Sports are supposed to be fun. A diversion. We are a sports-crazed society and we love every minute of it. Lately though, I’ve noticed fuzzy math when it comes to certain sports statistical figures and for a long time now, I’ve been growing tired of some of the verbiage often used in the sports world. I also wonder where some of these terms came from and why everyone seems to be using them ad nauseam.
First, the number crunching–or lack there of. This weekend after the Flyers beat the Senators, multiple outlets reported that Philadelphia had finally reached the .500 mark. But did they? With the victory over Ottawa, the Flyers moved to 11-11-1 on the year. Is that .500? I’ve always thought a .500 team won the same amount of games they’ve lost. 8-8 in the NFL and 81-81 in MLB screams mediocrity. As in playing .500 ball. Now I realize these goofy overtime and shootout losses in hockey throw a monkey wrench in the Zamboni but here’s where the NHL is wrong no matter how you slice it. On their official web site the league lists the 11-11-1 Flyers at .500. They also have the 10-10-1 Jets at .500. Even worse, Edmonton and Colorado are considered .500 teams as well. Both the Oilers and Avs are 8-8-4. Where in the world does winning only 8 out of 20 games equal a .500 winning percentage? It’s simply incorrect.
If you want to play New Jersey Devil’s advocate here and assume the NHL is discounting any games that don’t end in regulation when tabulating winning percentage, that would be fine. But that theory is easily blown out of the water.
The Blackhawks unbelievable, record-setting start has them sitting pretty at 19-0-3. If Philadelphia, Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Colorado are considered .500 what would you consider Chicago? 1.000 right? Nope. Not according to the NHL. The high-octane Blackhawks’ winning percentage is listed as .932. Someone please explain this to me. If the supposed .500 teams are .500, then Chicago should be at 1.000. Then, even though the league would be wrong on all five counts, at least they’d be consistent. Their other option is to keep Chicago at .932 and lower the percentages of the alleged .500 clubs. My guess is it will just stay as is. Fuzzy and wrong.
To be annoyed by these numerical inaccuracies, I had to actually look them up. So, I can easily stay off the NHL web site and keep my sanity. When it comes to ridiculous sports phrases and grammar however, I’m not so lucky. I hear them all the time. I’m not sure when it started, but in rather recent times many sports terms were changed or fiddled with to appease the academics, while other wacky terms were introduced without a soul batting an eye. Well, I’m here to bat said eye.
Without further adieu, when the heck did we start saying “scoring the ball”? No one ever said that. Michael Jordan never ‘scored the ball’. Kobe Bryant never used to “score the ball” but apparently now he does. Sometimes when Kobe scores he has to do it over the other team’s “bigs.” When did this nonsense start? Calling a team’s centers and power forwards “bigs” is relatively new. I don’t recall Kevin McHale or Robert Parish being called a “big.” I want to know when this started and more importantly who is to blame.
Here’s the craziest part. If “scoring the ball” and “bigs” are new terms created by kids and intended for kids younger than Lebron and Chris Paul, then so be it. But I hear the great Magic Johnson use these terms all the time. There’s no way he referred to Kareem as a “big” back in the 80s. Doug Collins throws these terms out too. Even Dr. Jack Ramsey, no spring chicken, is on board. I have no idea how this started or where it all come from, let alone why veterans of the game use the terminology as if it’s been around since George Mikan led the Minneapolis Lakers.
Perhaps the worst of all when it comes to sports speak is this new technical accuracy that sounds more and more like a boring college thesis and less and less like the sports jargon we’ve come to know and love. This started a while back when some genius thought we shouldn’t say RBIs any more but just RBI. The argument is RBI stands for “Runs Batted In” not “Runs Batted Ins.” So what? We all know what it means, and RBIs simply sounds better. If we really want to get picky maybe it should be “RsBI”! I will continue to proudly say “RBIs” even if my pass to the professors lounge at Harvard hangs in the balance.
A lot of the snooty people who use these terms, who incidentally usually can’t throw a spiral, are often hypocrites. While they blast the masses for not conjugating this or punctuating that, they are the ones saying things like “the Jazz win” or “the Lightning lose.” Shouldn’t it be “the Jazz wins” and “the Lightning loses” since their team nicknames are singular? I’m fine with either in this case but it’s certainly a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
There is no doubt what my biggest pet peeve is when it comes to talking sports. When a team is called ‘it’ instead of ‘they’ at any cost, it makes my blood hurt. I think it sounds utterly absurd when I hear “for Detroit this is its fourth straight win.” I prefer “their fourth straight win.” Yes, Detroit is a city. I get that. But, everyone, even the snarky reporter using the term, knows we are talking about a team. We are talking about players. The city of Detroit didn’t sprout legs and start playing a game. When you refer to a franchise, the entire team name, city included, should be considered the nickname. Clearly saying “St. Louis has won the World Series. This is THEIR 11th title” sounds a lot better than “This is ITS 11th title.”
Like so many things, people often act for the wrong reasons. I believe this is the case when it comes to these laborious phrases and wordage. Many of the reporters and analysts just want to show how smart they are. All hail the intelligent journalist! No thanks. I’ll continue to be technically wrong and talk about sports the way it oughta be talked about. We’re trying to have fun here, not pass a writing test. So stick with RBIs no matter how much BS you hear.