Maddenation

Ambiguity

Dan and Patrick (and then me, or should it be I) were talking about the quote from Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Is this true? If you don’t take a shot, then you don’t miss it, right? You might just as well say you make 100% of the shots you don’t take. I mean, if you’re thinking about taking a shot, you’re imagining you’ll make it, right? So if you don’t take it, you still made it in your mind. What Wayne probably meant to say was that you can’t possibly score if you don’t take a shot, but this doesn’t sound quite as dramatic.

The point we were making is this happens quite a bit. People want to say something memorable, but sometimes the logic doesn’t fit, or they’re trying to make two points at the same time, and they don’t fit in the same sentence. I’m reminded of the comment my Dad made many years ago about the then new toll collecting machines on the tri-state toll road around Chicago. He was impressed with their speed and their accuracy. The toll at the time was 30 cents, so he said, “If you put 29 pennies in there, that thing won’t raise the gate; and right away too!” I laughed, but I knew what he meant. Thinking back on it now, I wonder if he ever actually tried it.

One more and then I’ll let you ponder your comments. You will remember the basketball game we were watching some years ago (Dan thinks it was Kentucky in the NCAA final) when one of the players (ask Dan who it was) missed a shot from just inside the 3-point line. The announcer said, “That’s the worst shot in basketball, ‘cause if you miss it…no points!” What he meant, of course, was that if you’re going to attempt a long shot, you may as well make sure you’re behind the 3-point line so at least there’s a greater benefit to offset the lower shooting percentage. Most likely the commercial break would have come before he completed the thought.

DadQuotes01/30/04 30 comments

Comments

Dan • 01/31/04 8:51 PM:

Jamal Mashburn took the shot.

I didn’t know Wayne Gretzky said that. I just googled the quote and “gretzky” and sure enough, there’s a lot of links that show up. That means he definitely said it.

Anyway, when I read these links, it turns out most of the people who have written this quote on their websites are serious. Wow. I just read this: In network marketing, when you don’t take the shot of talking to the big scary prospect, you’re missing a shot. You’ll feel even worse when that big scary prospect joins someone else’s downline!

I’ve known about this quote for almost my whole life. It’s in most elementary room classes. I always raised my eyebrow at it because, even as a third-grader, I knew it didn’t make sense.

It’s even become a “Successory,” one of those posters featuring a snow-covered tree and says “TEAMWORK” is the ability to work together toward a common vision.

That reminds me to remind you to check out despair.com for some anti-Sucessories. Truly great.

Dan • 01/31/04 9:07 PM:

Futility

David • 01/31/04 11:30 PM:

I disagree mostly with what y’all said. You’re right, I think Wayne had other things in mind, apart from exactly what he said. But I do think what he said makes perfect sense, and that he said what he meant to say. The point of the saying is that if you don’t take an opportunity, you miss it. Wayne played hockey, and shooting at the goal can be looked at like an opportunity and since it’s what he did better than anyone else who has ever lived, he chose to say “shots” rather than “opportunities”. So, I’m quite certain Wayne was using the saying as a metaphor, just like the junky calendar sayings. And since that’s the case, I think his choice of words was right on - yes, more dramatic, and more fitting too.

Think of it in terms of Eminem -

“Look, if you had one shot, one opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted - One moment. Would you capture it or just let it slip?”

“You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow, this opportunity comes once in a lifetime, yo” … blah blah.

Okay, maybe I didn’t need to put all the lyrics in there. My point is, the saying works fine. I do know that you can’t “miss” a shot (in hoops or hockey) that you don’t take. I do think that the quote with Jamal Mashburn is the type of quote you’re talking about and it’s quite different from Wayne’s.

Patrick • 02/01/04 12:40 AM:

What’s so disappointing about it is that it survives because people take inspiration from it, not because it’s so funny and wrong. If a president had said it, it’d be on SNL and people would be making fun of him. Or maybe the questions it raises (do you really miss the shots you don’t take?) point our minds to conundra of quantum sports: if the shot was never taken, doesn’t it exist simultaneously in a made/missed state, until an observer influences the untaken shot’s behavior? In this case, it’s Gretzky’s saying mucking with the fabric of the universe.

