Now, I know I spend some time here rueing new words that I see as not additive. Like “additive.”
And “choiceful.” This linguistic lard-ass, according CNBC, has appeared in 15 earnings calls this year—up from nine uses in 2022. How’s it being used? To refer to consumers, who are being more “choiceful” about their purchases. And leaders, like McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinksi, who told analysts recently, “I think, certainly given the inflation that we’ve experienced over the last year—really more than a year—we’ve tried to be very choiceful and disciplined on how we have executed those price increases.”
But every word in our language was invented once, for to fill some kind of need. Even words we now see as essential, like “adorbs.”
There’s one word I’ve heard only in the last couple of years but have come to appreciate as not only useful but sort of necessary in our times: “sportsball.”
Why so sanguine for “sportsball”? Because it provides a one-word rebuke to the sports-obsessed philistines who now strut around even in fairly sophisticated social circles without a whiff of embarrassment at the fact that they know every MLB all-star’s exit velocity but think George Eliot played for the Reds in the 70s.
These are the exec bros who open meetings with sports-based smalltalk that tells everyone, “If you don’t know this stuff, you don’t count.” They are Joe Scarboro and his journo-bros “Sportsball” gives something to say back to Joe Scarboro and his journo-bros who purposely and publicly humiliate sports-hating Mika Brezezinksi on Morning Joe with their endless and mindless palavers on the Boston Red Sox and Premier League soccer.
Whoever you are, wherever you go, you’re expected to consider sports important. If you don’t, you’re some kind of geek.
But now, your easy response is to acknowledge your complete lack of knowledge or interest in what you can now call, “sportsball.”
There’s a lot of oral foaming these days about the notion of “decentering whiteness.” Maybe more of us can get on board with “decentering sports.” If so, “sportsball” will help. It’s a great little, just-snarky-enough reminder that yes, it’s possible to move through a meaningful life without pinning one’s emotions and squandering one’s time on infinite numbers of artificial dramas and trumped-up “storylines” that legions of faceless sports pundits assign to them.
We used to be reminded occasionally of French academic Marc Perelman’s’s Marx-derivative thought that sports is the opiate for the masses. That was before ESPN had one 24-hour sports channel, let alone eight. And before the Red Sox had their own “nation.”
A middle-aged Chicago friend of mine was so offended by the banality of all this 25 years ago, that he and some buddies once tried to throw paint out the window of their car onto an oppressively huge mural of the then-ubiquitous Michael Jordan, beside the Kennedy Expressway. They ended up in a desperate situation at a self-service carwash in the middle of the night, but that is not the point. The point is—and this comes from the sports-watching, baseball and tennis-playing, golfing father of a Division I athlete—that it’s okay (and even arguably superior) to operate from a point of view that all this competition is a whole lot of cheaply manufactured reality avoidance, and that there are more important things for serious people to concern ourselves with.
Like new additions to the English language, which are perfectly acceptable, as long as we go about it choicefully.