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News Story
Updated: 08/08/2014 09:32:10AM

On shrines and immortality

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S.L. Frisbie

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Which of the following does not belong on this list:

a. Church of the Nativity (Bethlehem)

b. Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes (France)

c. Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (Washington, D.C.)

d. Pro Football Hall of Fame (Canton, Ohio)

Tough, huh?

A shrine, a shrine, a shrine, and a place that honors football players. Really good football players, but still, football players.

Immortal players: deities or divine beings who will never die.

Whoa, have we lost control of the language?

In the past few days, I fear, we have.

For several days of shameless fawning, WFLA-TV gushed about the upcoming “enshrinement” of Derrick Brooks in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

And Sunday’s Tampa Tribune ran a one-word caption in inch-and-three-quarters bold face capitals over a photo of Brooks. It said simply “immortal.”

I once worked for a Florida National Guard officer who referred to those of us who wrote military directives as “guardians of the printed word.” That may be an exaggeration, but at least the military knows that there is no such thing as “preventative” maintenance. The word is “preventive.”

Some might argue that academia is the last bastion of defense of the printed word.

As a journalist for more than half a century, I would cast my vote for the press as defenders of the King’s (OK, for most of my life, the Queen’s) English. We put our admittedly imperfect linguistic efforts before the public on a daily basis.

Not trusting to a less than encyclopedic mastery of linguistics, I did a little research on what constitutes a “shrine.” I found terms like “holy place,” “divinity,” “sacred place,” even reference to “religious relics.” Nowhere did I find mention of football or museums honoring those who play the game.

Similar research on “immortality” disclosed terms like “eternal life,” “deity,” and “divine being.” Again, the gridiron was conspicuously absent from the discussion.

Perhaps (though I doubt it) sportswriters and broadcasters can be forgiven, in the excitement of the moment, for calling a 97-yard punt run-back “brilliant,” though I insist on refusing to call the ball carrier who performed it a “hero.”

To me, heroes are found on battlefields, in police and fire departments, manning emergency rooms, and yeah, in my opinion, teaching in classrooms.

Sure, a really good football player can make as much money in one season as a school full of teachers or a company of infantrymen can earn in a year.

We know their names; we cheer them from the sidelines (or the comfort of our living rooms); we may even buy our kids sports jerseys bearing their names and numbers.

But calling the place where we display their likenesses “shrines” and declaring them to be “immortal”?

Guardians of the printed word, whoever we are and wherever we may be found, sometimes need a reality check.

(S. L. Frisbie is retired. Precision in the use of the language is but one of many lost causes he champions. This makes him neither brilliant nor heroic. The word is “stubborn.” Or on a good day, “Quixotic.”)


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