From what I understand there was a game last night and Texas lost. People are sad. Other people, obviously, are happy. My first response is something along the lines of "Oh, please, how old are you?" Sports bring out my ungenerous side. I just do not want to hear about it. I can totally channel my mother at the dinner table when I was a little kid railing about how much time and money is spent in schools on sports compared to academics and the arts. And now that I live in a town dominated by a huge university and most of my friends are somehow connected with academia, and I live in a state obsessed with college football, I hear those conversations again. A lot. (The UT football coach makes $5 million a year. Justify that.)
We could trace my negative attitude back to scenes of schoolyard humiliation, gender anxiety, it's all very interesting stuff, but as I've gotten older I've actually made a lot of progress in cultivating a more open and curious attitude toward the sports thing. It's so fucking important to so many people, it has to be interesting in some way. I want to know what it's about. It's like video games and comic books and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Such a big deal for so many people that I think to be more versed in them would deepen my understanding of the world in some way, so I try to find out, read, ask questions, observe. I try. But it doesn't take long before I'm so lost and bored I think my eyes are going to explode. (The fact that all of the subcultures I mentioned above are traditionally male is not lost on me.)
So. Today everyone is going to be talking about what it was that happened last night. I think, okay I'm going to look it up and at least find out what it was that happened. Not that I have any desire to really engage in a conversation about the game but I at least want to have some very basic context for all the remarks I will overhear. Give me the broad strokes. I go to the New York Times sports section and read the story. Texas lost, that's the gist. And I should have stopped reading there because by the second paragraph I'm totally lost:
"On Texas’ fifth snap of the Bowl Championship Series title game Thursday night, Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus leveled Texas quarterback Colt McCoy with a punishing hit on an option play."What the hell are they talking about? I'm right back in fifth grade gym class. We're playing flag football; there was never any discussion of the rules, yet I'm expected to know them. It doesn't get any better: "In an era in which spread offenses have come to dominate college football, Alabama’s claim to a 13th national title comes with a game won squarely between the tackles." I get the same feeling reading Foucault. There's nothing unusual or difficult about the sentences grammatically, and the words are familiar. But its meaning is completely opaque to me.
So I'm wondering this: Is there any other field besides sports that is covered in the mainstream media using such arcane jargon? It seems to me that a person who knew very little about, say, food, or politics, or theatre, could read a story about them in the Times and maybe he or she would have to look up a word or two but would be able to follow the story in a general way. Am I right? Since I know a bit about food, politics, and the arts, it's hard for me to judge, but after glancing at a few stories this morning it looks like subjects other than sports are written about in plain language aimed at a general reader, not a specialist. If that it true, then why?