A Tense Moment

There is a mode of locution known as the Sports Present: one hears it often, and almost exclusively, during broadcasts of athletic competitions. It is employed, when discussing some action that has just taken place on the field, to point out that had something in the execution gone differently, a different result would have ensued.

For example: imagine that a running-back, having broken free in midfield, has just been dragged to the ground at the five-yard line after a long and promising sprint. Our announcer, having glimpsed in his mind’s eye some neighboring “possible worlds”, offers the following counterfactual analysis:

“If Csonka breaks that tackle, it’s six points for Miami!”

That’s the Sports Present.

Anyway, this evening I passed through the room in which my lovely Nina was taking in one of the political chat shows. The topic of discussion was the recent endorsement of Barack Obama by the noted GOP statesman Colin Powell (whose name, by the way, I find it terribly difficult to pronounce as “colon”, though that seems, sadly, to be the way he likes it). I heard one of the panelists, commenting on the timing of the endorsement, say “If Powell makes that endorsement during the Democratic Convention…”

“Hey, that’s the Sports Present!” I remarked to the memsahib, who said nothing at all in response, having had more than enough of this sort of thing from me to last her several consecutive lifetimes. I thought it was odd, though, for a political commentator to be expressing himself in such an esoteric idiom, and squinted at the screen to see who might have said it.

Everything fell comfortingly into place a moment later when I recognized the talking head as belonging to none other than Lynn Swann, the great Pittsburgh Steelers receiver who has, since hanging up his cleats, made a political and broadcasting career for himself as that oddest of social curiosities, a black Republican.

The world is a confusing and mysterious place, and one must savor the rare moments when small things make sense. It could have gone the other way, after all: if that’s James Carville making that remark about the convention, I’m punting.

One Comment

  1. The Sports Present is where sports meets existentialism. It’s not enough to simply be at bat. You have to be immersed in the at batness of the situation as well.

    Posted October 22, 2008 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

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