CBS Sports personality Lesley Visser does not care for our blog title and wishes we would rise above our silly clichés in the game of baseball. Visser penned a bloggy screed for CBS decrying the ubiquitous usage of the term "walk-off" (which in the accepted style of the baseballblogosphere is written as one word, sans hyphen) in the news reports and broadcaster calls when a game ends with a run scored instead of an out recorded. Here's her thesis:
It's a joyful moment burdened by a terrible name. It's a cascade of emotions for the winning players and their fans, yet it's described in the most negative way. Johnny Damon, after a home run giving the Yankees their third straight come-from-behind win over the Twins, gets a pie in the face and here's how it's portrayed.
Is there any more of a buzz kill? Should a face full of whipped cream and gleeful celebration be defined in terms of the losers?
Well, Ms. Visser, sometimes a baseball fan's pure joy comes not only from the success of their favorite team but from the conquest of the fallen opponent. Had the opponent not failed, what celebration would there be to enjoy? For every Joe Carter there is a Mitch Williams; for every Andruw Jones there is a Kenny Rogers. Without the loser slowly sneaking back to the dugout with his head sunk low, how could a 'win' even exist?
When did this happen anyway? No surprise, it goes back to a pitcher. Back in 1988, San Francisco Chronicle columnist Lowell Cohn quoted Oakland reliever Dennis Eckersley describing a game-ending hit, when the pitcher slumps his shoulders and the team walks off the field. He called it a "walk-off piece."
The term is now ubiquitous -- a "walk-off hit", a "walk-off walk". What's next, a walk-off balk?
My good friend, Steve Hirdt of the Elias Sports Bureau, disagrees with me. "It's brief and it's descriptive," he said. "It captures the image of the players walking off the field."
But who cares what they're doing? I might be alone in this, but it drives me crazy.
I know that feeling. I like to put Nutella in my oatmeal. I might be alone in that, too.
I want the greatness of the moment -- in print, on radio, over the Internet and on TV. I want clever twittering and merry voice mails. I don't want a cliché. Think how we tune out clichés. When a boss goes into "push the needle", "get our ducks in a row" or the ever-annoying "it's not rocket science", don't you glaze over? When someone wants to run an idea "up the flagpole" or needs the "big ask", isn't that debilitating?
The English language is often tortured, used in ways that detract from the moment. Baseball is supposed to be the glory of the times, the shot heard round the world and the boys of summer. I don't want a festive moment reduced to a sorry stroll from the mound.
See, this is the sort of sad professorial moaning that makes me sick. It's one thing for an English teacher to criticize poor usage, or poor grammar, or poor spelling. Those things are unacceptable in writing on any level! Even sports blogs! But I cringe when an old entrenched journalist bemoans new terms that enter the vernacular, cliche or not. That just reeks of pseudo-intellectualism and highbrow snootiness.
Shakespeare himself would have his hat set spinning if he knew writers today were spitting on invented words and phrases that had become commonplace among regular folk. The word 'walkoff' is not up for discussion.