“I truly don’t know the language,” said the late Sparky
Anderson, a Hall of Fame baseball manager, in 1993. At least he had the
gumption to admit it.
It’s not that they’re lazy—athletes work their tails off.
And it’s not that they’re stupid—you try
memorizing a football playbook. It’s just that their brand of
eloquence is clutch three-pointers, late-inning game-winning hits,
last-second touchdown passes.
So give a break to the baseball pitcher who said, “I look forward to
a strong year in oh-sixteen” and the boxer who lamented, “I
guess I’ll fade into Bolivian.”
But no mercy for the scribe who wrote, “Maybe he could have took off
more.” Or the eminent sportswriter and author who thought the plural
of series was “serieses.” Or the play-by-play guy who
said, “Hunter leads off with a lead-off double.” Or the perky
lady on the sidelines who—twice—said “world’s most
fittest man.” Or the color man who enlightened listeners with,
“He’s giving his chance a team to win.” Or a former
player, now in the broadcast booth, who tried to get fancy on us but
fumbled on the goal line: “He makes bad plays and he makes great
plays, and the latter has hurt him.”
The Washington Nationals major-league baseball team played an entire game
wearing jerseys that said “NATINALS.” The Minnesota
Timberwolves of the National Basketball Association had a Reading to
Succeed Night at their arena. The posters handed out that evening spelled
the team’s nickname “WOVES.” Pro hockey player Brad
Marchand celebrated his Boston Bruins’ championship season by getting
a tattoo that said, “Stanley Cup champians.”
Sports fans who are insomniacs may know that the ESPN Classic cable sports
channel intermittently plays 4 a.m. reruns (or used to) of The Joe Namath Show, a weekly half-hour trifle that ran for
thirteen episodes starting in October 1969. (The influence of the sixties
psychedelic counterculture on the show’s look makes for surreal
viewing today.) The host was the charismatic quarterback who’d led
the New York Jets to a shocking Super Bowl III upset win the previous
Anyway, one memorable Namath show featured Rocky Graziano, a raspy-voiced
brawler from New York’s Lower East Side who was once the world
middleweight boxing champion (1947-48). The other guest was the writer
Truman Capote, a tiny person whose voice and manner seemed like an
over-the-top impersonation of the gayest man who ever lived.
Capote had stunned the literary world a few years earlier with In Cold Blood, which Capote proclaimed the first “nonfiction
novel.” His long, distinguished, and diverse career made him an
honored guest on the program. Namath and Graziano couldn’t have been
more cordial, and soon Capote was regally at ease.
So now the great writer turned to Namath and told him that he, too, had
played football on his high school team. Namath asked, “What position
did you play?” Capote’s reply: “Center field.”
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