As another baseball season is upon us, it is fitting to note that baseball, our traditional national pastime, is teaming up with our modern national pastime, political correctness.
A small but telling change has come to baseball’s lexicon this season, as gone is the terminology disabled list, which has been used forever and a day as the official designation of players who are not eligible to play because they are hurt, to the new and allegedly improved designation injured list to indicate the same thing.
The change was made after advocacy groups had complained that the term disabled list is confusing and offensive to people with disabilities. It matters not that the term injured list might not tell the story as clearly as the term disabled list. With the term disabled list, you understand immediately a player is out of action, while the term injured list is unclear, as after all, injured players depending on the degree of the injury play all the time.
All of this is reminiscent of George Carlin’s legendary standup bit about euphemisms that try to soften the language, including jargon used to describe people with disabilities.
Carlin’s point through humor was common sense is lacking if you use political correctness to ban legitimate words, “If you change the name of the condition, you don’t change the condition.” He points out how descriptive words that weren’t intended to demean, but to clearly describe, are constantly being softened to what is to be less offensive language, only to find after a passage of a short time, the new softer word becomes just as offensive as the old terminology to the politically correct. Hence, we have gone from crippled to handicapped to disabled to describe the same thing. How long before baseball’s new injured list is deemed offensive and has to be changed to something else?
Speaking of the word cripple, the baseball term cripple pitch has slowly faded away. Forever, cripple pitch was a settled upon euphemism used by baseball announcers for when a pitcher fell behind in the count and had no choice but to put the ball right down the middle of the plate to the delight of the batter.
What has replaced the term cripple pitch? Nothing, really. The announcer also can’t say, referring to said pitch, as a fat one out of fear of offense. But being a sports announcer has now become a hazardous occupation.
Brian Davis, the former announcer of the Oklahoma City Thunder of the National Basketball Association, was first suspended and then had his contract not renewed after he referred to a player as being “out of his cotton-picking mind,” during the course of a game. And of course, we had ESPN announcer Robert Lee banned from announcing a college football game because his name was Robert Lee, the same as Confederate War general Robert E. Lee. Remember when sports were fun and lighthearted?
The list of vocabulary words in the sports world is shrinking every day. Some news outlets outright refuse to use official team names, such as Redskins or Indians, and simply refer to them as the Cleveland baseball team or the Washington football team. One wonders how long golfers will be able to refer to their ‘handicap’?
But political correctness is an odd master. None of the news outlets that I’m aware of have any issues with the team name of the National Hockey League Nashville Predators. A predator, of course, is a legitimate word that describes an animal that preys on others. In our modern parlance, predator has become associated with describing anyone from child molesters to Harvey Weinstein.
Recently a group of students at Emory University have discovered the Nashville Predators and have publically asked the team to change its name. The Nashville Predators have now become the hunted.
Matthew Kastel is a 25-year veteran of working as an executive in the world of sports, including professional teams, organizations, and some of the largest vendors in the industry. Matt has also written two novels and teaches and lectures at universities on the business of sports. For more information you can visit his website at thirdstrikeproductions.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.