Saturday, June 2, 2012

Sometimes tradition demands ambiguity

When I tuned my old scratchy AM radio to baseball last night, I caught the eighth inning of what would be a historic no-hit performance by Mets pitcher Johan Santana. Going into the ninth inning, the Mets announcers described the roaring crowd, the electric excitement, fans on their feet, their own churning stomachs as a no-hit game entered its final moments and yet... NO ONE SAID THAT THE METS PITCHER WAS THROWING A "NO-HITTER."  It was taking place—8 innings without a Cardinal hit—yet not labeled. It was a no hitter, yet the words did not float out of the radio into my kitchen... There was a pink elephant standing right there singing "This Land is Your Land" and yet no one dared say "pink elephant."

The Mets radio announcers—bound by a beautiful tradition—dared not jinx the effort by uttering that term "no-hitter." Ingeniously, they said—perfectly choosing their words!—that "We are entering the ninth inning with the Mets leading eight to nothing... with eight hits in the game... and all of them by the Mets." Read between the lines!—if all the eight hits were by Mets, and it's the ninth inning, then we must have a .... a .... we must be in the final moments of a potential... a... a...

And then it happened. Strike three. Last man out. We can finally scream it out loud: "A no hitter!"



We call for, we advise and celebrate—and by "we" I mean professional communicators—clarity and transparency. When I teach writing the goal is to erase all convoluted syntax and confusing vagueness. And yet, in this case, three cheers for ambiguity. "All the hits are by the Mets" says it all, namely that we are watching history unfold, the first no-hitter in Mets history... yet we dare not say it, jinx it, until the final, futile swing, and the game is in the books.

Bless those announcers for their adherence to a beautiful tradition: You don't say "no hitter" on the air until the final out. Up til then, it's a matter of simply "our team has all the hits... draw your own conclusions."

brandsinger

1 comment:

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