Ken Pollitz: Taking a shot in the dark

By Ken Pollitz - Guest Column

With all due respect to the Merriam brothers and their noteworthy colleague and predecessor, Noah Webster, I recognize this foresight on my part could be construed as a cheap shot as it might short-circuit their much-anticipated decision. Why should we have to wait for the stroke of midnight in the year 2022 to find out?

I will concede, though I have made multiple trips to the Oxford located in Butler County, Ohio – having had a set of twins attend the university there – I’ve only been to jolly-old England once, and never once saw that Oxford’s university or, for that matter, any printing presses.

Routinely, these pre-eminent logophiles and others will make their annual calculations and determine what is known as “The Word of the Year.”

Any computer algorithms or metrics employed in this process are way beyond my pay grade. There are those who might suggest I have plenty of artificial intelligence and by that imply anything going on between my ears is mostly contrived or imagined.

With some scraps of paper constituting what could be described as a handful of data, I figured I’d get the ball rolling and, plead my case to give “shot” a shot at the title.

You’ll be pleased to know this is no vain attempt to align myself with the ancient mystics endowed with the inspired gift of prophecies. I simply thought I might save those most-literate dictionary publishers some trouble and fuss by predicting the outcome in advance.

Coming from me, some might consider it a long shot, but it’s not nearly as lengthy as the unforgettable one put up by Jalen Suggs to propel the undefeated Gonzaga Bulldogs into the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship game a week ago. Sadly, even this dramatic buzzer-beater was insufficient to enable them to garner the title as the Bears from Baylor had other plans. His half-court bank-shot to win the semifinal game may not have been the “shot heard round the world,” but it certainly reverberated loudly in Spokane, Washington.

That game-winner gave the Bulldogs a shot at a rare undefeated season, but the Bears had other plans and gave them what must have felt like a shot to the stomach. Still, Suggs’s longshot was one for the ages!

At the complete opposite end of the spectrum, painfully tragic and totally irresponsible, there was another shot that took place near a more local university campus. In fact, as it appears, it was a sequence of too many shots that agonizingly contributed to the death of a youthful college student, the alleged result of a fraternity’s hazing ritual. There’s no need to calculate the number of shots in a fifth, but we all ought to pray these organizations take calculated steps to remove anything having to do with “shot” from their Greek vocabulary!

These may not be nearly as close to home, but who cannot be appalled by the indiscriminate shots that have been fired in recent weeks from coast to coast in this country. Somberly, no day can go by, it seems, where someone isn’t shot and killed, but these past weeks have evidenced a disheartening concentration. We live with the disheartening reality of high numbers of shooting deaths even in the unlikeliest of places.

As empty shells pile up, too many dinner tables are left with empty seats. Shots, the result of recent deadly shootings, have rung out from Atlanta, Georgia, to Orange, California, and from Boulder, Colorado, to Virginia Beach, Virginia. Finding a reasonable solution may be a long shot rather than some chip shot, but we’d all agree, all prefer to avoid ever getting shot!

Thanks to Operation Warp Speed and the rollout of the trifecta of Covid-19 vaccine options, much of the population is currently fluent in “shot-speak!” Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson flow off our lips as swiftly and easily as a shot goes into our shoulder.

These days, virtually every conversation inevitably evolves into talking about everything related to “the shots,” or for those “J&J” folks, the shot!

In the way-way back, I broke a scoring record or two, but my basketball game in college never qualified me as a “one and done!” Similarly, when I tried to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccination, I was, yes you know where this is going, shot down! Halfway home now, I’ll soon be a thoroughly “Moderna Man” by next Wednesday. Some Johnson & Johnson recipients may think they’re big shots because of it, but those hot shots need to chill out!

As more are vaccinated, who knows, a day may arrive where we can mostly say we “shot the lights out” on this pandemic!

Hopefully you’ll agree I gave this preemptive “Word of the Year” offering my best shot.

Given the polarizing, fatigue-filled, and protocol-inflicted year of the pandemic, who doesn’t need something to lift our spirits, even though, as a result of the shot, we can’t always lift our shoulder!

Simply put, we could all use a good “shot in the arm!” While I surely don’t call the shots, I found assistance in getting mine by making a call to a local pharmacy.

So, how’s that for a parting shot?

By Ken Pollitz

Guest Column

Ken Pollitz moved to Ottawa in 1991 as mission-developer/pastor of New Creation Lutheran Church. His biweekly column provides insights and viewpoints from Putnam County. Contact him at

Ken Pollitz moved to Ottawa in 1991 as mission-developer/pastor of New Creation Lutheran Church. His biweekly column provides insights and viewpoints from Putnam County. Contact him at

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