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What goes around, comes around

As you know, at the end of the day, it is what it is.

I know, right?

One headline, two sentences and five of the most overused clichés of our time.

We're all guilty, too. I am. You are. They are.

Maybe it all begins with Hollywood or professional sports or politicians, the latter group often being too ugly for movies and too uncoordinated for athletics.

Sports clichés are among the best, of course. Who can forget Yogi Berra's "Baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half physical?"

ESPN's popular Page 2 ( offers a few of the timeless gems from the world of competitive sports.

Page 2 listed its choices for "the 10 sports clichés that simply must go."

Here are just a few:

• "We're taking it one game at a time." Followed by ESPN's observation: "Just once, I'd like to hear, say, Tony La Russa admit, 'Actually, we've decided to take it 16.2 games at a time and divide the season into 10 neat little chunks.'"

• "Step it up." "This one definitely has to go," an ESPN reader writes. "What's worse is that it is not resigned for sports, either. People step up in relationships, in the office, at family picnics. By far, the most overused cliché ever."

• "He gave 110 percent." How, pray tell, is that possible? Do the math. After 100 percent has been given, there's nothing left in the tank. Period.

As comical as some of the more famous (infamous?) sports clichés are, too many of today's business clichés and terms are void of any value - comedic or otherwise.

I'll never forget the first time someone asked me "How many direct reports do you have?"

It was during an otherwise pleasant meeting in Shelbyville, Ky. with Landmark Communications.

Hmm, I thought. (My thoughts always make a humming sound.) Direct reports?

Well, I attempted to respond, I have a lot of direct reports on my desk each morning. Direct reports from the newsroom, from advertising, from graphics, from circulation and from financial.

No, no, no. I was told. Direct reports are the people under you.

In that case, I don't have any direct reports on my desk each morning, I said.

More importantly, in my vision for a better workplace environment, there ought to be absolutely no one who is considered to be above anyone else. If we all work together, the odds of our overall success greatly improve.

Dr. Barbara Moses, a speaker, management consultant and the author of "Dish: Midlife Women Tell the Truth about Work, Relationships and the Rest of Life," wrote about workplace clichés for The Globe and Mail at

Her first hackneyed cliché? "Value add."

"If you are not adding value then why are you doing it?" Dr. Moses asks. "Does it mean that without the 'value add' we are receiving or delivering 'value subtracted?'"

And then there's the ubiquitous "team player."

"This entrenched reflexive shorthand equates the gold standard for being a high performer with someone who plays nice," Dr. Moses writes. "But most interesting ideas come from awkward renegades who ruffle feathers. To me, being a team player is not necessarily a recommendation."

Awkward renegades? Yup. I've worked with many renegades. (None of whom ever published a cheap scandal sheet just to try and make a political pal look a little less incompetent.) Almost all of them were overachievers. Good people, too.

Which brings to mind yet another cliché. What the heck is an overachiever, anyway?

Isn't that just someone who does his/her job each and every day to the best of his/her ability? I don't know. Maybe I'll try and think outside the box on that one.

* * *

It wouldn't be prudent not to give some mention to one of the most ridiculous - yet sadly necessary - judicial rulings in Ohio political history.

Federal District Court Judge Timothy Black's ruling last week boils down to this: Politicians can lie. And voters must sort it out for themselves.

"The answer to false statements in politics is not to force silence (by forbidding lies), but to encourage truthful speech in response, and to let the voters, not the government, decide what the political truth is," the judge said.

Writing in The Washington Times on Sept. 13, Bruce Fein quotes from Dickens' "Oliver Twist:"

"If the law supposes that, the law is a ass - a idiot."

"That exasperation captured Mr. Bumble's scorn for British common law in 'Oliver Twist,'" Mr. Fein writes. "But it also applies in spades to Thursday's decision by a federal district court conferring First Amendment protection on intentional falsehoods during political campaigns uttered for the purpose of influencing the outcome of the election."

Not so fast.

As I asked a friend and attorney familiar with the case, "If Ohio ever starts busting lying politicians, where would it end?" Hello?

The attorney's reply warrants consideration. "Obviously, no one likes lies in politics," he said. "We all have a gut reaction when we see a politician break a promise they made during the campaign - 'that' should be a crime. But the idea of having a ministry of truth is even more distasteful than political lies."

Mr. Fein counters that "Judge Black naively maintained that intentional falsehoods could be timely defeated by truthful responses. Mark Twain explained, 'A lie gets halfway around the world before truth has a chance to get its pants on.' And ruthless candidates are inclined to tell lies about their opponents on the eve of balloting to prevent a truthful rebuttal from reaching voters."

Both sides have valid points. My guess is that had Judge Black been appointed by President Bush instead of President Obama, The Washington Times columnist may see it differently. Maybe not.

Nonetheless, a Ministry of Truth most likely would be enforced by its own Thought Police.

Lastly, if we still had a once noble Fourth Estate that wasn't in bed with the politicians, maybe the press could help separate fact from fiction.

Until then, though, political lies remain the order of the day in the Buckeye State.

Rory Ryan is Senior Editor, North American Desk, at Paperitalo Publications and the owner of The Highland County Press in Hillsboro, Ohio. He can be reached by email at or

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