Anyway, David, we all know what he meant, but even there he’s dumb: what if you’re off-balance and triple-teamed and your teammate has a much better shot? By this quote’s logic, you should take the shot yourself, right?

Anyway, you could go on and on, and bringing Eminem to the witness stand, by the way, does not strengthen your case, but at the end of the day, it’s just another redundant cliche, worsened by the fact that, in reality, it is wrong. Legally, you cannot build metaphors from illogical or unrealistic ingredients. If it don’t work in the literal sense, it sure as hell ain’t gonna work over there in figurative land. Remember this lesson. You could save yourself some hard time (or a life on the lam).

p.s. Dan: you do not delete a comment by removing all of its contents, you numbskull. For test things, try “Test Entry” or something.

Dan • 02/01/04 1:09 AM:

Why you telling me? Dave’s the one who deleted a comment today. What you mean?

Dan • 02/01/04 1:47 AM:

I think Dave’s stance is that if you don’t take an opportunity, it passes you by. But how do you “take” an opportunity? Don’t know. So, how about, if an opportunity (say, a rap duel that, if you compete successfully, will thrust you into stardom) presents itself, and you don’t make an attempt to participate in that opportunity, then you have ruled out any chance of success due to the outcome of that opportunity. This works. Gretzky could have been semantically correct if he said,

You can’t score if you don’t shoot.

I think this is much better. With the original quote, Pat’s right about Wayne mucking with the fabric of the universe, and that universe being people who want quotes to make sense and not be cheeze.

There’s a big fat line drawn between cliches and worthwhile quotes. Gretzky’s belongs on successories side (which is also the “cliches” side).

Last, does anybody even need to be told “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”? I mean, even if it made sense, and the normal person can catch its drift, it’s stupid to begin with. If it were well-worded, it might be a different story.

Patrick • 02/01/04 10:12 AM:

“You can’t score if you don’t shoot” but your team can, if someone else shoots, especially if someone else is a better shooter, less defended, in better position, out of the goalie’s focus, etc… I guess I should be thankful that Wayne Gretzky is inspiring our less-logically-gifted youth to give their best efforts and not give up and all that, but come on! This quote is funny because it’s wrong. What if the NHL adopted a new stats-counting method where all the shots you didn’t take in a game counted as misses. They’d watch tapes and judge whether a shot was available right before you a) lost the puck or b) passed to a teammate. Even if the teammate you passed to shot (and scored), you’d be liable for a missed shot. Even defenders, checking the opposition and wresting the puck away, would be docked when they passed to a right wing further up the ice. Goalies, after beautiful saves, would get a “miss” when they threw down the puck to a nearby defender. What would the percentages look like then? Would the players be happy?

Sometimes you gotta take these things to their extreme (il)logical conclusions to see how absurd they are.

And as for Eminem: “Do not miss your chance to blow.” Is he talking about blowing the one shot? Is “blow” a good thing?

I guess the disappointment, again, is that our society takes its inspiration from half-thought redundant cliches spouted by sports heroes (without so much as blinking at gross logical fallacies), instead of far superior words from philosophers and poets and truly great people of the past or present. Nobody reads anymore, but we sure watch SportsCenter! We’re en fuego!

Patrick • 02/01/04 10:13 AM:

By the way, is anybody besides me pronouncing this entry’s title / am BIG wih tee /?

Dad • 02/01/04 12:31 PM:

Maybe Wayne should have said, “Don’t be afraid of missing a shot,” but this essential distillation of his entreaty is ridiculous. Kids, especially young ones, don’t need to be encouraged to take more shots. In the beginning, that’s all they do. They need to be taught not to take shots but to look for the open man, or judge whether or not someone else has a better chance at making it. So even if we accept what he meant to say and put it in a form that is completely clear, it’s not something you want these little “ball hogs” and “puck hogs” to hear.

