The violence in professional football has become intolerable.
I don't mind the carnage on the field. I refer to the violence being done to the English language in broadcasting booths across the country.
For more hours than I care to calculate, I sit transfixed in front of televised football games, and submit willingly to the endless commercials and the inane commentary. But the announcers' use of language grates on my sensibilities as if they were scraping their fingernails across a blackboard for three hours at a time. Tom Brookshier leads the shock troops in the assault on our mother tongue, but even such a would-be literatus as Howard Cosell is guilty of some unpardonable offenses.
My annoyance with the broadcasters begins annually during the exhibition season -- as it used to be called. Some Orwellian arbiter of terminology decided that to call these games exhibitions would underscore their meaninglessness, and so the broadcasters began in concert to term them preseason games. And the time of year in which these games were played came to be called the preseason. As in: "The Redskins were 2-2 during the preseason."
I hope I am not thought too prissy when I point out that this isn't English. Do marching bands perform during the pregame? Was the Tangerine Bowl played during the pre-Christmas? Did Phyllis George Brown appear on television during her prenuptial? Even the mighty Cosell does not have the power to transform adjectives into nouns by his personal fiat.
Perhaps the broadcasters thought that they were permitted to use any word as any part of speech after what they had done to "audible." Their conversion of this adjective into a noun was acceptable, because there had not previously been a word in the football lexicon to describe a play called at the line of scrimmage. Even Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary sanctions the usage now. But having made a positive, useful contribution to the language, the boys in the booth promptly proceed to bastardize it by turning the noun into a verb. Instead of telling us, "Theismann called an audible," they now insist on saying, "Theismann audiblized," giving us a word which is unpronounceable, unspellable, useless and nonexistent.
While I can at least comprehend how "preseason" and "audiblize" evolved, I am unable to understand another bit of broadcasting usage -- the substitution of the word "on" for the equally innocuous preposition, "during." Yet this has become so universal that a person who spends his life in front of the television set would assume it is the only correct usage: "Theismann has 15 completions on the day." "Riggins has 1,000 yards on the season."
If a Japanese business executive were addressing a group of financial analysts and said: "I expect our company to earn $100 million on the first quarter of the fiscal year," his listeners would note his mistake and attribute it to the speaker's lack of familiarity with English. What is the television announcers' excuse? Did they all grow up speaking Bulgarian and adopt English as their second language? Why can't they learn to say: "Theismann has 15 completions today" or "Riggins has gained 1,000 yards this season"?
While the football announcers have a never-ending love affair with the word "great" (for which they would never consider any substitution) they search desperately to find replacements for perfectly useful words of which they tire. In one game this season, Tom ("the old hog bladder") Brookshier refused to let either team "take" a timeout. Instead, all timeouts were "burned." Every once in a while, a cutesy usage such as this takes hold and becomes widespread.
Thus it has been with the word "unanswered" as a replacement for "consecutive." (As in: "The Redskins have scored 17 unanswered points.") Used once or twice, it might have been passable, but it is not accurate. A team may answer its opponents' scoring in an ineffectual manner. The Baltimore Colts' answer to other teams' touchdowns this season was most often three plays and a punt. "Unanswered" is a poor choice of words and it is utterly unnecessary, as long as one can say in clear, unambiguous English: "The Redskins have scored the last 17 points."
When the broadcasters cannot summon any clear, unambiguous English to describe what they are seeing, and they don't have a cliche to use, they still have an all-purpose phrase that will cover all situations. That expression is "some kind of."
That was some kind of play! That was some kind of tackle! Only a nitpicking purist would ask what kind of play or tackle, but for us purists, this shoddy use of our rich language evokes some kind of exasperation.