Words and Sports
If you’ve been around here a few times, you know that I am a sports fan, often a passionate one when it comes to my teams. Sometimes I step back from myself (not an easy feat) and am a little embarrassed about just how a victory can make my day … or a defeat can ruin it. I am, some report, an intelligent man and they are, after all, only games. My favorite sports are basketball and football, a domain in which I have definite favorites (USC Trojans. Lakers. UConn Huskies), but when the playoffs roll around, I’ve been known to imbibe a bit of hockey or baseball. I am also a soccer fan and for the last two weeks I have been overdosing on World Cup soccer. The games have, for the most part, been excellent (except for that Germany-Brazil debacle) and I can tell you, after watching the Brasilian soccer fans, I am no longer embarrassed, even slightly, by my own fandom.
I am also a fan of words …. words strung together in unusual ways and sentences that paint pictures in my mind. Because I’m fond of less common synonyms and, in particular, monosyllabic synonyms, I’ve been called pedantic on occasion. Isn’t it interesting that saying you are pedantic is, to some degree, pedantic? I occasionally use cliches to make a point but I’d much rather hear a novel way to say the same old thing. The intersection of my love of words and my love of sports is quite small, which is a pedantic way of saying that my love of words is rarely satisfied while fulfilling my love of sports. Oh, there are a few announcers who can paint a lovely word picture … the Dodger’s Vin Scully comes to mind … but most survive on a diet of cliches, stats and plain talk. And most sports talk figures seem to strive to sound like one of the boys … where the boys are adolescent and in the locker room. Frequently when a sports talk guy uses what their colleagues refer to as a big word, he gets razzed … after they look it up on the internet.
Then there’s Jon Champion, ESPN’s very British announcer for the World Cup. After hearing a few of Champion’s wonderful game descriptions, I began to jot them down on my tablet. During one play, when a forward fell to the ground seeking a foul after hardly being touched, Champion intoned, It was a tumble not quite commensurate with the amount of contact (translation for those of you used to sports talk … He flopped). A few plays later when a defender took down the same forward, Champion said, The referee takes a lenient view of the defender’s actions (The ref missed the call). Here are a few more:
- The cards are expunged from the record after the semifinal
- Headed away without conviction by the defender
- The coach has to give a talk to his team in arrears for the first time
- The stadium is as quiet as a library
- Still, obstinately, stubbornly, the score remains nil-nil
As a devout USC football fan, I love Pete Arbogast, the Trojan football announcer. But just once after a big victory … say a thrashing of UCLA … I’d like to hear him forego his trademark How do you do? for Beautiful, elegant, adventurous football. That was how Champion described the German side after their dispatch of Portugal in the qualifying rounds. Or maybe after a shot of the UCLA fans after the game, Pete could say, For them, the game ended in agony and acrimony, as Champion described the crowd after Brasil was slaughtered by Germany. No? Not gonna happen (he said reverting to sportstalkese)? OK, I’ll settle for the victory and How do you do? It’s Trojan town again.