“I don’t Twitter, I don’t MyFace, I don’t YearBook.” — Bill Belichick, Coach of the New England Patriots

twitter-logo-125There are two kinds of people in this world: people who love Twitter and people who love to hate Twitter; there seems to be very little room in between.

Unlike the coach of my favorite NFL team, I fall into the first category; although at first I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. Being confused and uncertain is a common experience among first time Twitter users.

I first signed up for Twitter six years ago — on November 19, 2008 — in the computer lab of the DeVry University in Bakersfield, California (where I had been teaching classes earlier that day). I quickly found it suited my stream of consciousness style of thinking and need for newly acquired knowledge.

I have since found Twitter to be a transformational and transactional social media tool. I’ve used it to network personally and professionally, curate content for courses I’ve created and/or taught, and even credit Twitter for helping me get a teaching position with UCLA Extension.

Since first tackling Twitter I have expanded to the four accounts below, though at this point I primarily use @MatthewAGilbert.

My most unique Twitter experience involved Matthew Gilbert — not me, but the the TV critic for the Boston Globe. One day while teaching a class at UC Santa Barbara I received an email from him. He asked that since I had control over, but was not using @MatthewGilbert, would I be so kind as to let him use it.

I actually knew of him and over time had been confused for him. One particularly entertaining moment of confused identity was when I was recording my appearance on the short-lived CBS game show “Winning Lines.”

The producers were running scared because, since I was born in Boston and we had the same name, they assumed I was the “other” Matthew Gilbert and that I had somehow infiltrated the show to “scoop” it before it aired!

In any case, I only briefly thought about his request and then decided to let him use the Twitter account; how could I deny my namesake? Besides, in an effort to personally brand myself, I always use my middle initial — A — because there are quite a large number of “other other” Matthew Gilbert’s!

In response he posted a very cordial tweet (from the new account). From time to time we tweet each other and, more recently, he acquired the domain www.matthewgilbert.com from me top promote his new book: Off the Leash.

@matthewgilbert_shoutout_to_@matthewagilbert_20110712

So, in six short years on Twitter I not only found my way to new professional and personal opportunities, but I found myself (well, sort of). Thank you for a superb six years, Twitter — I look forward to the next six with enthusiasm and excitement!

“Beware the Ides of March!”

This was a soothsayer’s warning to Julius Caesar before his assassination by members of the Roman Senate on March 15, 44 B.C. Although the term “Ides” merely refers to the date of the event – not what happened – it is a reminder of the dark side of humanity and a significant date in history.

Ironically, two days later on March 17, people joyfully celebrate the death of St. Patrick – the Patron Saint of Ireland. A few days after that, on the 20th, the world welcomes the birth of spring with the vernal equinox. And, for college basketball fans, this is the month of March Madness!

Come on, feel the noise!

The juxtaposition of these different events suggests a balance of positive and negative energy. Intriguingly, the month of March seems to encapsulate the cycle of life: birth, life, and death. Notably, the first domain name, symbolics.com, was born (registered) on March 15 in 1985 — and given my involvement with the Internet, this is especially interesting.

On a more directly personal level, March has always held a unique place in my life; consider the following:

One of my most meaningful March memories was that day in March when I finished my last college final. After finishing the test, I gathered in the hall with a classmate for whom the exam was also her last. We improvised a celebration with a small bottle of champagne she mysteriously had with her and an over-sized brownie I had purchased before the final. We talked, laughed, and wondered what opportunities and obstacles our futures held.

Looking back on that moment within the context of the themes discussed in this post, I realize that while you can’t always expect to succeed in life, if you work diligently towards a clearly defined goal, you are more likely to make progress.

Of course, the great paradox of life is that, the achievements for which we are entitled to claim responsibility are rarely those to which we had originally committed ourselves. Nevertheless, you need to remain open to whatever opportunities the universe avails you of. Without question, you never know where something could lead. So take a leap of faith on occasion and reach for the stars.

Isn’t it better to have tried and failed – knowing you made an attempt – than to regret never having tried and not knowing what might have happened?

When you first hear the phrases “Miami Heat” and “Oklahoma City Thunder” do you think someone is talking about the weather?

nba-finals-logo

If you do, you would be wrong. As right as that might sound, you would be wrong: On Tuesday, June 12, 2012 the NBA Finals will feature the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder (formerly the Seattle SuperSonics) vying for the title.

