Mute button “trickeration”

Let’s celebrate one of the most important inventors of all time. Not Edison, Guttenberg or Ford, although they all have their followers. In fact, the genius being honored today makes the creators of the light bulb, the printing press and the assembly line look about as sharp as a beach ball. He was an intellectual’s intellectual. Please join me in celebrating the 60th anniversary of Eugene McDonald, Jr. and the development of the television remote control.

The story is that back in 1950 McDonald, who started the Zenith Corporation, thought it would be nice to let television viewers change channels without getting off of the couch. Of course, a cord tethered the first “clicker” to the TV, but, hey, the device revolutionized the life of adolescents everywhere – they no longer had to change channels for their fathers. In an amazing case of foreshadowing, McDonald called the innovation Lazy Bones.

At no point is the remote control more valuable than fall. Football is in full swing, the basketball and hockey season have just started and baseball and NASCAR are winding down. It’s in October and November when wins and losses don’t count to viewers; what is really important is how fast you can navigate through all of the sports channels.

With my remote, I can blitz through games, highlights and stats with the speed of a Brett Favre text message. I can follow multiple games at once without a ticket and without even spilling my nachos. The remote is one of the greatest technological advancements of our time. Especially when you consider one seemingly insignificant feature: the mute button.

My mute button gets a workout in autumn (especially considering the avalanche of political advertisements). But here’s the real reason: even long after Harry Caray has gone on to the broadcast booth/brewery in the sky, I find myself muting sportscasters who are mutilating our language.

It used to be that announcers were professionals – graduates of broadcasting schools with an excellent grasp of the language, but with the proliferation of cable and ESPN, anybody who has every taken to the field, track, court or ice thinks they have what it takes to comment on the sports I’m watching. What they are actually doing is sounding dumb and making me long for political ads. We’re getting announcers instead of pronouncers.

Once an ex-jock slaps on a headset and uses some word that he thinks makes him sound smart, he causes the ears of grammar teachers all over the country to start bleeding and sends me diving for the mute button.

Just last weekend, I heard of a football team using “trickeration.” Umm, I think it is trickery. I saw a hockey player make a sliding block and heard the analyst say, “He defensed that play perfectly.” Where’s my mute button?

Former track stars “medaled” at the Olympics. Is that like the meddling kids that villains on Scooby-Doo always talked about? Teams and players come to “agreeance” on a new contract. I bet Mr. McDonald is turning over in his grave. I’m sure it’s “impacted” his eternal rest.

I asked a friend of mine who is the voice of a Big East Conference football team (and one of those college-educated sports announcers) what’s going on. He told me that the players-turned-broadcasters spend too much time around coaches. As we all know, coaches have Shakespearean grasps of the language. It rubs off and spills out into the airwaves, making a huge mess.

But, with my finger on the silence button, I still watch sports, finger on the button. And should some former athlete start fumbling English, I’m on it faster than a split infinitive. Let the mutification begin.

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