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News » Who said Google knew it all?


Who said Google knew it all?


Who said Google knew it all?
READER REPRESENTATIVE


The staggering reach and speed of the Internet, and the almost limitless information to be found there, have fundamentally changed what we think we know. Unfortunately, that can sometimes mean that we don't really know as much as we think we do.

Consider, if you will, the following two small examples, drawn from a day last week when the World Wide Web caused a Football coach from Texas Tech and a revered Irish poet to occupy the same space in my head for a while:

The poet is William Butler Yeats, who penned many a memorable phrase, including the recently familiar opening line from his poem "Sailing to Byzantium": "This is no country for old men . . ."

Yeats also made this pithy observation about his heritage:

"Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy."

Or did he?

Lots of people are sure he did. You will find that quote, attributed to Yeats, on plaques and T-shirts, framed on the office walls of famous people, in newspaper articles and books. Do a Google search for the quote and "Yeats," and you will get 20,000 hits.

The one thing you won't get is any hint of where the quote originated - in which of Yeats' works or letters it first appeared.

I write a daily newsletter/critique for the newsroom, usually ending it with a quote that strikes me as insightful or amusing. A colleague passed along the "Yeats" quote for consideration, and out of curiosity I went looking for its origin.

First casually, and then with more vigor, I searched in vain, in books and on the Web. I asked several university professors, including one of the foremost Yeats scholars in the country. Some had heard of it; none had ever seen the original work. After a while I began to theorize that somebody must have said that ABOUT Yeats. Unfortunately, I can't prove that, either. If you can, I'd love to hear from you.

The point is this: You'll find 20,000 instances on the Internet of people who "know" Yeats wrote that. But all they really know is that there are 19,999 others who "know" the same thing.

The Internet is alive with quote search engines, which have enabled untold thousands of writers who have never read one word of anything Yeats wrote, to scan through pages of quotes, then sit at their computers and regurgitate solemnly, "As the poet W.B. Yeats so astutely observed, 'Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy . . .' "

The Texas Tech Football coach is an excitable fellow named Mike Leach. He got exercised last week after Plain Dealer Football writer Tony Grossi reported that one of Leach's players, wide receiver Michael Crabtree, had been less than impressive when he came to town to meet the Cleveland Browns' coaches prior to the recent NFL college draft.

Grossi wrote, on his cleveland.com blog and in a newspaper notes column, that a source said Crabtree had displayed a diva attitude that didn't impress Browns head coach Eric Mangini and others. The source said that as a result, Crabtree was off the list of players the Browns were considering for their first pick in the draft.

Keep in mind that Grossi didn't identify his source. I don't know who it was, either, but it almost certainly wasn't Mangini, who is so wary of sportswriters that he wouldn't confirm to them that tomorrow is Monday, let alone give them insight on what he might do with his prized first-round draft pick.

But the source's comments went viral on the Internet, and down there in Texas, Leach's temperature rose: "Michael Crabtree has been more successful as a receiver than that guy has as a coach. . . . Let's see how all those non-

divas do up in Cleveland this year," Leach fired back to a Sacramento Bee sportswriter. He added, "My definition of a diva is someone who's loud and self-

absorbed" - a description he said didn't fit his player.

Leach's definition doesn't square with Mr. Webster's (who says that a diva is a "leading woman opera singer"), but I'm not sure that would make Crabtree feel any better.

Ten years ago, or maybe just five, this would have been a minor, quickly forgotten item inside the Sports section. But in 2009, every sportswriter (and it seems like every sports fan) has a blog. A Google search for "Crabtree" and "diva" yields more than 150,000 hits.

These days, it ain't over when the Fat Lady - the diva - sings. Sometimes it's just beginning.

To reach Ted Diadiun: tdiadiun@plaind.com, 216-999-4408



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 5, 2009

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