were many.

Which leads me to the theme of this month’s issue in the season of gift-giving: The magic of giving an experience.

As we all know, Jeff Bezos has become a very rich man by having Amazon deliver things to us. Today, you can order a thing for everyone on your list—all without leaving your couch. In fact, technology is making it so we might soon be able to eliminate the last human component of the gift-buying process —the delivery person. Drones can handle that.

But Amazon can’t deliver a concert with a friend. Or a ski trip with the boys. Or a ball game with your kids. Delivering memories is a personal thing. And as the Halladay tragedy reminds us, it’s a gesture that should not be put off for another day.

In this issue, contributing writer Leeann Wallett gives some creative suggestions on experiences as gifts. And contributor Dillon McLaughlin reports on some of the wonderful holiday traditions we’ve built around the state.

Let me be clear, I’m not opposed to the efficiency that technology has brought to holiday shopping. For me, the mall is an intimidating place. Furthermore, saving time by shopping online allows us more time to pursue experiences. In fact, it makes experiences easier to coordinate because you can shop for them in advance.

In a recent issue of Business Week, Jim Coulter, co-CEO of the major private equity firm TPG Capital, pointed out a significant trend in today’s economy: Spending habits are changing from things to experiences. Coulter goes on to say that experiences are not only more valuable to people, that value is enhanced when the experience can be shared through channels such as Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat…

Encouraging trends are not easy to find these days, and I find Coulter’s observation encouraging. An experiential gift can last a lifetime; all you need is a prompt to relive it. Can’t say that for my Christmas tie. It disappeared days after the holidays, lost amid all my stuff.

Why Delawareans Should Like Beer

You know, you guys write a lot about beer.

It’s a comment I’ve heard frequently in 29 years of producing Out & About. In fact, it’s an observation our teetotaling editor, Bob Yearick, has pointed out on more than one occasion.

My defense? There is none. I like beer. And as a Delawarean, you should like beer, too.

Since 1997, when Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione put a six-pack into a homemade row boat and “exported” his brew to Cape May, N.J. (a memorable and clever publicity stunt), the craft beer industry in Delaware has been rowing with the current. And, oh, what a current.

Today, there are 19 operating craft breweries in Delaware. That number will expand significantly with the recent announcements of Stitch House Brewery, Midnight Oil, Braeloch and Wilmington Brew Works (See story on page 25). In fact, Wilmington Brew Works will be the first production brewery located in the city since 1954.

Today, craft beer is generating more than $318 million in economic impact for our state, says the nationally-recognized Brewers Association. We’re in the top 20 in the nation in breweries per capita, and Delawareans over age 21 drink about 11 gallons of craft beer per year—sixth in the U.S.
In other words, I’m not the only one in Delaware who likes beer.

What’s not to like? The craft beer industry promotes agriculture, science, creativity, entrepreneurship. It also promotes historic preservation, as abandoned buildings, warehouses and brownfields are popular new homes for aspiring brewers. Case in point: The recently announced Wilmington Brew Works will occupy the former Harper-Thiel Electroplating headquarters on Miller Road, a Superfund site that sat vacant for nearly two decades. The state helped clean it up, Wilmington’s economic development office found a development partner in Rose and Ralph Pepe, and soon beer will be brewed there.

Just five years ago, Delaware breweries employed 200 people directly and another 2,600 in related jobs such as wholesaling and retailing. Those numbers have doubled.

Dogfish Head has become more than a tasty brew; it’s now a brand that helps sell our state, much like the DuPont Co. has done for years. A stretch? Put it this way: On more than one occasion while traveling, I’ve had people respond to me when I say I’m from Delaware: Hey, that’s where Dogfish is from, right?

It’s an evolution not lost on state officials. The Delaware Tourism Office created a special tour—the Delaware Beer, Wine and Spirits Trail—which has doubled in size since its launch in 2010. And just last month the office introduced the Delaware On Tap app, a mobile version of the BWS Trail.

“The craft beverage industry as a part of tourism in Delaware is booming,” says Liz Keller, Delaware Tourism director. “The state has the ninth largest economic impact per capita from craft brewing in America.”

This month, Out & About will raise a toast to the craft beer scene with our seventh annual Wilmington Beer Week (Nov. 6-11). Read all about it in this issue, as well as other fascinating developments for the local craft scene.

Yes, more stories about beer. Hey, we like to paddle with the current, too.

From the Publisher: Un-Easy Rider

The League of American Bicyclists proclaims Delaware the third “most bike-friendly state in the country.” If that’s the case, may I never be on my bike in any of the states ranked below the Top 20.

