Jeffrey Bright Jeffrey Bright 4 1 2015-05-12T10:42:00Z 2015-05-12T10:46:00Z 5 1917 10932 91 25 12824 15.00
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"Rules Is Rulesules
But Do They Always Make Sense?


In the 8th grade my English teacher, Miss Phipps, asked me to pronounce the plural of the word ‘woman’ for the class.

I said, wimmen,” like anyone does - and like Ms. Phipps knew I would - and she seized the opportunity to explain to the class why I was wrong.

She said it was pronounced exactly like ‘woman’, except for the second syllable; - ‘wo-men,’ which, of course, is virtually indistinguishable from the word  ‘wo-man.’

Try it yourself.

I was only 13, but I knew horse doo-doo when I smelled it. I told her I was right. I argued that ‘wo-men’ and ‘wo-man’ sounded too much alike, and it was better pronounced as wimmen because it was clearer. 

I was not Miss Phipps’ favorite student.

She explained to the class why I was wrong, citing the two spellings ‘man’ and ‘men’ as a parallel.

I replied that “man” and “men” sounded different, but “wo-man” and "wo-men” did not sound different enough.

I was overruled, of course, but I still think I was right and Miss Phipps – and anyone who agrees with her – was and is wrong. The object of language, after all, is to communicate. That’s the whole of it. It stands to reason that whatever it takes to most easily communicate should be the overriding “rule” of language. Language is a tool, and not an end unto itself. The so-called “rules” of language must remain malleable and changeable - not sacred. Like any other tool, we must be willing to modify it whenever it can be improved.

Miss Phipps liked rules. In retrospect, I now understand that Miss Phipps actually needed rules. She drew comfort from the idea that rules give order to our lives; a certain form of shelter. Rules gave her boundaries and direction and protected her from a certain undefined chaos that she thought would result without them. To people like Miss Phipps, rules are rules, and they are rarely or never to be violated.

I remember a news story about a 5-year-old schoolboy who had kissed a 5-year-old girl on the cheek at recess. Five years old. The boy was expelled from school for “sexual harassment.”

The idiot school principal explained to the press that the boy may have been only five years old, but he broke the rules. The Powers That Be who made the rules didn’t think to put a caveat in their sexual harassment rules concerning 5-year-olds. The rules, of course, were established because high school boys were hitting too hard on high school girls, not because 5-year-olds were raping classmates behind the alphabet blocks.

Of course, all ‘rules’ of social behavior were originally meant to protect us from one another. For example, somebody decided long ago that it should be against the rules to kill people, and that makes sense to me, at least as a general rule. Trouble is, what about killing someone who’s breaking into your house? Or what about shooting a guy that opened your car-door while pointing a knife at you? That’s not the same as shooting a 7-11 clerk while stealing $85 from the cash register, is it?  

…So a whole mess of “smaller” rules had to be attached to the general rule of not being allowed to kill people. It’s perfectly all right to kill someone if you’re in the military and the corpses belong to the opposing army. It is not perfectly all right to take out your own commanding officer.    

Many people lose sight of the whole purpose of rules. The rules themselves tend to become sacred and inviolable. That’s why courts throw out the conviction of a serial killer when he was not advised of his rights before confessing. In the case of freed serial killers the rules of law often get in the way of justice. In the case of ‘wimmen’ against ‘wo-men’ the rules of the English Language get in the way of what the language was designed to do in the first place, which is to clearly communicate ideas.

Rules insulate people from the Great Unknown. Rules allow us to avoid thinking for ourselves. Rules give boundaries and absolutes and order to our lives without having to shoulder a lot of responsibility.

One of the most surprising qualities I’ve observed in successful sports bettors is their ability to transcend ‘rules’. To a man, these perennial winners have the ability to be objective, and to act on that objectivity, even though their actions might fly in the face of universally accepted rules.

One interesting rule concerning sports betting concerns so-called ‘trends.’ For example, from 1987 through 1996 (10 years) the Dallas Cowboys lost the 10th game of their regular season. That’s right, 0-10 in their 10th week. Sure enough, some tout discovered that little quirk in the law of averages and published it as a reason to bet against Dallas in the 10th game of their 1997 season.

Such reasoning is like betting on Black at roulette because Black has come up 10 times in a row. It would make just as much sense to bet on Red because Red is “due.” Neither set of reasons is tenable. At roulette, it doesn’t matter what happened in the past, and in NFL football it certainly doesn’t matter what happened 10 years ago. Each NFL game must be handicapped on its own unique merits. (Dallas won and covered in their 10th game of 1997, by the way, making them 1-10 in their 10th game of the year.)

Successful sports bettors are able to address all the factors concerning a game, including such trends as described above, and to recognize which factors are actually important. They have the ability to think for themselves.

In my freshman year at high school we were given a math problem that went something like this: “There is a square woods 10 miles wide and 10 miles long…Starting from the exact center of the woods, you go two miles directly Southeast, then four miles directly North, then three miles directly West…What’s the nearest way out of the woods?”

My answer was Up.”

Yeah, you’re right, I was a pain in the butt in school. I fully understood what the teacher wanted; - we were in Math class, for chrissakes. But I was proud of my pain-in-the-butt answer. I defended my claim that my answer was the only correct answer in the class. I argued with the teacher something like this: “Any idiot can see the answer you wanted was North, but that’s the wrong answer, given the parameters of the question. The nearest way out of the woods is up; - it’s about fifty feet.”

My protestations earned me a trip to the Dean’s office. Again. Dean Virts came to know me by my first name. He actually came to like me, after my umpteenth visit to his office.

The point of all this is, be ready to think for yourself. Don’t be part of the herd. When you’re shown a ‘rule’ concerning how to predict the outcome of games, be ready to ask yourself why such a rule might apply. Be ready to break rules if your own common sense tells you otherwise. If you can never bring yourself to bet against a certain pitcher, or if you have a rule about never betting on a visiting favorite on Fridays, or if you have a rule against betting on a certain coach, something is wrong. No sports betting rule should be carved in stone.  Successful gamblers handicap each game as an individual and unique event; they certainly do consider what effect “rules” may – or may not – have on that particular game, of course, but they are ready to break the rules at any time.           


That's "Hee-Haw's" Dawn McKinley. At Hee-Haw, J. R. Miller helped audition the girls...
Who the hell is J. R. Miller?

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