Tuesday, October 7, 2014

There's no conjugating in baseball!

This didn't happen, despite what the guy said …
Sports announcers talk funny, especially baseball announcers.

One notices such things in the languorous unfurling of a season.

Ain't no shoulda-coulda-wouldas — linguistically speaking — in baseball.

Plays either happen … or they happen in a parallel universe.

For some reason, announcers don't like to use the third conditional tense — the if … then — to analyze plays.

I don't know if it's superstition, or a weird elocution technique that imparts clarity over the airwaves … or maybe the announcers just don't know how to use the conditional tense.

They do know how to second-guess, though — it's why they get the big bucks! — so you'd think shoulda-coulda-woulda gets right in their wheelhouse.

Instead, after the play-by-play announcer describes a play, using present tense …
"One-and-two count to Garcia … here's the pitch … Garcia swings and shoots it up the middle! Past the reach of the glove Doober into shallow center field! Harris rounds third headed for home! Here's the throw and … he's safe! Dragons win, and the end of the world commences!"
… the color commentator then tells you what went wrong — because he knows! — in that moment before global collapse.

But he doesn't say:
"If Doober hadn't have been digging goobers out of his big schnozz, he would have had extra time to move to his right and spear that ball for an easy out."
Which he should say because none of that happened. It coulda happened, maybe shoulda, but didn't. Conditions, namely goober-encrusted nostrils, prevented it.

He says instead, using handy-dandy present tense:
"Doober gets to that ball a bit quicker and he throws Garcia out at first. Inning over!"
As if the world had spun backward on its axis and a different result resulted!

Somehow, we baseball consumers understand this torture upon English, that the world hasn't really reversed its spin.

Though for many games, I'd really like it to.

You'll notice another odd twist of the tongue in baseball announcing — when the play-by-play guy said "the glove of Doober." Even the best announcers go all Elizabethan on our ears, sounding almost as if they're translating directly from another language.

They don't possess the possessive forms, is what I'm trying to say.

They don't say, for example, "the ball bounces past Doober's glove." They say instead, "the ball glances off the glove of Doober."

I'll guess they do that to make sure they're understood, as apostrophe+s has a way of fuzzying the sound of a sentence. And do you say it "Ramirez" or "Ramirezes(eses)" when talking about the possessive form of the name? Oh, heck with it, just say "the bat of Ramirez" and let it go.

Still, it sounds weird.

Now for something completely different:

English — the queen's English — got extra weird over the summer, in the few moments I watched World Cup soccer.

In Britain, teams are referred as plural nouns. I'd say "San Francisco is playing Philadelphia tomorrow," but in Britain it would be "San Francisco are playing Philadelphia." Of course, no one would care in Britain, but that's how it would be said.

"England are playing Spain," is something one might have heard from British broadcasters at the World Cup — or in an alternate plural-noun world in which England did not bow out after three games. Sorry, England. You have a bad result.

American sports is (are?) not immune, now that newer teams have (has?) taken on singular mass nouns — Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, Minnesota Wild — essentially nouns without quantity, which can't be separated into countable parts. "Three Heats driving home from the game last night came to the rescue of a stranded motorist" just doesn't work. (And who outside of the news media says "motorist?")

Americans still say "Minnesota is" rather than "Minnesota are," so we haven't lost complete control.

There you have it, sports fans. You can't tell the players without a copy of Strunk & White. Even then it's hit and miss.

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