My agent I.M. Slick dropped by recently to scold me for some words I’ve used when writing about sports. The following conversation shows just how much he wants me to be a kinder and gentler Joe.
Slick: Have you seen how careful some in the media are nowadays when writing about the news?
Joe: I thought you wanted to talk about sports?
Slick: I’m getting there. But let’s start with how much kinder and gentler the media are when writing or talking about the news.
Joe: What do you mean?
Slick: Did you hear about the deaths that occurred during the Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, in late November?
Joe: Unfortunately, yes. How sad that someone plowed a car into the parade, which resulted in a tragedy.
Slick: See, there you go again. Your terminology is far too inflammatory.
Joe: What? I saw the video on TV and that’s exactly what happened. The car plowed into innocent people watching the parade.
Slick: Well, I think your terminology is far too inflammatory. Some media outlets are calling it an accident or crash, not plowing a car into the parade. And instead of tragedy, it could be called unfortunate.
Joe: But the alleged driver of the car was charged with intentional homicide. Is that what you’re calling an unfortunate accident?
Slick: I see you’re going to be a work in progress.
Joe: In other words, I need to be more vague, right?
Joe: So give me some examples. What should someone say instead of man in the street?
Slick: Average person.
Joe: How about blacklisted?
Slick: Say banned instead.
Joe: Is there another word recommended for slum?
Slick: It is nicer to say it is an economically deprived area.
Joe: There are stories about people having a sex change. Is that appropriate terminology?
Slick: The preferred term is actually gender reassignment.
Joe: OK. Let’s turn our attention to sports. Can I still say sportsmanship?
Slick: No. A better word is fairness.
Joe: What about people who say officials are blind?
Slick: It’s kinder to say that officials are visually and judgment impaired. And when talking about a basketball team that lacks height, you can say the team is vertically challenged.
Joe: What do you think about the name changes for some professional teams?
Slick: You must be referring to the Washington Football Team, formerly the Washington Redskins. In Major League Baseball, the Cleveland Indians are now the Cleveland Guardians.
Joe: Yes, I’m aware of those and understand the political ramifications behind those changes, but how is it we still have the Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Chiefs, and Chicago Blackhawks? That’s not at all consistent, is it?
Slick: That’s a fair point, but society can only become politically correct one team name at a time.
Joe: So what do you recommend that Atlanta, Kansas City, and Chicago change their names to?
Slick: How about the Atlanta Peaches, Kansas City Barbecues, and the Chicago Wind?
Joe: Do you have any other suggestions on how I might improve my sportswriting?
Slick: Here’s one example. Instead of writing that Team A routed Team B, write that Team A outscored Team B.
Joe: Seriously? Even when Team A wins a basketball game by 25 points?
Slick: It would also be better if you stopped talking about a team losing a game. That’s far too negative. You can simply say that Team B was the non-winner or didn’t win that particular game.
Joe: So in baseball, instead of saying a team lost 100 games, I should say they were the non-winning team 100 times.
Slick: Yes, that’s better.
Joe: So much for clarity and telling it like it is.
Slick: Yeah, former broadcaster Howard Cosell would never make it in today’s world.
Joe: I’m generally a peaceful fellow, but I’ve had enough. I’m about ready to throw you out, or should I be nicer and say, show you the door?
Slick: Temper, temper! But if you really feel that way, you can simply escort me out. That’s even kinder and gentler.