Full Disclosure: I am a Boston Celtics fan so, since the Heat beat them to advance to the Finals, I am rooting for the Thunder (my enemy’s enemy is my friend). Coincidentally, last year I was also rooting against the Heat and for the Dallas Mavericks (due to my virtual acquaintanceship with Brian Cuban, brother of the team’s owner, Mark Cuban). Maybe I am just not a fan of “heat” in general?

Allegiances aside, as a teacher and writer the aspect to this match-up I find most fascinating is both team names are what is called a “collective noun.”

According to Grammar Girl, collective nouns — of which there are approximately 200 that take a singular or a plural verb — are “nouns that describe a group, such as ‘family,’ ‘orchestra,’ and ‘board.'” Another source further explains “collective nouns, a special class, name groups [things] composed of members [usually people].” Interestingly, Americans generally treat them as single units (e.g. “the faculty is meeting today”), but in England, they are considered plural (e.g. “Cambridge are winning the boat race.”).

According to another source: “the names of sports teams, on the other hand, are treated as plurals, regardless of the form of that name.” Therefore, you would write “the Boston Red Sox are the best baseball team in the world” and not “the Boston Red Sox is the best baseball team in the world” (another disclosure: I am a Red Sox fan). Likewise, when you refer to a team by the city in which it is located, you use the singular form of the noun (e.g. “New York is attempting to sign two assistant coaches Boston hopes to keep.”

Is there are a finite number of traditional plural nouns after which you can name a team? There seems to be a growing trend towards sports teams using names that are collective nouns. Teams from various U.S. professional sports leagues — Arena Football League (AFL), Major League Soccer (MLS), National Basketball Association (NBA), National Hockey League (NHL), Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) — and a few noteworthy college teams whose names are collective nouns include:

  • Atlanta Dream (WNBA)
  • Chicago Fire (MLS)
  • Chicago Rush (AFL)
  • Chicago Sky (WNBA)
  • Colorado Avalanche (NHL)
  • Columbus Crew (MLS)
  • Connecticut Sun (WNBA)
  • D.C. United (MLS)
  • Georgia Force (AFL)
  • Harvard Crimson
  • Houston Dynamo (MLS)
  • Indiana Fever (WNBA)
  • Kansas City Command (AFL)
  • Miami Heat (NBA)
  • Minnesota Wild (NHL)
  • Montreal Impact (MLS)
  • New England Revolution (MLS)
  • New Orleans VooDoo (AFL)
  • New York Liberty (WNBA)
  • Oklahoma City Thunder (NBA)
  • Orlando Magic (NBA)
  • Philadelphia Soul (AFL)
  • Phoenix Mercury (WNBA)
  • Pittsburg Power (AFL)
  • Seattle Storm (WNBA)
  • Spokane Shock (AFL)
  • Stanford Cardinal
  • Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL)
  • Tampa Bay Storm (AFL)
  • Tulsa Shock (WNBA)
  • Utah Blaze (AFL)
  • Utah Jazz (NBA)

I am not a grammar expert, despite my having earned a BA in English from UC Santa Barbara. However, having been writing since as far back as I can remember, I have a feel for “good” grammar. And, while collective nouns might be perfectly proper, they always sound awkward to me as team names.

From a branding perspective, these types of team names sound odd. I believe a team name simply sounds better as a standard plural noun. Maybe I am “old school” but then again, if you look at the preponderance of team names that are collective nouns they are frequently newer organizationserhaps.

Maybe I am the only one — or one of very few — who noticed this trend towards collective nouns in team names, but it nevertheless strikes me as something about which a discussion is at least relevant.

Speaking of Grammar: regardless of whether or not you are not a fan of either team in this year’s NBA Finals, consider watching the 2000 movie Company Man. According to Wikipedia, the plot of the film is as follows:

In the 1960s, Alan Quimp is a school teacher of English grammar and married with the very demanding woman Daisy Quimp. In order to avoid the constant mockery in Daisy’s family, Alan says that he is a secret CIA agent. Daisy tells everybody, the CIA acknowledges the lie, but due to a coincidence, Alan has just helped and hidden the professional Russian dancer Petrov who wanted to leave Russia. The CIA decides to hire Alan as an agent, to get the credits of bringing Petrov to USA, and immediately decides to send him to a very calm place, Cuba.

A humorous, grammar-laden scene from the film follows — enjoy:

So, in regards to (with regard to?) the information above, who (whom?) do you want to win the 2012 NBA Finals?