I’m a bit of a closet baseball fan. It’s insomnia driven of course, so late nights can easily be filled with marathon games, and Twitter seems designed specifically for intra-innings updates.
But I realised last night, what it is specifically that I like; the language.
Very few sports lend themselves to the spoken word, a fact demonstrated most perfectly by Clive Tyldesley; a man so verbose he could inflate a truck tire every six seconds with the amount of useless twattery he breathes. As a commentator, he seems to spend most of his time telling us about the first three minutes of the match, hardly ever passing comment on what’s happening in front of his eyes.
And when he’s not doing that, he’s vomiting forth some omen-based punditry; “England have won sixteen matches on grass that’s this exact shade of green, what does that mean for tonight’s game?” or “That sliding tackle from Cole is reminiscent of that one he did in Munich on that fateful night nine months ago, let’s hope it’s not a precursor of things to come.”
Essentially he’s the anti-thesis of a baseball commentator; men who use their intricate knowledge of the game to colour us a picture that is so vivid, you can often just listen to an innings and know exactly what’s going on:
“Rivera on the mound, two men on, and only one away. The count is full, and the runners are taking a lead. Slider down and away, Pudge reaches down and chops it along the third base line. A Rod on his knees at the bag, makes the stop, crisp throw to Jeter, who pivots, and launches it to Texeira. Six. Five. Three double play. All square at the bottom of the eighth, and Rivera gets himself out of a jam.”
It took me eight times as long to write that as it takes them to say it, with barely a breath taken.
What’s more the nomenclature has a lyrical quality about it that’s not really matched in other sports.
“Matsui steps up to the plate. Two for four on the night, he grounded out to second first time up, drove into a double in the third, before chopping it out to left field to drive in an RBI for a stand up double. And last time up he hit a deep one out to right for his third homer of this divisional series.”
It’s simple, descriptive language that perfectly captures the essence of the game. Take note British commentators, you have a lot to learn.