To say Delaware is bike friendly is like saying because you throw your plastic bottles in a recycle bin you’re an environmentalist. Sure, we’ve built hundreds of miles of bike paths over the past decade, and more are in the planning stage. We also have some wonderful group rides that welcome riders from near and far—Bike to the Bay, Amish Bike Tour, Delaware Gran Fondo.

We passed the three-foot passing law way back in 2011, which basically tells motorists who approach a cyclist traveling in the same direction: “Proceed with caution and reduce the speed of the vehicle to a safe speed and leave a reasonable and prudent distance by providing a minimum of three feet of clearance while passing such bicyclist, if changing lanes would be impossible or unsafe.”

But as a driver, did you even know about this legislation? Have you ever seen a road sign reinforcing it, much less know someone who received a ticket for violating a bike-safety statute?

Sure, we’ve made strides toward being bike tolerant. But bike friendly? Hardly.

I recently had the pleasure of visiting Montreal. My son will be attending college at McGill University this fall and I can’t wait —to visit him and take a bike ride in this wonderful city, that is.

Now, Montreal is a place that can boast of being bike friendly and it doesn’t come off like Donald Trump proclaiming to be a “great negotiator.” Bike share racks are everywhere, many streets have dedicated lanes for cyclists (protected by Jersey barriers and providing dedicated lanes in both directions), and a cyclist’s right to be on the road is respected throughout the city—bike lane or not. In fact, considering traffic and the omnipresent road construction, a bicycle is often the most efficient means of getting around in Montreal. So, people on bikes are everywhere.

However, being bike friendly is about more than laws and infrastructure. It’s a recognition that bikes belong, a viewpoint sorely lacking in Delaware and every state ranked behind us. To many motorists, people on bikes are an inconvenience. How dare we think we should share the road with cars and trucks.

Studies say there is safety in numbers. The more people we have riding bikes the more we’ll raise awareness, and reinforce our right to share the roads. OK, but we need more than that. We need an aggressive and uncompromising PR/lobbying campaign. We need a movement like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

Legislation outlawing driving under the influence existed long before MADD, but until the Texas-based non-profit began creating powerful commercials and PR campaigns, before they started a relentless attack on legislators, drunk driving laws were not aggressively enforced. Today, MADD is credited with reducing deaths by drunk driving by half in the U.S., and the organization is responsible for having mandatory all-offender alcohol interlock (car breathalyzers) laws passed in 25 states.

Cycling needs to take a page out of the MADD playbook. Hell, let’s take the whole playbook.

How about Riders Against Getting Eliminated (RAGE)? Time to put the pedal to the metal, so to speak.

From the Publisher: It’s Only A Number, But…

Turning 60 doesn’t bother me. It’s being 10 years away from 70 that is a bit unsettling. No disrespect to my friends and family who have touched that milestone, but I’m confident you understand what I mean. You can spin some numbers easier than others.

Sixty…the new 50. Sixty…the new middle age. Seventy. Hmmm, perhaps it’s the three syllables that make it sound foreboding.

Health willing, however, I have a decade to prepare for being a septuagenarian. And let’s hope by then people quit using that term. It sounds prehistoric.

So, yes, the publisher of Out & About Magazine will turn 60 at the end of this month. And I’m OK with it. I’m fresh off a visit to Firefly (where I was carded). I’m hanging out with college kids (OK, they’re my college kids and they still need my credit card). And I’m still planning things such as the Halloween Loop (year 37 for those counting), Newark Food & Brew Festival, Taste of Trolley Square, Beer Week….

Yes, I could be working for a living.

When we launched this magazine, way back in March of 1988, our tagline was “A Guide to Good Times.” Sure, it was corny, but I was 31 and my partners were in their 20s. Corny was what we knew.
However, we also knew that people are always looking to be entertained. So, if we could provide a resource that offered a path to that entertainment, it would have value. Especially if it was curated by local talent and presented in an entertaining way. Especially if it was free.

We were right. Out & About will turn 30 next March. Like us or not, there’s no denying we have staying power. So, come next spring, we plan to party…like it’s 1988.

But before we reach that landmark, allow me the privilege that comes with being a sexagenarian (much better term). I’d like to offer 10 bullet points of advice for those new Out & About readers out there—and not-so-new readers. Here goes:

• Be willing to try one bite of any food
• There is no such thing as bad music
• Anyone who tells you a town is boring really means they just
haven’t made friends yet
• Climb a tree, just don’t test your weight on the weakest branch
• Don’t settle, find a job you love
• Today’s novice is tomorrow’s sage
• Do something to make your community better
• Rules were not made to be broken
• Never take good health for granted
• It’s never too late for anything

If it ended tomorrow, I would have few regrets. Having said that, I’d prefer to experience another dozen or so Firefly festivals. And I am curious about what the killer costume will be for the Halloween Loop in 2030.

