Danny O'Neil covers the Seahawks for The Seattle Times.
April 28, 2008 12:19 AM
Posted by Danny O'Neil
The goal of a communicator should be to convey an idea in the fewest words possible. It's why adjectives are considered the fat of language and why words like "garner" are indisputably worse than something as straightforward as "earn." Fewer letters. Greater understanding. Isn't that the goal of language? To communicate an idea in the most direct fashion?
To that end, I ask why does quarterback get referred to as "the quarterback position?" This reference is made all the time, especially when the draft roles around. "The Falcons needed someone at the quarterback position." Couldn't we just say, "The Falcons need a quarterback." Three fewer words. So much simpler. What does adding the article "the" as a prefix and "position" as a suffix add? It happens nonstop.
The quarterback position as opposed to what? The quarterback concept? Is there anything other than a position that the term quarterback could refer to? I mean, a quarter back (two words) could be a refund, but a quarterback (alloneword) is a position by the very definition.
The same thing occurs constantly for NBA announcers, specifically when Hubie Brown refers to someone's ability to "score the basketball." Yes, it's possible to do all sorts of things with the basketball. You could pass the basketball. You could dribble the basketball. If you really wanted to, you could even deflate the basketball. But you could just say "score" and not have to add "the basketball" at all because in the game of basketball, you can't score with anything other than the basketball. Not even back when James Naismith was heaving spheres at a peachbasket. So you can just talk about,"LeBron's ability to score." There is absolutely no need to add "the basketball" to that statement. In fact, doing so only contributes to the obesity of language. [Ed. note: Danny O's rant has been updated, correcting a typographical error and inserting the omitted word "to," which is kind of funny, considering the imprecise language he used to criticize the imprecise language of others. "Hello pot? This is the kettle."]
And that concludes this week's episode of the grammatical curmudgeon here at the Seahawks Blog. Wait. That's unncessarily weighty words. I broke my own rule.
So let's just say I'm being overly uptight. And in the interest of being brief and straightforward, that concludes the Monday rant.
Posted by BGR
2:36 AM, Apr 28, 2008
First, announcers are pompous and self-important. The bloated language makes them appear more important, e.g., "the National Football League" instead of "the NFL."
Second, commentators are not hired for their speaking ability. They are hired because they are otherwise famous. Look at all the former players humiliating themselves on television. The ability to play a sport (or perform any activity) is not the equivalent of understanding or being able to explain it. The skills that most naturally flow from a person are the skills that are the most difficult to explain. The best coaches and commentators are often the marginal players who made careers only by planning and understanding every nuance of the game.
Third, human beings don't absorb written language and speech the same way. Words that hit the human hear don't penetrate the human brain very reliably. Precise, efficient language, when spoken, is difficult to comprehend.
Posted by Francesco
3:05 AM, Apr 28, 2008
Phrases like "score the basketball" and "the quarterback position" are the result of play-by-play announcers' apparent belief that every second of gameplay must be accompanied by their insightful verbiage. Like a good DJ, an analyst doesn't want to drop the beat before he comes up with his next thought.
While you rightly take Hubie Brown to task for his grammatical stylings, you forgot to mention John Madden, arguably the worst offender on the list. Madden not only lengthens his sentences with redundant phrases and stuttering, sometimes the very idea he's trying to communicate is either blatantly obvious ("Here's a guy who when he runs, he moves faster...") or reflexive ("Hey, the offensive linemen are the biggest guys on the field, they're bigger than everybody else, and that's what makes them the biggest guys on the field").
Posted by Scott
7:04 AM, Apr 28, 2008
The Grammatical Curmudgeon might need some help at the Editor position. Every year, the draft 'rolls' around. :)
Posted by The Observer
7:22 AM, Apr 28, 2008
Maybe there is a lesson to be learned here. Commentators should work to streamline their speech and football BLOG writers should focus on football analysis. This is the best article topic you could choose following the NFL DRAFT?
Posted by earlfrom tacoma
8:12 AM, Apr 28, 2008
My favorite: "Media Outlet"
Posted by name
8:32 AM, Apr 28, 2008
While we're at it, how about when a coach describes players as multiples of one guy. George Karl was great at it.
"When you're guarding guys like the Kobe's and the LeBron's, you expect..."
Blah blah blah.
Posted by Vibrant Verbiage
8:34 AM, Apr 28, 2008
Most indubitably, this newspaper-based electronic weblog-writing scribe has reacted in a most superciliously haughty fashion. Without a doubt.
Posted by lemonverbena
8:54 AM, Apr 28, 2008
Agreed for the most part. However, these poor bastards have to fill airtime for hours and hours during draft coverage over two days. I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt since that is a tough gig. And it's just sports, after all.
Posted by Pete
9:38 AM, Apr 28, 2008
I agree with Danny O'neil but wouldn't that create a lot of dead air space? If so, they can sell more commercials to fill that new air space which means more money for the TV broadcasters. Then the NFL teams can demand more TV money so that they can pay their players more millions. That works! Eh??
Posted by anonymous one
10:10 AM, Apr 28, 2008
I could take all of the rest of them if you could just get the baseball announcers to quit with the
"Grand Slam Home Run"
Posted by Anthony
10:25 AM, Apr 28, 2008
Danny, I have to say that not only is this not a big deal AT ALL, it's pretty weak that your biggest blog comment comes on something completely unrelated to the Seahawks.
