DURING a recent televised basketball battle between the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors, one of the announcers swooned on about the Warrior’s Stephen Curry, who had stolen a pass, raced up court and covered the final 15 feet with a single leap and a soaring, vicious dunk. Curry is small (6’3”) by NBA measure, and it is rare for this superb guard to leave the floor for a dunk. Curry is usually roaming outerland, where he launches long three-pointers with astonishing success. (His NBA record this season is 402 three-point baskets, many of them from half-court; his record a year ago was 286 and before that, 261 and 272.) Brutal dunks are not part of his repertoire. Thus the announcer’s glee: “The man’s incredible,” he said of Curry, “a shooting phenomenon with amazing verticality.”
He means that Curry can jump. High. We don’t know why he didn’t say that, in the name of practicality. Or understandibility.
PHENOMENA in language aren’t limited to sportscasters, although they hold much of the franchise for creative distortion. On a recent newscast interview, we heard a pundit lament the mysterious appeal of ISIS, its rise to prominence in world terror. The roots of ISIS’s hold on terror “have multiple causalities,” the pundit intoned. We think he meant that there are many reasons for ISIS’s grip. But we’re not sure, because multiple causalities can have various differentiations.
WE ALSO heard Hillary Clinton say that Ted Cruz’s passion for carpet-bombing the Middle East could “radicalize” more Muslims. It could also infuriate them.
SPORTSCASTERS are witness to the occasional shortfalls of even the most accomplished practitioners. George Brett struck out. Jack Nicklaus missed putts. Jordy Nelson has dropped passes. Alcides Escobar, even, has been known to drop a grounder.
When such tragedy happens, we increasingly hear an announcer say “He’s too good of a player” to do this, or miss that. We say they are too smart of a broadcaster to radicalize fans with talk that is verticality challenged.
THE OTHER night, ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy, a former Knicks head coach, was upset that NBA coaches have begun to bench their stars for long periods, giving them time to rest before the grueling challenge of the playoffs. Some players, even, welcome the break.
Van Gundy doesn’t. While he was going on about it, a colleague asked him to explain. “I’m trying to incentivize players to do what they signed up to do,” he said.
He should be incentivized to inspire them.
‒ JOHN MARSHALL