Partying like it’s 1988. Pulsations was the place to be in the late 1980s, and Out & About was there. (O&A file photo/Lindsay Rudney duPhily)
Partying like it’s 1988. Pulsations was the place to be in the late 1980s, and Out & About was there. (O&A file photo/Lindsay Rudney duPhily)

From the Publisher: Swinging for the Fences

Before there was a Chase Center.

Before there was Riverfront Market or the Delaware Children’s Museum.

Before there was Iron Hill Brewery, Big Fish Grill, Justison Landing, Penn Cinema, Russell Peterson Wildlife Center, Riverfront Mini Golf, Constitution Yards, the headquarters for AAA, Barclays and Navient…

Before all of this, there was Frawley Stadium, home of the Wilmington Blue Rocks.

fromthepub_oa_headerConsidering the many steps forward the Riverfront has taken over the past two decades, it’s easy to lose sight of the first one. Let’s not.

To me, the rebirth of the Riverfront began with the announcement in 1992 that through the efforts of visionaries such as Steve Taylor, Dan Frawley and Matt Minker, minor league baseball was returning to Wilmington. Furthermore, a first-class stadium would be built for the Blue Rocks on the site of the former Dravo Shipyard, a neglected part of the city’s riverfront. (Wilmington did have a minor-league baseball franchise named the Blue Rocks from 1940-52. In fact, Phillies legend Robin Roberts pitched for them.)

I like baseball as much as our president likes to tweet, so upon the announcement, my business partner and I were like kids who had just learned the circus was coming to town. We’re getting season tickets—immediately. For one time in our lives, we would have front-row seats. Every game!

So, the day after the announcement, we began the quest to reserve those front-row seats. It wasn’t easy. There was no Blue Rocks staff, no ticket office, no clear point of contact. We ended up discovering a Minker Construction trailer in Hockessin that was doubling as a makeshift Blue Rocks office. And when we showed up announcing we were there to buy season tickets, we were greeted like guests who had showed up a week early for a dinner party. Come back next month; tickets aren’t available yet. We haven’t even broken ground on the stadium… was the response, as I recall.

We refused to take no for an answer, however, and insisted they accept our deposit for eight front-row seats behind the dugout on the first-base line. Today, I still have four of those seats.

And I remember opening day, April 17, 1993, as if it were yesterday. It was breezy and overcast, far from ideal baseball weather. It didn’t matter. The atmosphere was electric. Robin Roberts had returned to throw out the first pitch, and professional baseball was happening in Wilmington—in a stadium that Minker, a diehard baseball fan operating on sheer willpower, miraculously built in just six months.

When the Rocks’ Raul Gonzalez capped a four-run rally in the bottom of the ninth with a two-run single, a magical day came to a fitting conclusion. Blue Rocks history was reborn. And so was a long-ignored Wilmington Riverfront.

This season, the Blue Rocks will be celebrating their 25th anniversary, and I encourage you to find the time to catch a game or two. The parking is free, a reserve box seat is only $10, and the dizzy bat race is as entertaining as ever.

In retrospect, it’s not hyperbole to say Frawley Stadium was a field of dreams. The Riverfront area was an eyesore before then, far from the bustling destination it is today.

In fact, for those of us who’ve been around a while, it’s rewarding to sit in the stands, do a panoramic survey of the setting, and marvel at all that has happened since that opening pitch.

The War on Words – Feb. 2017

A monthly column in which we attempt, however futilely, to defend the English language against misuse and abuse

Media Watch

• From the Philadelphia Inquirer: “But a claim that only Democratic lawmakers were targeted does underscore the need for future attorney generals to administer justice without fear or favor.” The correct term is attorneys general.
• A letter to the Wilmington News Journal from “an alumna of Middletown H.S.” was signed “Joshua.” We are assuming, then, that he is an alumnus of Middletown High. An alumna is a female graduate, an alumnus is a male.
• The News Journal’s story on the annual New Year’s Day Hummers Parade in Middletown noted that one float was “a rift on two events.” That would be riff, meaning a witty comment or part of a comic performance. The same story also referred to the “Philadelphia Eagle’s season.” Reads as if it’s referring to just one Eagle.
• An obituary is a final commentary on the life of the deceased, and as such it should be treated with care and reverence. Unfortunately, these brief biographies are usually a collaboration between the deceased’s family and the funeral home, and this sometimes produces misspellings, bad syntax and misused or misplaced words. The notice is printed by most papers (including the News Journal) with little or no editing. As a result, even common obituary terminology is sometimes mangled. Recent examples, with corrections in parentheses:
— Readers were invited to send online “condolances” (condolences).
— The deceased was described as being “formally (formerly) of Newark.”
— “He will be gratefully (greatly) missed.”

