Back when I first moved to Wyoming, my friend Jim was attempting to teach me to talk about sports. Largely this is because he thought it would be very entertaining if I were to walk into the Wea Market some morning and say to the guys, “Wow, the Patriots just ran right over the Bills last night.”
I never did it, because, among other things, I’d have had to pay attention to the names of the teams playing and who won,* and because the only other cliches I could remember were “the penalties are just killing them!” (for football) and “they’re not lettin’ ‘em play!” (for basketball), but I was always convinced I’d get them mixed up, and God knows I hate more than anything to sound like a fool.
I’ve been thinking about these sports cliches, though, and about the nature of sports commentary in general, which seems, on television at least, to involve largely meaningless statements made by guys in poorly-fitting suits, when I was listening watching the commentary on Google+ roll by over the past couple of weeks.
You could set yourself up as a tech commentator about as easily as I could set myself up as a sports commentator. Just memorize a few key phrases — “______ killer,” “privacy concerns,” “the new Facebook,” “if Microsoft/Apple designed a ______” — and you’re set to go. Since you’ll probably be doing this all from the comfort of your computer, you don’t even have to wear a suit (or anything at all, for that matter).
As I’ve never been a sports fan, I’ve always found the talk inane. I suspect I’m wrong at least in part — I’m sure that out there, if you look, and if you care, there are people saying intelligent things about sports, just as, if you look hard enough, there are people saying intelligent things about technology. But the fact is that most people who are interested in one or the other aren’t necessarily looking for great wisdom — they’re looking for a chance to shoot the shit. The guys hanging out at the Wea Market the morning after a game talk about it in part because it’s a nice way to avoid starting the workday for a bit longer, but mostly they do it because they like talking about it, the way one likes repeating one’s favorite bits of movie dialogue.
I can complain all I want about the idiocy of tech talk, but that didn’t prevent me from getting a Google+ account the minute I got a chance.
This is turning into less an interesting post about an idea and more into a moralistic post about tolerance — but I do think it’s worth thinking about. It’s maddening to me that people make a living from saying “Nexus S is the iPhone killer,” but, in point of fact, I recently got a smartphone and spent a long time considering which one I wanted. We can complain all we want about the inanity of tech talk, but until we ourselves stop using the tech, it’s bound to be a bit hypocritical.
*And, indeed, I would not have had an example for this post were it not for Steve Lawson.