I suppose later on, in high school say, it makes more sense to have people re-evaluate their scoring abilities and experiment with increasing their attempts. By then, the little monsters who dominated the game as youngsters by refusing to listen to the coach make have peaked, and new scoring strategies are needed. Yes, if you don’t try shooting once in a while, you’ll never know if you could be the next Bobby Orr or Michael Jordan; which of course, you won’t be.

And what does Eminem have to do with this?

Dan • 02/01/04 1:36 PM:

Eminem was a ball hog.

That, or I’d bet he’s probably a bad athlete. Anyway, “Don’t be afraid of missing a shot” sound like “Don’t be afraid to pass up an opportunity,” which, if that “opportunity” is a shot attempt in basketball, may not have been bad advice for Donnie Jones back in kindergarten. He may be the LSU punter now, but man, he was the worst ball hog ever. Even worse than Adam Auferio, who got worse as he got older. That doesn’t happen often.

Patrick • 02/01/04 1:54 PM:

I’m sorry to go back on what I’ve said, but, thinking more deeply about it, and in light of some of the other comments, maybe it is best to just take shot after shot in the game of hockey. After all, it’s basically luck when you score a goal, right? Shooting somewhere near the goal is just a way of rolling the dice, really. Admittedly, sometimes you see a puck go straight into the net, but most of the time, the puck leaves the shooter’s stick, gets caught somewhere in the vicinity of the goal, maybe hits some other players, maybe the goalie, and then, if you’re lucky, phase-shifts across the null-energy threshold and instantaneously appears in the net. Nobody knows exactly how it got there, but the little siren goes off and it’s a goal.

So, yeah, maybe just shoot-shoot-shooting away is the best method.

By the way, is anyone else bothered by the goalie’s water bottle resting in the top of the goal net? Why does he need water? He’s the guy out there who least needs water. Maybe the guy in all sports who least needs water. What’s the deal?

Dad • 02/01/04 3:47 PM:

Dan: no, no, no; “Don’t be afraid of missing a shot” does not sound like “Don’t be afraid to pass up an opportunity.” Well, maybe it sounds like it, but “missed shot” does not equal “missed opportunity.” The shot is the opportunity, but the missed shot is failure to succeed in whatever the opportunity was about. So:

Shot = Opportunity
Not taking a shot = missed opportunity = passing up an opportunity
Missed shot = failing to succeed when taking the opportunity
Opportunity to take a shot = I’m confused

Wait, goalies have a water bottle on the net?

AJ • 02/04/04 8:49 PM:

Yogi Berra. Man, he had some great quotes, huh? They all sort of made sense in a dumb athlete sort of way. His are more famous for being funny though. I always think funny is more fun to talk about than dumb, but have it your way.

This quote proves something about sports, coaches, and athletes. At least to me it does. A lot of athletes strive to understand the game they play, either through coaching, post-game analysis, or whatever. Using this quote as some evidence, it seems to me that many great players would make terrible coaches because they lack the ability to “transfer knowledge” (in the words of the highly esteemed Coach Dave Denure) to their pupils. Yet clearly, these players, in their greatness, had some sort of understanding of their respective game.

I question if their understanding is flawed or just their ability to explain it. I always wonder when a coach explains that “this is the proper way to execute” such and such maneuver, move, play, etc., where they came across this information. If they were a player, did they consciously do all of these things, or did it occur to them during practice or something. Perhaps, instead, when they decided to coach they tried to figure out what made them good and analyzed their own games?

I’m sure many ideas were passed down from coaches, but not all. I mean who told Jordan when he was in high school that if he just did this, this and that he’d be the greatest player of all time. Didn’t they cut him the first time (or two) he tried out? So, he must’ve acquired a lot of his playing methods on his own. I doubt anybody told Vince Carter, “If you’ve got a pretty good head of steam, and there’s some 7 footer in front of you just go ahead and jump over his whole entire body and dunk the ball. Yeah, that’s the best way to approach that problem.” I doubt even Vince could ever do that again, but I bet he knew at the time it would work. Try to explain what instinct told him that would be possible. Now try to do it in words that make sense.

