As a writer, “professionally” so for about 10 years now, I’m always fascinated by how the language is used in some places. I’m always on the look for words bent into adjectives or trying to find better verbs and whatever else (and the fact that I usually resort to “whatever else” means I’m not all that good at this). On the flip side of the coin, watching sports programming most of the time means I’m seeing the language get butchered. The problem usually lies in that those doing a lot of the talking are former athletes which probably means A) they stopped going to school for any real purpose somewhere around 7th grade and B) have been repeatedly hit in the head, knocking loose whatever education they did get.
But they’re not always the culprit. So here are the things that bother me the most when watching broadcasts:
“Unbelievable”: Let’s set a standard. Here is a play that can accurately be described as “unbelievable.”
This is “unbelievable” because I’ve never seen anyone do anything like this before, and it’s highly likely that you might not see it again. There might be only three people on the planet who’d even think of it and attempt it. The accomplishment is rare. Hell, Erik Karlsson, the best d-man on the planet, has only done this once.
So that said, Patrick Kane threading a pass over to Artemi Panarin to score is not “unbelievable.” Vladimir Tarasenko blistering a wrister over the shoulder of a goal top-shelf is not “unbelievable.” PK Subban blasting one home from the blue-line is not “unbelievable.” These things happen on the reg. 10-30 times per year, in fact. They are quite believable. The best players in the world performing the sport at a high level is not “unbelievable.” Sure, maybe it’s unbelievable to the skills we have and the multiple pulled muscles we’d have attempting it. It would be unbelievable if the guy in your beer league did any of these things, because those standards don’t line up.
And yet ten times a game, and usually in football and hockey, some play will be described as “unbelievable.” No, they’re just really impressive. There’s a word you can use. “Impressive.” “Spectacular.” “Striking.” “Splendid” (oh please let Olczyk use “splendid”). These are other words that will actually convey what you mean.
But don’t worry, soon enough we’ll have Pierre McGuire describing three plays per period, minimum, as “unbelievable.” And it won’t be. It’ll just be some player doing what he does every single game, which makes it totally “believable.”
“Wow”: This is more of a problem in football, but no analyst should be saying “wow!” after normal calls from the refs or a six-yard gain. This is kind of in the same family as “unbelievable.” Really, if you’re an analyst on a professional sport you should have seen just about everything before. While great plays should still excite, they don’t need a “wow.” Let’s save this for genuinely surprising happenings, can we?
Added Words: It’s almost always “situations” too. Sometimes “opportunities.” “Offensive situations.” “Power play opportunities.” No, it’s just “offense.” It’s just a fucking “power play.” It’s not a “football play.” It’s a “play.” Stop trying to sound smarter by adding words, because you sound dumber.
“Differential”: It’s almost always “difference.” Please adapt accordingly.
“Talk about”: This usually comes from your sideline reporters, a position that I’m fairly sure has always been useless and always will be. Look, these guys can’t talk. So asking them to walk you through something is just asking for awkwardness. Secondly, it’s not a question. Give these people a clear question and you’re more likely to get a clear answer. Don’t request anyone “talk about.” This is like journalism 101, and I remember that even though I’m fairly sure I was drunk for every Journalism 101 class (I actually took it as a senior when I was of age because of weird Emerson shit, and hence I was in there with the dumbest collection of freshmen they could apparently find. It got so bad and I was so ahead of everyone the professor just let me only show up for tests for like the last third of the semester).
“I had a chance to talk to”: You get this on Comcast all the fucking time. Mostly from Kelly Crull or whoever does it for the Sox. Well no shit, you work for the station they partly own. Of course you had a chance, because they have to make their players available to you. Also, it’s your job? It’s not like you were granted access into Camelot or something that no other got. You just “talked” to them. Because it’s what you do. You talk to people. You ask them stuff. They basically tell yo nothing.
Ok, that’s enough for now.