Readers Write

A reader sent us a notice she received about an event featuring a presentation on “The Importance of Reigning in Your Operating Expenses.” Reigning (to govern or rule over) is often confused with reining—the correct term here—which means to hold back, as with the reins on a horse.
Another reader, noting our recent item on incorrect movie titles, submits The Secret Life of Pets. She asks: “Should this not be The Secret Lives of Pets?” Yes, it should.
Yet another says that her pet peeves include the misuse of the verbs lie and lay and sit and set. The two sets of words present similar problems for some speakers and writers. Here’s a brief tutorial:
• “To lie” means “to be at rest.” “To lay” means “to place or put somewhere.” An object must always follow this verb.
So, you lie on the bed, or you tell the dog, “go lie down.” And you lay the book (the object) on the table. The usual mistake is to use lay where lie is needed: If you say, “I’m going to lay down,” I might ask you: “What are you going to lay down?”
• “To sit” means “to occupy a seat.” “To set” means “to put in place,” and, like lay, it must be followed by an object. You sit in the chair and you set a dish on the table. Again, the most common mistake is to substitute set for sit, as in the command “set down.”

Department of Redundancies Dept.

• Gary Kubiak, Denver Broncos coach: “It’s our job to do our job and stop them.”
• On The Dan Patrick Show, I heard these comments: “empty out the bowl,” and “they listed off the reasons . . .”

Random Notes

I wrote the phrase “have rung” in an email, and my system (Outlook) “corrected” it to have rang. Amazing. The system could double as a sports radio talk show host.
Speaking of radio, I heard a venerable WDEL personality utter this sentence: “Did I over-exaggerate that?” Shades of swimmer Ryan Lochte, who, in his Rio Olympics debacle, said he “over-exaggerated” a story about a robbery.
The word of can be problematic. It is unnecessary in such phrases as “not too big of a deal.” On the other hand, it needs to be inserted in such phrases as “a couple (of) teams are in contention.”

Word of the Month:

Pronounced kak-i-STOK-ruh-see, it’s a noun meaning government by the least qualified or worst persons. Use it as you see fit.

Follow me on Twitter: @thewaronwords

Need a speaker for your organization?
Contact me for a fun PowerPoint presentation on grammar:

Buy The War on Words paperback at Ninth Street Books,
the Hockessin Book Shelf, on Amazon, or by calling 302-655-6483.

From the Publisher: A Powerful Example

Can we pause for just a moment? Before we resume the partisan bickering. Before we return to assigning blame. Before we take our seats on the Trump train.

Can we take a minute to reflect on what we’ve just experienced? Could we have just witnessed one of the most dignified presidencies in modern American history?

Be honest. You may dislike his policies, reject his world view, even question his ancestry. But there is no denying that the Obama years were remarkable in the grace and integrity demonstrated by the First Family at virtually every twist or turn. Then there are the eight scandal-free years across an entire administration. Eight years! Are you kidding me?

Respected presidential historian Douglas Brinkley said the Obama presidency will go down as one of the most unimpeachable in American history. “When you rank presidents on ethical standards, Barack Obama’s the highest. He’s up there with some of our really great American leaders,” Brinkley said recently during a CNN appearance. Other esteemed presidential scholars such as Jon Meacham and Doris Kearns Goodwin—people who measure presidencies in scores, not sound bites—have made similar statements.

As parents, we strive to set good examples for our children. In fact, setting a good example would be Point #1 in the Being A Good Parent Handbook, if there were such a resource. We also point to examples worth emulating. My wife and I pointed to the Obamas a lot.

During so many pivotal moments, so many heartfelt tragedies, the Obamas had just the right words, the appropriate tone. The President’s Selma Speech. Michele Obama’s speech last summer at the Democratic National Convention. But the one that stands out for me is President Obama’s 2015 eulogy in Charleston, S.C. (often referred to as the Amazing Grace Speech), after a white gunman killed a pastor and eight parishioners while they were attending church. It may be the most poignant presidential moment I’ve ever witnessed.

Minimize the power of oratory if you wish, but words do matter. And they’re especially effective when carefully chosen and skillfully delivered. Of course, as the first black president, whose very citizenry was questioned, his margin for error was narrow.

Back in 2009, my kids and I had the privilege of attending the momentous Obama-Biden appearance at the Wilmington Train Station as the two families made their way to Washington, D.C., to assume office. As you can see in the photo above, my two kids were quite young back then—13 and 10.

But the experience made quite an impression, and for the past eight years our kids have been tuned in to the actions of a president for the first time. Moving forward, the Obamas will be the standard by which they measure other presidencies. My wife and I take comfort in that.

It was Bill Clinton who said: “People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power.”

For eight years, the Obamas provided us with powerful examples of leadership, friendship and kinship. Politics aside, we should all agree on that.