Received a lot comments on my last post. Minus my own comment we're at six braces and counting...that's 12 for the soccer impaired.
Seems it unsettled a few of you to learn that I have no interest in speaking soccerese, either online or in print. But before I pointed it out how many of you even noticed?
Two posts ago, when I wrote that few MLS players can match Marvell Wynne's "flat-out speed," were any of you confused? Did any of you think to yourselves "I wish he had used 'pace' because I don't quite know what 'speed' means..."?
After reading Wednesday's story about Julius James, were any of you still in the dark about his "match fitness," because I didn't use that exact phrase, or did you understand that he's just about ready to play?
I know you guys are smart, so I don't worry about you making the intuitive leap from soccer jargon to plain English.
So before any more of you wonder whether I'm trying to alienate my readers by excluding certain phrases from my copy, you need to remember two things:
1. Changing location changes language
On some level even the most ardent soccer purist understands that. Toronto FC plays in Major League Soccer, and not "Major League Football." And they play at BMO Field instead of "BMO Pitch." Are any of you planning a campaign to scrap those names in favour of something more "football specific"? I doubt it. You understand that to market this sport in North American you have to North Americanize certain small details.
At the same time, while working the soccer beat, I've learned few words and phrases and synonyms specific to the sport -- "dead leg," "niggle," "transfer window," etc. -- but it doesn't mean I'll ever use them in my copy outside direct quotes.
I'm pretty sure that if the Indianapolis Colts played the Chicago Bears in London, writers there would discuss what happened in "training." They would talk about Devin Hester's "pace" and wonder if Marvin Harrison was "match fit" after the knee injuries that hampered him last year.
But I doubt they'd call Bob Sanders a "centre back."
After all, we're talking "football," not "football."
2. I'm a Writer, not a stenographer
When I covered cops and courts I dealt with police-speak every day. Following up on a police report I might phone the police station and hear something like this:
The incident began as a confontation involving two adolescent males, which then escalated into an altercation, which culminated in one of the adolescents receiving sharp instrument wounds to the abdomen.
In the paper I'd summarize it this way.
An argument between two teenage boys turned into a fight, which ended when one of the boys allegedly stabbed the other in the stomach.
Which account makes more sense to you? Which is easier to read?
The point here is that outside direct quotes, I don't have to speak to my readers the same way my sources and interview subjects speak to me.
In fact, it's usually better if I don't.
What I have to do is tell good stories in language everyone can understand, which often means replacing genre-specific jargon -- whether it's "a brace" or a "sharp instrument wound" -- with something more universal that enlightens the uninformed without insulting the experts.
Everyone understands "two." Everyone understands "stab."
That's writing 101....
Still with me?
On of the commenters, I think it was "Skinn," asked me for my official position on the use of soccer specific terms....
SO HERE IT IS
For me, they fall into three categories.
First, you have terms specific to the game. These are words you MUST use to make any story make sense....free kick, six-yard box, player positions, etc. I learned the hard way that soccer doesn't have a "crease," and I can't call a centre back a "free safety" just because I'm comfortable with American football terminology. In this instance, you learn the language and you use it in your stories.
Then you have phrases that could go either way. Personally, I'm comfortable with either "supporter" or "fan." I realize that in other sports a "reserve team" might becalled a "practice squad," but day in, day out, "reserves" works for me.
After that, you have what I lovingly call "soccerese." These aren't "soccer specific" terms. They're just terms soccer people like to use, terms that have perfectly suitable plain English synonyms, and terms that sound fine with an English accent, but sound utterly pompous when uttered by people like me.
For example, if I'm writing about T.J. Ford, I'm writing about his speed. If I'm writing about Jose Reyes, I'm also writing about speed. So why if I'm writing about Dane Richards, do I suddenly write about "pace"?
How does that make sense?
It's pretentious, so I avoid it.
Same goes for "fitness," which sometimes refers to conditioning and sometimes refers to health. If a guy is healthy I'll say he's healthy. If he's in shape I'll say he's in shape.
And a brace?
Didn't even know what it was until January. I had to ask Cathal Kelly.
And again, this is something I think readers understand when they think about it. Last year I took a lot of heat when I wrote that Danny Dichio "crashed the crease."
But two weeks ago when I mentioned that Landon Donovan had both L.A. Galaxy goals, nobody emailed me asking "where's my brace?"
And if you had I'd have said, "it's on your ankle, where it belongs."
Off to practice now... I hope this blog didn't make me late...
-- Morgan Campbell