Dierker and Lucas: Ironies of Baseball Journalism

he game looks pretty much the same from up here, but just wait until different people start broadcasting and writing about it. Then watch what happens.

The game looks pretty much the same from up here, but just wait until different people start broadcasting and writing about it. Then watch what happens.

 

If you read yesterday’s column, “Watch Your Quotations, Sports Writers”, then you already know that it generated from the writing peers and reader reactions to Brian T. Smith’s use of literal quotes from Carlos Gomez for a Houston Chronicle article on Gomez’s poor performance at the plate in Houston since his trade from Milwaukee late last season. At issue was Smith’s use of literal quotes from an “English-as-a-second-language” speaking player – and whether or not that was the best or fairest way to convey the subject’s thoughts. The article was not intended as a politically correct spanking of Smith. We don’t pretend to know his motives here. It was more of a “what were you thinking” question about any writer’s judgment who would go that route in literal print mode with a second language-challenged subject in today’s world.

Greg Lucas, Rick B., and Larry Dierker all had substantive things to say as written comments at the first article site, and these may be viewed in full at:

https://bill37mccurdy.com/2016/05/06/watch-your-quotations-sports-writers/

We also felt that the Lucas and Dierker comments were ready for re-presentation here without any unrequested editorial work as historical columns on the issues of how the print and broadcast media handle literal speech differently – and how literal speech is valued differentially by non-fictional and fictional genres. So, here they are, our co-guest “columnists” for The Pecan Park Eagle – and with no disparagement of the good stuff that Rick B. wrote either. These two featured pieces simply were already in hand in column format and focus without any need for further editorial splicing or re-focusing.  The Pecan Park Eagle welcomes future consciously intended pieces on baseball or its culture from all three of you – anytime any of you have something else you wish to share with the rest of our little baseball universe.

The Eagle cannot thank any of you enough for your ongoing quality contributions. Without the involvement of you three guys, and all the other contributors who must go nameless here tonight due to time and space, The Pecan Park Eagle would have gone elsewhere long ago. Our own creative energy feeds on the heart and soul of all your minds and spirits – especially when it comes to all the little nuance things that happen in our baseball culture to make our game the most fascinating drama in all organized sports.

Thank you too, Greg and Larry, for being our “surprise” guest columnists this late Friday evening, May 6, 2016.

___________________

 

Greg Lucas Legendary FOX Broadcaster Texas Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee

Greg Lucas
Legendary FOX Broadcaster and Baseball Author
Texas Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee

The Double Standard for Literal Expression in Print vs. Broadcast Media

By Greg Lucas

(Originally submitted to The Pecan Park Eagle as a Comment Upon the Above Referenced Link.)

While I don’t advocate doing what Smith did the irony is that if the same player does a TV or radio interview the fans will hear exactly what he says as he says it. There is a double standard that says newspapers should “clean things up.” I think this is correct, not just to make the interviewee sound better, but more importantly to allow the public to know exactly what he meant if not exactly the words he used.

When I was working it often was a problem getting some players whose primary language was Spanish or Japanese to do an interview without an interpreter. The players were capable of communicating in English, but not well schooled in speaking it and did not want to appear to struggle. I totally understood that. As they got better they would attempt to speak in English in the post game group interviews in front of their lockers. Most could not be used on TV or radio, but it was not hard to understand what was trying to be communicated by writers and they would “clean it up” for the newspaper stories. Broken English never made it to print.

The other thing that must be remembered is that no language translates exactly word for word into another. A Spanish sentence if broken down word for word using a dictionary, for example, may not make sense to an English speaker. The reverse is true with English to another language. So many idioms require some real thinking to get the meaning.

In respect to the players who are making themselves available to the media what they are saying (interpretively) is more important than the exact words or grammatical structure they may use. That “realism” is not needed and only makes the reporter appear not to have respect for his subject. Get the meaning right…not necessarily the exact sentence structure.

____________________

Larry Dierker Houston Astros Retired # 49 Legendary Astros Player and Manager Historian and Broadcaster Writer and Author Texas Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee

Larry Dierker
Houston Astros Retired # 49
Legendary Astros Player and Manager
Historian and Broadcaster
Writer and Author
Texas Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee

The Irony Behind the Differential Treatment of Literal Speech in Non-Fiction and Fiction

By Larry Dierker

(Originally submitted to The Pecan Park Eagle as a Comment Upon the Above Referenced Link.)

Greg Lucas mentions irony, a foundational aspect of good writing. Well how ironic is this?

In the early, pre-radio days, the reporters didn’t go down to the locker room for quotes. They embellished, or lambasted (Censurable stupidity on the part of player Merkle…”) as they saw fit. Unless you were at the game (usually fewer than 20,000 people), how could you criticize the writer?

With the emergence of the electronic media, so many fans already knew the score before the morning paper was delivered, the print reporters had to go down to get “quotes” to add too what folks already knew from the broadcast media. Although there were few Latin for Asian players, there were plenty who did not speak the King’s English. There were Irish and Italian accents, southern accents. And there was the common butchery of the language of the unschooled like Shoeless Joe Jackson. The writers didn’t try to capture these dialects. That was for novelists.

So are today’s journalists attempting to be more creative? Far from it. Instead, they are practicing irony by accident. With the litigious nature of modern American culture, writers never begin an interview without hitting the “play” button on their hand-held recorders. That way, there is no chance they will misquote the athlete, thus protecting themselves and their employers from legal action. A Boston accent and a Charleston accent still look the same in print. But grammatical errors, especially the egregious ones such as Gomez’ remarks, are embarrassing.

The irony is that if you were writing a baseball novel and trying for realistic dialogue, you would struggle mightily to get both the grammatical errors and the nuances of dialect right. But when you tape an interview and put in in the paper exactly as it is spoken, it seems anything but artful. It seems cruel.

I don’t mind the literal language. If the player is embarrassed, perhaps he will try to improve his command of English. If not, so be it. As Greg mentioned, you’re going to hear the way the players speak on radio and TV. I don’t think Colby Rasmus is going to work on his accent to sound more educated. I wouldn’t want him to. I would, however, like to be a good enough writer to capture it in print.

____________________

eagle-0rangeBill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

https://bill37mccurdy.com/

 

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One Response to “Dierker and Lucas: Ironies of Baseball Journalism”

  1. Tom Hunter Says:

    One solution for a writer is to summarize the players comments in his own grammatically correct narrative. In the past, poor grammar was followed by inserting [sic], Latin for “thus”, indicating that the quotation is exactly as spoken, which can appear even more condescending.

    If you described someone as a Texan who dropped his “g”s and tended to stress the first syllable of many words (IN-surance, UM-brella, CE-ment), then dialogue could be written in a straight-forward manner, letting the reader fill in the pronunciation and inflection.

    Dizzy Dean would present a special problem. If you “cleaned up” his grammar, delivery, and pronunciation for print, what appeared on the page wouldn’t be Ol’ Diz.

    Greg and Larry have done a good job summarizing the problem.

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