Fritz Huber for the Paris Review, writing about bad sports commentary (or, if you’re British, commmantry) and its assorted inanities:
If you, like me, spend an irrational amount of your fleeting time on Earth watching huge men brutalize each other in hi-def, you’ll know what I’m talking about: “It’s hard to overstate what this win means for this organization”; “He’s got tremendous basketball IQ”; “You can feel the momentum swinging”; “They’re a real Cinderella story”; “They’ve got that championship swagger”; “They stepped up and made plays”; “These guys have to keep their continuity”; “He makes his presence known on the field.” Et cetera. The silliness of these stock phrases becomes more apparent in a nontelevised context. The next time you get into a heated sports debate, try describing your favorite athlete as “an absolute specimen with great physicality.” For maximum effect, keep a serious expression and maintain eye contact.
He’s right. Sports commentary is mostly terrible. That assessment extends to sports discussion, analysis and the endless stream of pre- and post-game shows. But we often blame the people doing the talking rather than the networks, producers and big corporations responsible for their presence in your lives. The fact is, your typical sporting event is difficult to dissect – sometimes teams… just lose – and yet, for almost every professional contest, there’s at least an hour of (profitable!) pre- and post-game packaging that needs to be filled. So, you get clichés. Lots of them. This is why I rarely do game recaps or post useless media scrum and press conference quotes. And it’s why publicly ogling Henrik Lundqvist and Melissa Stark is more interesting and entertaining (to me, at least) than being the 32nd person to tell you that Jeremy Maclin’s little injury is “no big deal.” Often, there’s just nothing to say.
Huber also went in on the utter BS that accompanies most US broadcasts:
After a prolonged TV spectacle like college football’s Bowl Week (whose contests last year included the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl and the Taxslayer.com Bowl, the latter being only a slight improvement on the all-time most absurd Galleryfurniture.com Bowl), watching English Premiership matches or Six Nations rugby on BBC feels like a cultural upgrade. There’s less advertising. There’s less analysis of bullshit statistics (“Headed into this matchup, the Kentucky Wildcats are 11-3 in games played within four days of their coach’s annual colonoscopy”). And, on British television, the commentators’ linguistic repertoires don’t feel as inhibited; there’s more room for an occasional flourish. Why can’t we have a color analyst like Ray Hudson, who, in his exuberance, will announce that we’ve just witnessed “a Bernini sculpture of a goal,” or claim that watching Lionel Messi “softens the hard corners of our lives”?
Agreed, with the exception of the British TV thing. Yeah, the phrasing of EPL announcers is eloquent, descriptive and goofily British, but there’s also a lot of grandiose language that would sound positively Gumpish in the far-Westerner’s English. The war metaphors are good the first 7,000 times you hear them, but after a while, not even the English accent can save them from sounding like total BS.
via Daring Fireball