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March Sadness

Posted by languageandgrammar on March 20, 2009

March Sadness is not as famous as the trademarked term that rhymes with it, but it more accurately reflects how I feel about the basketball fever that sweeps through this country more quickly than a logging company through a South American rain forest.

An informal poll—meaning I asked a couple of people—revealed a shocking statistic:  75% of people follow the NCAA tournament because they like to gamble on the sport. The statistic was shocking because I thought that the statistic was closer to 99%.

Anyway, for those of you who don’t follow the sport closely, here are a few terms and phrases that you’ll need to know in order to have something to talk about at the water cooler for the remainder of the month (and into April, which makes me wonder if the NCAA shouldn’t consider trademarking a different phrase).

“Bracket” is the term universally used to describe the most common type of gambling on college basketball that’s not done in Las Vegas. A synonym might be “misdemeanor.”

“There are a lot of upsets” is one way in which people who fill out brackets try to make it sound as if it’s not their fault that most of their picks were wrong.

“Upset special” is that special little pick that you say you made because you wanted to separate yourself from the pack since you had “special information,” but you actually got the schools confused (thought it was Iowa, not Iowa State).

“I’m so mad—I originally picked it, but I changed my mind at the last minute” is said when you realize that your 23-year drought of not winning the office poll will continue.

March sadness is also that special time of the year when a team of men who are all 6′ 5″ tall might be said to lack a “big man.” It’s also when “being in the paint” doesn’t mean that there was a home-improvement accident, and “shooting from downtown” doesn’t mean the city isn’t as safe as it used to be.


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Not-So-Super Advice

Posted by languageandgrammar on February 2, 2009

Having days and days and days of Super Bowl preview shows is analogous to 24-hour-per-day news coverage. With so much time to kill, there is simply not enough good information to fill the time, and the result is quite a bit of useless coverage and senseless reporting.

Much of the coverage is intended to be quirky or funny, such as the report on the history of the tradition of dumping Gatorade on the winning coach, reports of the statistics related to stock market success following a Steeler Super Bowl victory, and predictions about which song Bruce Springsteen will sing first.

Some of the coverage, though, is intended to be serious analysis but falls flat. Ron Jaworski, a former quarterback, is one of the quarterback experts on ESPN. I enjoy his analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of quarterbacks—it’s clear that he studies the current players and understands what talents are needed to be a successful quarterback; however, I don’t understand why he (and so many other experts) feel as if all quarterbacks need to do the same things in the same way at all times.

Jaworski, on Sunday, was critical of how long Ben Roethlisberger holds on to the football—as every other “expert” has been. Ben Roethlisberger has been in the league for five years and has won the Super Bowl twice. Jaworski was in the league for 15  years and never won the Super Bowl. Perhaps Jaworski didn’t hang on to the football long enough; Roethlisberger seems to be doing pretty well playing the way he plays. Perhaps Jaworski should be taking advice from Roethlisberger.

I’m not attempting to single out Jaworski in my criticism; my point is bigger. Perhaps we should consider that there is more than one way to be successful———-and we shouldn’t spend so much time trying to fit people into predetermined molds.


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Big Off-Season Move

Posted by languageandgrammar on January 26, 2009

Winter is nearly as important to baseball as summer, when the games are played, because the foundation for the team is set during the winter off-season. With that in mind, it appears as if the Pittsburgh Pirates, the team that I’ve followed for about 40 years, are setting the stage for an outstanding year.

Oh, I know that the Pirates have been in a slump lately–their last winning season was 16 years ago–but I think that’s all about to change. While some teams continue to waste time acquiring new and better players (winter transactions), the Pirates have taken a more enlightened approach.

The New York Yankees have signed the two best pitchers available (CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett) and the best offensive player (Mark Teixeira), but it’s the Pirates who have stolen the headlines recently:  They’ve added sleeves to their uniforms (Pirates Add Sleeves to their Uniforms).

My initial reaction to the headline was  “What? The Pirate uniforms didn’t have sleeves last year?” I’ll admit that I didn’t watch many games (who would? They lost 97 of them), but I don’t recall seeing them in tank tops or sleeveless shirts.

Then, I thought about the big picture (which is hanging over a very large sofa in the Guggenheim, I believe). There’s an adage in fashion that a person should dress for the job that he or she wants. The theory is that dressing for the life you want will help you to prepare for that life, making it more likely to actually happen.

That’s what the Pirates are doing. While the Yankees waste their time signing players that will help them win baseball games, the Pirates are preparing themselves to be a good team by focusing on looking good. And what is a better way to do that than by wearing sleeves?

Better times are ahead.


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Man Up

Posted by languageandgrammar on January 19, 2009

Man up is a relatively new term that’s all the rage. All I can say is:  Oy.

I know that it’s intended to be funny. I know that men-are-different-than-women humor has been popular since Eve picked the apple from the tree and gave it to Adam to eat. Such humor has been responsible for careers in stand-up comedy and fodder for countless sit-com scripts. I know. I get it. I know that the man up phrase is the bread-and-butter of the popular morning sports talks show, Mike and Mike on ESPN radio. Every day is a rerun—different topic but the same tired jokes.

I know that the phrase is not used as an attempt to add yet another sexist, pointless term to a language that already has too many such words—that’s just a bonus.

Perhaps I’m the only person in the country who feels this way (based on how often the term man up is being used, I wouldn’t be surprised), but I tire as much of the phrase as I do of the countless times each morning that Mike and Mike refer to the manliness of Mike Golic and the lack of manliness of Mike Greene. Enough already.