As far as "announcer redundancy" as a writer you should perfectly understand the desire to not be repetitive with your language. Saying "the quarterback" over and over gets annoying to a lot of people especially those that are doing the talking or the writing. I'm a writer too, and I know that when I talk or write I like to mix things up, find new ways to say things. What the hell is the problem with that?! What, is it taking you too long to read two extra words?
I'm sorry, but it's a pretty weak pet peeve to have and I wish you'd stick to blogging about the Seahawks. You know, a blog can have opinion. All I see in this blog is quick reporting and about 3 sentences of it. How about giving your opinion every now and then? The point of a blog, as I come to understand it, is to share an opinion and thus generate a lively discussion. I could be wrong there, though...
or maybe I'm just using too many words for you
Posted by macdoubter
10:52 AM, Apr 28, 2008
That's alright Danny. Why so uptight? Is it from following the Mariners lately?
Posted by Ken
11:08 AM, Apr 28, 2008
Very funny...and to the point. I think it's simply a case of athletes who were never meant to cover sports trying to sound smarter than they actually are. While Howard Cossell was wordy, he was entertaining. His vocabulary was humerous. Athletes without on-air talent have to be creative by trying to sound smart.
Posted by bbaselice
11:12 AM, Apr 28, 2008
I like the rants Danny but I can't possibly pass up the possibility to bust your chops just a little bit.
If you are ranting about effective communication you better be sure that all of your's is in place.
I don't think ANYONE would "LeBron's ability score." I think in this case you might want to add that one EXTRA word and say" LeBron's ability TO score."
Posted by trippsixxes
11:47 AM, Apr 28, 2008
Give me a channel that eliminates the sports announcer and replaces them with on field microphones and the real sounds of the game and I'll give you fistfulls of money. As it stands, you can keep your Greg Gumbells and Billy Packers and guys with the talent of a guy like a Craig Ehlo at the announcer position.
Posted by tcha23
12:08 PM, Apr 28, 2008
Good rant, Danny.
So what if there's dead air space during a play. Sometimes, I just want to watch the play!
That's why I watch MNF on mute. I cannot STAND listening to Kornheiser blab on and on.
Posted by Randy Hilfman
12:08 PM, Apr 28, 2008
You echo my sentiments exactly, especially regarding the laughable "score the basketball."
Even more of an irritant to me: the pathetic, almost pathological use of the word "nice" to modify virtually everything. You would think announcers would get bored uttering the same word constantly, but apparently not!
Posted by free beer
12:14 PM, Apr 28, 2008
Most TV, radio people like to hear them self's talk, they think their really cool, found out personally don't ask them question....it's show time!
Dannys post a few days ago about useless sports news that isn't really news and now this, kind of thinking maybe Danny need a downer or sun shine!
Yes Dan, life is worth living.
Posted by Daven
2:16 PM, Apr 28, 2008
What more can we expect from anyone connected in any way with the NFL? It's a league that no longer particularly cares how much fun its fans have at any given game, but spends billions to ensure a homogenized and generally satisfactory league-wide 'game-day experience.'
Posted by Trufan
6:06 PM, Apr 28, 2008
In an effort to make the language even more direct and to the point, try not to confuse readers by using the word "inn" when you simply mean "in." :p
I'm surprised the Editor missed that one.
Posted by caliban
6:58 AM, Apr 29, 2008
Isn't The" quarterback "position" like "the" groin "area"?
Posted by dizzle
7:42 PM, Apr 29, 2008
I'm trying to imagine Danny being driven to the brink of insanity to the point where it would motivate him to make this post...
I don't think I heard the phrase "score the basketball" until a year or two ago. It's an odd phrase. I'd rather hear "score with the basketball," although even that is somewhat redundant because, as Danny says, there's really nothing else in basketball to score with.
One thing that ticks me off that shouldn't -- the great Vin Scully, when referring to pitch counts, will say "Player X made 96 pitches" as opposed to "Player X threw 96 pitches." I prefer the latter since I think making a pitch implies that you made a good pitch. That's just me.
Posted by Kent Shoemaker
10:29 PM, Apr 29, 2008
Posted by Grant
11:09 AM, Apr 30, 2008
Posted by Bailey the Dog
1:01 PM, Apr 30, 2008
The goal of a communicator is most certainly NOT to convey an idea in the shortest number of words possible. Maybe thta is the goal of a newspaper reporter, but I don't think reporters are communicators at all. Reporters are informers. Being a communicator means you care whether your message was received the way it was intended. It implies there is some two-way dialogue happening. Sometimes, it takes a few more words to convey an idea and ensure communication happens.
You're trying to apply journalism practices to something that is much larger than journalism.
Posted by mhays
7:27 PM, Apr 30, 2008
My favorite is "I had the opportunity to meet with __." That's not even descriptive. Did you actually meet, or just have an opportunity? Why not say "I met with __"?
Then there's the overuse of "myself," which is wrong 95% of the time. I think of it as Magic Johnson disease...well, the other one.
Jun 4, 08 - 12:40 PM
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