Friday, February 19, 2010

How to talk about what you're talking about without talking about it

In conjunction with Slate's Sap-o-Meter is the method of broadcasting obscure sports without having any knowledge of those sports, a technique perfected by the all-purpose broadcasters television networks employ for events such as the Olympics. Watching speedskating, for example, it becomes painfully obvious when a broadcaster tries to cover up ignorance with a barrage of facts from a media guide. If you listen to the emphasized words, which would otherwise be meaningful, you will get a good laugh.

The coverage consists basically of the broadcaster reciting assorted facts about athletes in a mildly-surprised tone that could work for anything from having six different kinds of soup on a menu to an improbable comeback late in a race. Occasionally, when something of note happens, the unpolished voice of the former athlete will interrupt to inform viewers of something they might have missed, or to offer general analysis. Otherwise, you get to here a sort of audiobook of facts about athletes. As a general rule, the whiter and more English-speaking they are, the more facts their life has.

Here's how a race might go, with italics indicating an emphasized word:

"There are four competitors in this semifinal of the women's 500-metre. Jane Frenchlastname from Somewhere, Quebec is the Canadian hope? The rising intonation at the end of the last sentence indicates an awkward moment, where I don't know what to say. Ah, yes, here we go...Frenchlastname is approximately 54 kilograms and her family is here cheering her on."

"Joe, Frenchlastname is off to a great start! She's taken the early lead and it looks like she will make the final."

"Frenchlastname, looking to make the final, where she hopes to continue her Olympic experience. Some more facts about her competitors: Wang Meng, from China is approximately 52 kilograms, a difference of two kilograms from Frenchlastname."

"Joe, what a great move by Shortnordicname! She hung back the entire race, but she's pouring it on now and it looks like she will be in contention to make the final."

"Shortnordicname studies biology in her native Scandinavia, where her mother works at a credit union. Coming into the final turn now, it will be Frenchlastname and Shortnordic name! Frenchlastname will represent Canada for a chance at a medal in the final, which we will air live at 4:30 Pacific, 7:30 Eastern, 8:30 Atlantic and 9:00 Newfoundlannnnnnd."

5 comments:

andré said...

I saw the Cincinnati Reds 2004 Media Guide at the Salvation Army yesterday, and I was tempted to buy it.

Adeel said...

You can find that stuff online for free, can't you?

andré said...

Yeah, I think it was the uselessness of it more than anything that inspired my almost-purchase. Plus it was $1.

I just like the idea of someone actually using it. I'm sure it was already out of date when the season started.

Shan said...

I see. Is this how you constructed your Brampton Project voice?

joe positive said...

coming to this very late, I know, but I wanted to tell you this made me laugh out loud at work. And I never laugh at work.