By the way, the term lawyer up is not any better, and any other such up words that are waiting to be upped aren’t going to be any better either.


Posted in grammar, language, sports | 3 Comments »

Quarter of a Century of Sports Cliches

Posted by languageandgrammar on January 12, 2009

One of my favorite chapters in the book I wrote (Is having a favorite chapter in my own book against author etiquette?) is the one on sports cliches since we’ve been talking about sports (fans, media, and athletes) for much of the past century, but we’ve seldom said anything that wasn’t a cliche. It’s difficult to imagine a topic so often discussed but so rarely discussed in fresh terms.

A friend recently sent a link to a Pittsburgh Post Gazette columnist, Gene Collier, who devotes a column each year to cliches related to sports. In this year’s “Trite Trophy” column, Can’t manage without “Manage the Game,” Mr. Collier managed to stuff over 100 cliches into one column. I’m impressed.

I had also written about the deserving winner (manage the game) last October, and it’s interesting to see some of the previous award-winning cliches (this is the 25th year of the Trite Trophy) that are still popular today, including 1980s winners crunch time, gutcheck, playing ’em one at a time, They went to the well once too often, and He coughs it up. One of the least effective (and dumbest) phrases in the English language, It is what it is, was a two-time winner (2005, 2006).  Based on how many times I still hear people stating the obvious in that way (what else could it be–other than what it is?), it could have won in 2007 and 2008 as well, but I guess that, itself, would be trite!


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Tasty Upset or Indigestible Loss?

Posted by languageandgrammar on January 5, 2009

I’m sure that many college football fans were shocked when LSU upset 13th ranked Georgia Tech in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl last week. Not being a college football fan, I was shocked, too—not at the outcome of the game but at a bowl game being named after a fried chicken sandwich. How did that happen?

When I hear Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl, and perhaps even the Cotton Bowl, I think of hard-fought games played by excellent teams in historic venues. It’s what college football is all about. I don’t think about greasy food.

When I think of Chik-Fil-A, I think of a mall food court filled with the special scent of grease, Chinese food, and perhaps Victoria’s Secret perfume (if the store is unfortunate enough to be near the food court). The only example of athleticism is displayed by the security guard when he races to that little cart when called to help an elderly person search for his misplaced vehicle. I don’t think of great football.

I know that sponsorships have become increasingly important in football, not only in the bowl games but in the names of stadiums, but shouldn’t we have some standards? I mean, seriously, the Chik-Fil-A bowl? It leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Can the Literally, the Best Language Book Ever: Annoying Words and Phrases You Should Never Use Again Bowl be far behind?


Paul’s book–Literally, the Best Language Book Ever

Sherry’s Grammar List

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Logical Reason

Posted by languageandgrammar on December 10, 2008

Whenever I hear someone give a logical reason, I wonder how many illogical reasons they’ve given.

A reason is the basis or cause of a belief or action, and it’s assumed that that these beliefs or causes are based on logic. We don’t generally make our decisions based on a lack of logic; at least I hope we don’t. That’s why a logical reason is redundant, at least for most of us.


Paul’s book–Literally, the Best Language Book Ever

Sherry’s Grammar List

Posted in grammar, humor, language, politics, sports, writing | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Insensitive Communication

Posted by languageandgrammar on December 2, 2008

Here at languageandgrammar.com, one of the points that we like to make is that communication goes beyond grammar. Grammar is important, of course, and we’ve written many posts about it (and will continue to do so), but it’s also important to understand how and why we say the things that we do–and how they will be received by the listener.

Many of the things we say might be poor communication for myriad reasons, including being insincere to inarticulate to too informal to too trendy. All of those affect your communication since you, then, appear to be insincere, inarticulate, inappropriate, or overly trendy. That’s not exactly the type of image you want to foster, now, is it?

Some of the things we say might also be too insensitive to others, and here’s just one good example (The Washington Redskins and Political Correctness).


Paul’s book–Literally, the Best Language Book Ever

Sherry’s Grammar List

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Dropped the Ball

Posted by languageandgrammar on November 24, 2008

Despite what the Monday Night Football crew apparently thinks, dropping the ball is not the same thing as not catching the ball.

I’m saying this because the crack announcers showed a highlight reel of dropped passes by Cleveland Browns’ wide receiver Braylon Edwards. The only problem is that he didn’t drop the passes shown; he just didn’t catch them. A dropped pass is not a pass that is deflected off a receiver’s fingers and falls safely to the ground—–or having the ball bounce off your head and onto the ground—–or having the ball bounce off your chest and then to the ground. In order to drop the ball, it is required that you first catch the ball—that is, you should have some sort of possession of it first.

You might say that the announcers dropped the ball on that one.


Paul’s book–Literally, the Best Language Book Ever

Sherry’s Grammar List

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Brain ISSUE? Sounds Like a PROBLEM to Me!

Posted by languageandgrammar on November 2, 2008

In the Buffalo/Jets game on Sunday, quarterback Trent Edwards took a hard tackle and was knocked to the ground, where he hit every part of his body, including his head. He didn’t leave the game, but the announcers were concerned that he might since, they informed us, Edwards had had concussion issues in the past. Concussion ISSUES? This is a perfect example of what issue does not mean and how not to use it.

The quarterback had had concussion injuries, concussion problems, or, plainly, concussions in the past. I doubt he would appreciate having his brain injury labeled an issue. An issue, as we’ve discussed before, is a topic, as in Where do the candidates stand on the issues or We have myriad issues to discuss at the meeting tonight.

Don’t refer to someone’s brain injury as an issue. It’s disrespectful——and grammatically incorrect.


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