Yogi Berra wrote a book with the title mentioned in my headline, and the subject was all the things he was quoted as saying that he really didn’t say. Some of the so-called quotes were really funny, and they live on in the lexicon of baseball. Examples follow:
“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
“No one goes to Jack Dempsey’s restaurant anymore, too many people.”
“If the people don’t want to come to the ballpark, nobody is going to stop them.”
“You can observe a lot by watching.”
Yogi Berra says that the misquotes don’t bother him since many of them just added to his notoriety and, of course, to his ability to make money after his retirement from baseball. Thus, in Yogi’s book there are the real quotes and the misquotes and both add to the mystic and the stature of the man.
As much fun as those are to read, there is a sad note when such mis-quotations play over into our nation’s politics and how the news media covers such things. For instance, last fall President Obama was quoted in many of the nations newspapers as saying, “America is no longer a Christian nation.” That statement proved to be a major negative throughout the political campaign. What he really said was, “We are no longer a Christian nation, at least not just. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of non-believers.” Quoted correctly, it is an accurate statement and not nearly as inflammatory as stopping the quotation in mid-sentence.
A similar misquotation happened to Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, who was quoted by the National Journal as saying, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Yes, he said it. However, just a few sentences later he said, “I don’t want the President to fail, I want him to change.” Has the second quotation ever been printed as a follow-up to the first?
Such misquotations are becoming commonplace in our national press. Snopes and The Truth Squad worked overtime during the past election to add some perspective to what was being alleged by the two political parties as they tried to influence the election. Unfortunately, they found that much of what was reported was either greatly exaggerated or totally false.
It has become customary for past presidents to write a book about their time in office. President Obama could write one entitled, “What I said that I really didn’t say.” Considering Obama’s ability to use humor in his speeches, his book may turn out to be funnier than Yogi’s.
Dr. Mark L. Hopkins writes for More Content Now and Scripps Newspapers. He is past president of colleges in universities in four states and currently serves as executive director of a higher-education consulting service. Contact him at email@example.com.