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Dot Dot Dot . . . Euphemisms and bad haku

By Ryan Finley

Monday September 17, 2001

Today, for the first time in nearly a week, America will become familiar again. So what if Major League Baseball players are overpaid, arrogant children playing a kid's game? They're American, plain and simple.

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Ryan Finley

Baseball - as George F. Will, Ken Burns, Peter Gammons and my dad will tell you - is a microcosm of life. How often do we see baseball euphemisms used in everyday speech?

On a Friday night, you either "hit a home run" or "strike out" at the bars or parties, unless, of course, you "make it to second base."

If something happens that you aren't expecting, it "throws you for a curve." How often do you call someone at home or work "clutch," "big time" or a "heavy hitter?"

If someone screws up, don't we all say that he "swung and missed?"

Baseball is so ingrained into society - so much a metaphor for America's struggles and triumphs - that we can hardly distinguish the two from time to time.

It's as American as, well, war. Each game is a mini-battle of sorts, one where both brains and brawn have a direct impact on the outcome. If someone is hung up between first and second, he's "dead." Players "kill" balls, "murder" inside pitches, hit "bombs," and have "cannon" arms. Heck, baseball managers are called "skippers," a direct reference to America's proud Naval heritage.

And - you know what? - Americans like baseball precisely because it is a microcosm for the struggles the country has faced.

Baseball is an intellectual sport, a thinking man's game much more than football, basketball or (gag!) hockey.

So, in order for America to return to its greatness, baseball must return to the stadiums, cities, and hearts of Americans throughout the country.

That happens today.

I'm not saying that I think firefighters from New York City should knock off work a few hours early to catch a Yankees-Devil Rays game at Yankee Stadium, but I do think that Americans need a diversion right now.

They need a place to gather, a place to eat hot dogs and way-too-salty peanuts just like they did when they were kids. They need a place to buy an $8 beer so they can, for maybe an hour or so, try to forget about the images that have been burned into our psyche forever. They need a place to gather - 60,000 people at a time - and sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" before watching the boys of summer crawl through the final month of the season.

Am I saying that we should forget about what happened? Of course not.

But think of it this way - for a lot of people in this country, sports is religion, a ritualistic gathering place where people come together, express shared emotions in a controlled environment, and return refreshed. So I say, lets have church! ·

·Am I the only one who's wondering what happened to Gary Condit? ·

·Perhaps the most frightening factoid of a rough weekend is that the terrorists who attacked New York City and Washington, D.C. on Tuesday may have learned how to fly planes from Microsoft Flight Simulator, a game most of us probably played in high school. Scary stuff·

· But, thankfully, my favorite moment of the week had to have been Friday, when I received a copy of (get this!) "Tuesday Morning Quarterback," a book of "Haiku and other whimsical observations to help you understand the modern game." The author, Gregg Easterbrook, has written books about Phil Rizzuto's witticism but manages to fall pretty short with this effort. About Los Angeles, he writes:

"Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball."
- French diplomat Jacques Barzun

"Odious agents

Vacuous bimbos. Yet oh,

where the NFL?"

Or, one of my personal favorites:

"The cheerleaders' skirts

can never be short enough

Please, another gust."

But, perhaps the most ingenious (note the sarcastic tone here, people,) is his Tanka poem about the West Coast Offense:

"Drip, drip, drip. Drip, drip.

Quick short, quick short, more quick short.

The West Coast Offense."

Though most of the poems are pretty ill-conceived and silly (especially the ones about penalty flags and fat defensive lineman), they made me forget about the tragic week behind me and now has a permanent place on the back of my toilet, right next to the "Far Side" book.

I needed that.


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