August 22, 2011
I grew up across the street from a church with one of those small marquees in front that it frequently updated with new inspirational messages. Not long after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a new message appeared that consumed me for weeks: "WEAPON OF MASS DESTRUCTION: PRAYER." What on earth did it mean? And what, exactly, was it supposed to inspire in its target audience? Or in anyone?
Today, I feel much the same way about the new inspirational message in Tennessee's locker room:
Bitter cynic that I am, I naturally assumed coach Derek Dooley had progressed from Shakespeare to Kafka, and interpreted the message as "Opportunity is Nowhere." (I'm not the only one.) When I looked it up, though, the phrase revealed itself to be one of the genre of cheap wordplay trick favored by motivational speakers to illuminate and defeat self-defeating assumptions: Read from a more optimistic point of view (and with a liberal grasp of standard spacing rules in written English), the message is "Opportunity is Now Here."
See? Get it? Alriiiight. Okay, now let's rip some heads off!
I suppose the message is ultimately meant to contrast the youthful potential of the upcoming season with the chaos of 2010, which obviously never offered the slightest hope for anything but disaster. Because even if you're shooting for boundless optimism, it's important to be honest about these things.