Monday, August 17, 2009


You guessed it - more "Smack" talk is on the docket. This time, we're taking sights at a topic a little closer to home: the semantics of sports talk.

As always, feel free to weigh in by posting a comment, and enjoy.

Blogometrics: Okay, time for a contest. In the much-maligned world of sports sayings (i.e. "that's why they play the games" - etc.), is there a more ridiculous term than "if the season ended today"?

In terms of stupidity,I would stand that up against just about any saying, sports-related or not.

Smack: Well, sports are so over-analyzed that they make it impossible not to get into hypotheticals. I agree that it’s stupid because obviously the season ends when it ends. Are you considering Yogi Berra and John Madden quotes or just common sayings?

B: I'm throwing everything into the mix - even Madden impersonator quotes, as in "Basically, the offense is trying to score, and what the defense wants to do is stop them" or "See, right there, he tackles him." I always thought that Madden should have been on radio, or another area of broadcasting for the visually impaired.

Even Berra's quotes hold some sort of odd idiosyncratic relevance - For example: When asked "What time is it?" Berra would respond "You mean now?" That's borderline metaphysical. Madden's quotes are over-simplistic, but true. "If the season ended today" is akin to "The Raiders would have finished last season 12-4 if their touchdowns had been worth 9 points each."

S: But that statement could hold just as much truth as the Madden-isms.Isn’t one of Berra’s famous quotes, “It ain’t over til it’s over”?

B: Well, Madden-isms are straight-ahead, dumbed down truth. They make no attempt at analogy nor do they approach the theoretical. Berra's "It ain't over 'til it's over" works in another way: It takes a base truth, and gets you to reflect upon the fact that too many times, an event (of any kind) is considered 'over' before it is 'over.' I know this is getting really nit picky, but it's true.

The whole 'season ending today' is, again, akin to total make believe - like "Running backs would be harder to tackle if they rode horses" or, "That pass would have been incomplete if this game were being played on the surface of the Sun."

See my point?

S: “It ain’t over til it’s over” is basically just a reply to people who say “if the season ended today…” They’re both on the same level.

“If the season ended today…” is just a way of pointing out where a team stands at the present moment. Is there any point to keeping track of the Red Sox record during the season? However many games back they are doesn’t matter until October…

Same thing with projecting season stats based on performance through the All Star break. “David Ortiz is on pace to hit 4 home runs this season.”

B: Hmmm... I flat out reject your first point. "It ain't over..." makes a point that goes beyond it's words. An optimistic fan will look at a team that's down 15 with 3:26 to play and think "Well, it ain't over 'til it's over" - even though common sense tells the fan otherwise. I don't see the same bridge existing between, say, "The Sox are 1 game out of first place" and "If the season ended today..."

Your point about projections is a good one - and the strongest challenger to the crown of "Dumbest Sports Quote" (this category excludes quotes by individual athletes/commentators , except for Madden and Berra - who we've already touched on anyway). Projecting anything in sports is ludicrous. After week one in the NFL, you'll have 16 teams on pace to go 16-0, and 16 on pace to go winless.

I guess "that's why they play the games."

S: Sometimes making projections is dumb, like your example about teams on pace to go 16-0. But sometimes there’s no other way to put a player’s performance into perspective. With a lot of stats, our only mental benchmarks are season totals, so it helps to hear where they stand relative to those. I think most people realize that Pujols isn’t going to hit 14 HR every month, and Ortiz will eventually start to come around. “If the season ended today…” doesn’t compare to “That record will stand until it’s broken” or “To get more yards, it’s best to move the ball from the line of scrimmage down the field.”

B: Alright. As usual, we'll agree to sort of disagree.

No comments:

Post a Comment