The lan­guage of it all

The Compass - - SPORTS - Ni­cholas Mercer

Tak­ing a cou­ple of steps to his right, a sec­ond base­man takes a quick glance to his dou­ble-play part­ner.

Stick­ing up his left hand with the mid­dle and fourth fin­gers curled down­wards leav­ing two point­ing up­wards, he re­lays a set of in­struc­tions to the short­stop. “Let’s get two here,” he says. At the same time, a bat­ter ad­justs his pine tar stained hel­met and steps out of the box, eyes to­wards his third base coach while the man on first peers across the di­a­mond. Both are look­ing for in­struc­tions.

The coach is giv­ing sig­nals. His right hand goes to the brim of his hat then im­me­di­ately slides down his right arm, sig­nal­ing a hit and run. A puck skit­ters along the boards and two hulk­ing play­ers are on a col­li­sion course for the black disc.

The player in white gets there first.

Sud­denly, he hears the words, “chip, chip,” as his left-winger claps his stick on the ice look­ing for the puck.

Tap­ing the puck off the boards and by his op­po­nent, his for­ward scoops it up and is streak­ing down the boards.

“Wheel!” the de­fence­man shouts. Bas­ket­ball shoes squeak on the hard­wood court. The repet­i­tive bounce of the ball can­not con­ceal the set of in­struc­tion com­ing from the coach on the side­lines to his point guard on the floor. “Mo­tion, mo­tion,” he shouts. The guard calls for a pick from his big man and they run the play. What con­nects three of th­ese sce­nar­ios? Lan­guage. Each con­tains a form of lan­guage ex­clu­sive to the three sports. The sec­ond base­man, the coach and the de­fence­man are all us­ing lan­guage that con­nects them to their team­mates.

Lan­guage is some­thing that con­nects the hu­man race. It al­lows us to com­mu­ni­cate, as a so­ci­ety and a peo­ple.

The world can’t func­tion with­out it.

Sports lan­guage is like any other di­alect spo­ken on the planet.

There are words and phrases ex­clu­sive to the world of sports. Of­ten it goes fur­ther than that. Some­times words can crossover to other worlds, bridg­ing that gap be­tween so­ci­etal groups.

The word beauty is a prime ex­am­ple of that. While it never started in the sports ver­nac­u­lar, it has crossed over. It has be­come a word used to de­scribe the tal­ent level of an ath­lete. Does not mat­ter who or what sport. If he’s ta­lented, he’s a beauty. Even if he’s not ta­lented but sticks up for team­mates, he’s a beauty.

Foot­ball is another one. While the name of a sport, it has two dif­fer­ent mean­ings to two very dif­fer­ent groups of peo­ple. For mil­lions of peo­ple, it means the beau­ti­ful game — soc­cer. For mil­lions of oth­ers, it means Amer­ica’s game.

This sim­ple word con­nects sports fans all over the world.

I re­al­ize the word hu­man con­nects ev­ery­one on the planet, but not in the way foot­ball does. Men­tion hu­man in pass­ing and the per­son won’t bat an eye. But, men­tion foot­ball and watch their ears perk up. Watch words form on the tip of their tongue. You know you’re in for some dis­cus­sion.

Now, I’m not naïve to know this isn’t re­stricted to the world of sports. I imag­ine men­tion­ing the words Dun­derdale, Rob Ford or Stephen Harper will elicit the same re­sponse. But, I’m re­fer­ring to just another as­pect of what makes sports great.

I mean, the short­stop from above is from the Do­mini­can Repub­lic and speaks poor English, while the sec­ond base­man is from Omaha, Nebraska and speaks no Span­ish. Yet, they know ex­actly what each other is say­ing.

That’s what I’m get­ting at. That’s the beauty of sports and the lan­guage con­tained within.

See, there’s that word again.

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