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Geoffrey Dunn

Geoffrey Dunn

Posted: December 12, 2009 08:55 PM

Sarah Palin, John Wooden, Art Linkletter and John Wooden Legs

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I don't believe in quitting.
-- John Wooden

Last night, I attended a high school basketball game with a group of elementary school boys -- a great game in which the Santa Cruz High Cardinals won with only a few seconds on the clock. It's still the best ticket in town.

At the game, several people joked about a story I had uncovered a few weeks ago on the Huffington Post in which I noted that Sarah Palin had attributed a quote in Going Rogue to UCLA basketball legend John Wooden -- one that had actually been made by Native American activist John Wooden Legs. It made for a good laugh and lots of chuckles on Olbermann and late night television.

When I got home, I recalled another quote that Palin had attributed to Wooden in her book, in a passage that chronicled her being dumped in 2002 by then Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski as a potential replacement for the U.S. Senate seat he vacated.

So I wondered about that one. I Googled the quote:

I told Todd, "Coach Wooden said, 'Things work out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.'"

Sure enough I found the quote attributed to Art Linkletter -- and it was cited in a book called Why Winners Win by Art Garner.

It's attributed to Linkletter in several other instances on the internet, but also to Wooden, including the website on which I had seen the John Wooden Legs attribution.

So I posted a HuffPo blog last night entitled "Deja Vu All Over Again," noting the discrepancy, and woke up this morning to find an email from someone saying, "Hey, I have John Wooden's book They Call Me Coach, and the quote is in there."

Sure enough, on page 75 of Wooden's book, written with Jack Tobin, and which I have in hand, Wooden uses the quote as an unattributed epigram for Chapter 10 of his book. Whose quote is it? I have no idea and really have no dog in that fight. I'll leave it to the Linkletter and Wooden fans to duke it out.

My point wasn't really about who quotes whom properly, it was about all the shameful mistakes, lies and mis-attributions that appear in Going Rogue. The whole book is so slippery and sloppy that it's an insult to everything John Wooden stood and stands for -- discipline, truth and integrity. Palin's attribution of a quote by John Wooden Legs as Wooden's was just plain shoddy and represented utter disrespect on her part for an American icon.

Nonetheless, I stand corrected. The original quote may or may not be John Wooden's, but it certainly appeared in a book under his name. And I thank the HuffPo reader who provided me with the information.

As is often the case, there was an added blessing to all this. I went and picked up a hard copy of the Wooden-Tobin book, and also another little jewel shared with me by a couple of friends, Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections on and Off the Court, written by Wooden and Steve Jamison. Once again, I strongly suggest that Palin and her writing team take the time to pick up the books and read them, rather than lifting quotes from not-so-reliable websites.

Here are a couple of little jewels from the latter book -- real quotes from the real John Wooden -- that the former Governor of Alaska might do well to heed:

• Nothing is stronger than gentleness. • Too often the big talkers are the little doers. • Promise to give so much time to improving yourself that you have no time to criticize others. • Discipline yourself and others won't need to.

And my final favorite:

• Time spent getting even would be better spent trying to get ahead.

That's a winning three-pointer at the buzzer.

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Award-winning writer and filmmaker Geoffrey Dunn's book The Lies of Sarah Palin: The Untold Story Behind Her Relentless Quest for Power will be released by St. Martin's Press in spring 2010. Thanks to Joel Domhoff for the assist.