Academic Skills, history, Non-Teaching

A cursory reemergence to critique the research skills of sports journalists

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While I really need to be prepping other things (e.g. graduate school reading, research, and writing), I instead find myself prompted to write because of something I saw perusing Utah Jazz blogs.

As others out there may know, the NBA season has begun, which means that the variety of Utah Jazz blogs that I follow have become pretty busy the past few weeks. Having finished teaching my classes for the day, I stopped briefly to catch up on the latest news from SLC Dunk only to find myself thinking about the use and abuse of aphorisms related to history after I watched this video:

Did you catch the statement that caused me such consternation? It was quick, but Utah sports journalist and Jazz play-by-play announcer David Locke (nee Lockheim…I know. I used to take skiing lessons from him in 5th grade at Solitude Ski Resort) attributed a quote about “history repeating itself” to Robert Heilbroner. I’ve already expressed my distaste for this silly response about the value of history, so I was particularly surprised to see that George Santayana apparently had lost his claim to this oft-quoted statement. I hope Santayana hasn’t rotated too far in his grave, and I sure hope all sources that quote him update their footnotes to get the proper attribution!

So what’s the deal? Why did Santayana lose out on this NBA TV segment to Heilbroner’s benefit?

I’m chalking this one up to a case of crappy-Google-itis, a scourge which only reinforces the importance of teaching students how to assess the value of the information they find online and help them learn how to assess its source. I’m guessing Locke quickly Googled the phrase about “history repeating itself,” found an early hit on Google Books (likely some text edited by Heilbroner), and then decided to attribute the quote to the editor who mentioned Santayana, rather than to Santayana himself. As my students might say, “Epic Fail!”

In any event, I’m glad the Jazz at 7-4 presently, but I wish their their play-by-play announcer knew how to properly research and cite his evidence. I’d call in to his show and give him a piece of my mind, but I’m sure he’s been inundated with callers angry about his slight to Santayana and wouldn’t want to hear from another one.


3 thoughts on “A cursory reemergence to critique the research skills of sports journalists

  1. Western Dave says:

    Actually, it’s closer to Marx’s line from the 19th Braumaire: (paraphrase) History repeats itself the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. Compared to Santyana’s more conditional, those who forget history are condemned to repeat it. And I’m guessing he didn’t google it, since the top hit took me to the Santyana quote but read it a long time ago in a Heilbroner pop overview text or blog entry about it (the third hit – from a tech blog) and simply learned it wrong from the outset. Especially since he stumbles over the quote as he says it, which indicates he doesn’t really know it.

  2. Nate says:

    I actually sent a question via Twitter to Dave Locke to find out his source on the quote. Rather than internet browsing, he attributed its provenance to “a book that my 9th grade teacher made us read to open History class,” and also noted that he’s “Sure it is not orginial [sic].”

    I guess I’ll take consolation in the fact that professionals outside of the history realm nevertheless remember some of what they learned in their high school history courses.

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