I agree with Patrick’s quote analysis the most. I think the using the quote as advice is wrong in just about every interpretation, except the hockey dumb-luck goal one.

I obviously don’t watch hockey as much as Patrick, so I didn’t know about the water bottle either, but I’ll venture a guess. Maybe the goalie squirts water on the ice or his skates for some sort of ice-skate related thing. I doubt it though. As for reasonable guesses, maybe it’s because everyone else can skate to the bench to get water, but if the goalie just skated away from the goal he might lose his job. This is especially so if Gretzky were on the other team. No goalie plus maximum shots has got to increase your scoring percentage. So, I guess that once upon a time in this very galaxy, some goalie decided the best way for him to get water IF he did want some water would be to have it somewhere close to the goal he was supposed to be deflecting deflected pucks away from.

In conclusion, I think Mr. Wayne Gretzky was just saying “Don’t be a wuss; I’m not. I’m a hockey player.” Then, of course, it got all misinterpreted by people fervently trying to analyze his remark. After all, oh my gosh, the greatest hockey scorer said something about scoring in hockey. It’s probably just a couple of poorly connected words, not the secret to hockey success delivered through Wayne’s human lips by the gods of ice hockey who, by the way, probably live somewhere in Canada. I’d probably be better off searching for them than trying to learn hockey secrets from a man who’s career involves getting repeatedly punched while trying to simultaneously skate on ice and fling a piece of super-hard frozen plastic 100mph into a tiny net using a bent wooden stick.

We should probably cut Wayne some slack though. Think of all those hard classes all you teachers had to take before you were allowed to teach American children anything. If you don’t know how to teach without years of someone teaching you how to teach, how do you expect Gretzky to teach goal scoring in only one sentence? He’s a hockey player, not a highly trained teacher, or a wuss.

PS: I propose this be retitled “missed shots,” or “misquoted shots,” or “missed shots at quotes,” or “100% missed quote,” or something since this post isn’t really about “ambiguity.” I like 100% missed quote, and I don’t mind saying so.

Patrick • 03/01/04 8:55 AM:

I just came across another version of the Wayne Gretzky quote: “One hundred percent of the shots you don’t take don’t go in.” This comes from a cool site for a guy who is skiing solo, without resupplies, from Russia to Canada via the North Pole.

This quote is better than the other version (though it still has some flaws). So I set about trying to find out what Wayne Gretzky really said. Here is what Google had to say (realizing that it only searches for the first ten words):

“you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” 1,880 results, with this very entry #4 on the results list (!).

“you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take” 190 results.

“you miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take” 15 results.

“100% of the shots you don’t take don’t go in” 148 results (including many that place a comma between “take” and the second “don’t,” which drives me nuts.

“100 percent of the shots you don’t take don’t go in” 20 results.

“one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take don’t go in” 197 results.

That’s not really enough to be conclusive for me. Certainly there are more people posting the “You miss” version, but does that mean they’re right? Maybe Wayne said it both ways. Mark Twain often published varying versions of his witticisms. If Wayne only said one of them, I’d lean toward the “don’t go in” version, because I could see people messing it up and getting to “You miss,” but I think it’d be hard to mess up “You miss” and get to “don’t go in.” That’s because I think “don’t go in” is a more sophisticated thought, and entropy wastes energy and breaks things down. And since people are a generally stupid lot, I’d expect them to latch on and post 1,880 times the dumber version of any two paired quotes. Wouldn’t you?

Patrick • 07/08/04 4:57 PM:

I can’t quite remember the exact context, but just the other day I was talking to somebody and I said “am-BIG-wit-tee.” I decided not to explain our whole mispronounciation thing, opting instead to quickly “correct” myself.

Hey, and nobody commented that our own entry was #4 in the Google results for the Gretzky (mis)quote. We’re nowhere to be found now, though, and the number of people misquoting has halved (apparently).

Dad • 07/08/04 7:00 PM:

Also, nobody commented that your six (6) versions of the quote amount to only 2 versions, given the fact that 100% and 100 percent can’t be distinguished orally.

