This past August, the Cleveland Browns unveiled their newly renovated training facility to the local press. The four-month, $5 million project to transform the Browns' home into a mid-grade, mid-2000s, middle-management expo featured, among other things, a series of inspirational quotations on the walls. Almost all of them are misattributed, incorrectly transcribed, or indeterminately fraudulent.
A Browns ticket-holder tipped us off to one of the misattributed quotes yesterday. Throughout the day, he sent a few more, and we were amused enough to track down any others we could find in photos. It turns out, the Browns are quite proud of these installations. Here's a video of Browns CEO Joe Banner leading the local media on a tour around the facility. At one point, he stops to discuss a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson*.
The messages up here have a theme similar to this. ... When we talk internally, we talk a lot about, "Let's not worry about who's getting credit, let's get it right, and that's going to bring us where we want to be."
This is meant to be the banner flying over Banner, new GM Mike Lombardi, and the entire Cleveland Browns renaissance they're trying to raise. Don't half-ass things; take your time and get it right; it doesn't matter who gets the credit. The decorators at the Cleveland facility took at least part of this message to heart.
Here are all the quotes we could find reference to in photos or videos.
It's entirely possible that giving this one to Ralph Waldo Emerson was an instance of the Browns fact checking. A version of this quote has been attributed to John Wooden, Harry Truman, and was definitely used by Ronald Reagan, but the earliest known version was from Charles Edward Montague, in 1922. "There is no limit to what a man can do so long as he does not care a straw who gets the credit for it." Disenchantment, ch. 15
Thomas Jefferson never said this. The passage is originally from a 1947 passage that appeared in Reader's Digest, by F.L. Emerson. It seems to have been attributed to Thomas Jefferson in the 1980s. The original phrasing was, "I'm a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more of it I seem to have."
The official Mother Teresa website lists this quote among things that the Nobel Laureate definitely did not say or write, and which are "not her authentic words."
"The more I practice, the luckier I get," attributed here to Gary Player, was actually attributed to another golfer, Jerry Barber, in a book about Gary Player. The quote shows up in this form as early as 1961, as an idea in 1949, and as a sort-of related knowledge-to-luck version dating back to 1896.
President Abraham Lincoln never said this. It has been used by Joe Biden to similar effect, though.
Thomas Paine did say something resembling this, but the above has been bastardized considerably. The actual quote is, "I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection."
If you can't read it, the quote above says, "I get my information from looking, not from talking," attributed to Red Auerbach. New Browns GM Mike Lombardi is the only readily accessible source for this quote. Except, he's gone through several versions of the same quote. In 2008, he used it in Sports Illustrated as, "I get my information from my eyes, not my ears." That same year, he cited it on his own site as, "I get my information from looking, not hearing." And in 2011, it was "I get my information from looking, not talking," for NFL.com. Lombardi attributed the quote to Auerbach each time, but none of the above fit quite so snugly on an NFL film room's wall.
This quote is word-for-word exact, with the stipulation that it is prefaced as an explicit paraphrase by Colin Powell of Michael Korda, former editor-in-chief of Simon & Schuster.
Apocryphal. We were unable to determine the specific origin of this quote. It begins appearing in print around 2000, but Mandela supposedly said this some time in 1994.
Close! The actual quote, from Dahl's Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, is, "A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men." But you kind of lose points for messing up on a novel printed in English just a few decades ago.
We did find a few that are accurate. The Browns got this John Wooden quote word-for-word correct, from his 1988 book, They Call Me Coach.
Update: Barry Popik writes that it's likely that Wooden was simply quoting an existing saying, as it shows up in the decades before it was used in his book.
Frederick Douglass said this in an 1857 speech at Canandaigua, New York, "West India Emancipation".
"I learned that if you want to make it bad enough, no matter how bad it is, you can make it." – This is accurately quoted from Gale Sayers's book, I Am Third.
The full quote here is, "In every battle there comes a time when both sides consider themselves beaten, then he who continues the attack wins," and it appears to be correctly attributed to Ulysses S. Grant. It appeared in a 1947 biography of General George Patton, and appears as early as 1918 attributed to Grant.
The final tally is four correct quotes, nine incorrect, and one of questionable origin, for a winning percentage of .286, which would put the Browns hallways in fourth place in the AFC North, one game back of the Browns.