Vail Daily column: Yogi Berra and the law
Early last week Yogi Berra died. The world and my legal columns will be the worse for it.
Yogi Berra and the law? Was the Yankee Quipper, unbeknownst to most, a legal scholar?
Well, not exactly. But if you look back at the 1,200 or so columns I’ve penned in these pages during the past two decades, Yogi Berra and his font of wisdom certainly comes up. In fact, I’d venture to say I’ve likely quoted Yogi more than any other being. Because, well, Yogi was just Yogi. Not only could he turn a play on the baseball diamond, but man, could Yogi turn a phrase.
Here’s a sample.
In my column on “Coming to Terms with Legal Terms,” I noted “As Yogi Berra might have said, ‘It’s only when you think about things that stuff occurs to you.’”
In my column “Civility and the Law,” I noted, “As Yogi Berra famously observed, ‘You can observe a lot just by watching.’ With apologies to Yogi, so can you hear a lot by listening.”
When discussing the convoluted concept of Appeal, Remand, Reconsideration, Retrial and Trial de novo, I once again borrowed a Yogi-ism, noting that when one suffers a loss at trial, “as Yogi Berra might more succinctly say, ‘It ain’t over till the fat lady sings.’”
Even when I celebrated my 1,000th column, Yogi found his way into it. Then, I said, “There have been celebrities covered in the columns to be sure. The presidents (Clinton through Obama), presidential wannabes (Gore, McCain, Palin and others), the aforementioned Mr. (Kobe) Bryant, the late-great Byron Whizzer White, the off-kilter Charlie Sheen, Dr. Seuss, Yogi Berra and Mark Twain, to name a few.”
As you can see, I look for wisdom where I can find it. And wisdom aplenty flowed from the lips of Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra.
On the topic of plagiarism, once more Yogi popped up like a whack-a-mole. There I said, “As those of you who read this column know, I steal like a bandit. While my favorites tend toward the folk wisdom of Ben Franklin, Yogi Berra and Mark Twain, I have inked these columns with words and wisdom ranging from Sun-Tzu to Kierkegaard to Byron Whizzer White.”
In fact, Yogi Berra has shown up far and wide in columns ranging from 1031 property exchanges to affirmative defenses to the expectation of privacy to criminal insanity and dozens more.
As far as I know, the 10-time World Series champion didn’t know a thing about law. But, boy, did he know people. I am not the first to note that, at its essence, what law is is stories about people and their lives, stories about society and social values, and stories about how people fit — or not — into the social milieu. Law is the rules of play in civilized society. Law is the lion-tamer of competing interests and desires. Law is the balancer and leveler.
While Yogi may not have known a res ipsa loquitur from an ipse dixit, or where to plug a prayer into a complaint, he sure knew how to field a curve ball, whether on the baseball diamond or in life. And he owned a skill that any lawyer could envy: the ability to put a complex problem into simple, digestible and usually amusing terms.
As Yogi himself might have said, “Some men see things as they are and wonder why. I see things that never were and ask why not at least make them funny?”
Number 8, gonna miss ya, man.
Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley with the law firm of Stevens, Littman, Biddision, Tharp and Weinberg LLC. His practice areas include business and commercial transactions, real estate and development, family law, custody, divorce and civil litigation. Robbins may be reached at 970-926-4461 or at either of his email addresses, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.