And what’s with this mispronunciation of the mispronounced word “ambiguity”? If you’re going to mispronounce the word in the fashion of the mispronounciation game, you should say, “am-BIG-you-it-tee.” If you’re going to be wrong, get it right!

Patrick • 07/09/04 2:18 PM:

I disagree (of course). The goal of mispronounciation is not to expand into every possible syllable. It is to mangle the pronunciation as much as possible. Your version of ambiguity only shifts the stress. Otherwise, it’s the same word.

And thank you for your comment that no one had commented on the six versions (which were necessary for Google). So now, with your comment, has someone commented?

Dad • 07/09/04 4:32 PM:

No, Patrick, my version of ambiguity is not the same as yours. You ignored the “u”, unless it was “understood” to be a part of the front end of the “w” sound.

As far as the definition of the game, I’ll wait for Dan to weigh in. I think he is basically the inventor of the game and so, should have the biggest say in how it’s played.

I have purposely ignored your last comment.

Patrick • 07/10/04 1:33 AM:

No, Dad, I meant (and it’s obvious from my sentence) that your version of “ambiguity” was the same as the real way it’s supposed to be pronounced. It’s not the same as mine, because mine is good and yours is bad. Yes, the u is subsumed by the w sound (like “quite”). That heightens the manglement. Should we pronounce “Madden” “mad-d-en” just because there are two ds available?

Dad • 07/10/04 10:05 AM:

I suppose next you are going to suggest we just spell out the words and call that mispronunciation. What does your Ph.D. stand for, “phonetically dyslectic”?

Patrick • 07/10/04 12:08 PM:

Yeah, that’s mispronounciation: making up new meanings for abbreviations, including new words (dyslectic) that sound like words we know from the dictionary (dyslexic). Go ahead and keep your “misunabbreviation” game, Dad.

Dad • 07/10/04 8:55 PM:

Shows how much you know. As this dictionary shows, I have merely used a variant of the word you purport to be familiar with. Besides, just because I can’t spell doesn’t mean I’m lying!

Patrick • 07/11/04 1:41 AM:

I suppose you’re one of those people who spells judgment j-u-d-g-e-m-e-n-t too, just because the ignorant masses have misspelled it enough to force their “variant” into the dictionary. And I bet you say presently to describe what you’re doing right now not what you will soon be doing.

To lighten up a little: you may be on to something (me too, with my name for it) with “misunabbreviation.”

Dad • 07/11/04 9:59 AM:

First you tell me to “keep” my game and now you want in on it. You’re like those people who follow the latest fad just because it’s popular.

Regarding word variants, I don’t think you’re treating words very nicely by etherizing them and storing them in a specimen jar.

Dan • 07/13/04 4:52 PM:

This unexpected (and utterly hilarious, laugh out loud great) string of comments got me thinking about putting a section on this site to highlight comments and posts, sort of a “best of” section or something. You know, so we don’t totally forget about this thread forever. Thoughts? Ideas?

Patrick • 07/14/04 12:50 AM:

Popular really just means “of the people,” but I suppose, Dad, that you think it’s better to hole up in a remote cabin in the Northwoods than to consort with other members of your own species. Then, you can start sending mail bombs to express your disdain. But you know what? You can never escape yourself!

Dad • 07/20/04 9:31 PM:

You besmirch the good name of your own grandfather, God rest his soul, who was born in the North woods. Try as you might, you can never escape your own heritage. You are more than ungrateful, you are persona non grata.

Dad • 06/12/05 2:57 PM:

I was just reviewing these comments and would like to suggest a resolution to the mispronounciation question. It would be acceptable to me if Patrick would consult his cow-orkers about it and let us know what they think.

Patrick • 03/30/07 11:59 PM:

I don’t know what you mean, Dad, but I just had a fun time rereading these comments, and I want to add one or two, so this entry can beat out Dan’s NYSP Journal thing, which we never should have let him do in the first place. So what do you mean?

Dad • 03/31/07 11:12 PM:

Basically, what I meant was corn on the cob is sure great, isn’t it?

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