September 14, 2010
The return of football season means the return of a crAAKKer feature that went on hiatus after its initial debut—the Idiot Sports Announcer Watch. Let's face it, there is really no reason to watch sports on TV between the conclusion of March Madness and the beginning of football season, with the exception of golf majors where Tiger Woods or Zach Johnson are in the hunt on Sunday. But with the return of football, it's time to discuss the most annoying development in sports reporting and commentary—the abandonment of grammar when discussing player injuries. The typical offending statement goes something like this:
"The Happy Hippos' defense is going to be challenged tonight, since star cornerback Joe Smith is out with a knee. Rookie Billy Joe Jim Bob Johnson is really going to have to step up and elevate his game."Setting aside the silly sports clichés—we can cover those in future posts—since when did folks who supposedly hold journalism or other college degrees start thinking the formulation:
"Smith is out with a [body part]."
was an acceptable grammatical replacement for:
"Smith is out with a [medical condition]." ??
This isn't difficult. If you want to report a knee injury, you can say "ACL rupture", "meniscus tear", "knee strain", or simply a generic "knee injury". See how easy it is to make your sentence grammatical, merely by adding one little word?
The silliness of the "out with a [body part]" formulation is evident from the fact that even the offending announcers themselves do not use it consistently. Have you ever heard an announcer report that a player with a concussion was "out with a head" or "out with a brain"? How about a player suffering from the flu being reported as "out with lungs", or a little salmonella resulting in a player being "out with a small intestine"?
Look, I understand that language evolves constantly, and it is probably foolhardy to rail against such a relatively harmless grammatical error. But, sports are widely watched by kids, and if they hear non-grammatical usages, they tend to adopt them, which can only be detrimental (assuming, of course, that educators and employers still care about things like grammar). Also, given that many of these same nitwits in the sports biz will debate grammatical esoterica like whether "RBI" or "RBIs" is the proper plural form for the abbreviation for "runs batted in"*, I think a little grammatical respect is appropriate for "out with a [condition]".
Incidentally, there will be no further posts today. I'm out with a sinus.
* For the record, I don't give a flying pig which one you use. But, I think "RBI" as a plural sounds stilted and pretentious.