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Why basketball is better without the buzzwords

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Roar Rookie
21st August, 2019
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There were two things I was hoping for watching the second friendly between the Boomers and the Canadians last week: I wanted to see the Australians play well and I wanted to hear the commentators say the word ‘missed’.

Australia were awful in the first match against the North Americans and, given we had a team of NBA stars and the Canadian roster was made up of college students, seeing a better performance from the Aussies was not a lot to ask for. But all through that first game, even though the Boomers missed shot after shot, I didn’t hear the commentators use the word ‘missed’ even once.

So while I persevered through four quarters of the second game waiting to see our Boomers hit their straps and waiting for the commentators to use the seemingly difficult-to-pronounce word, I ended up disappointed on both counts.

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The Aussies were better in the second game. Good enough to win. Their offence created plenty of opportunities, but the team’s gun shooters still had the shooting yips. They missed a lot. The defensive effort was also somewhat improved, though the team’s ‘help defence’ will have to improve considerably. But were the commentators any better in their efforts to finally enunciate ‘missed’? Nup. Not as far as I could tell.

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Australia missed lots of shots in the first quarter. Here are some of the ways that the commentators announced the missed shots:

  • “Fires from deep but can’t make it go.”
  • “He was worried out of the points.”
  • “He couldn’t complete it.”
  • “He couldn’t finish it.”
  • “He fired unsuccessfully.”
  • “He was worried out of it.”
  • “Can’t finish.”
  • “Didn’t finish that.”
  • “Not happening for Joe.”
  • “Came up empty.”
  • “Couldn’t get it to sink.”
  • “Couldn’t get the job done.”

I am sure that there were several other basketball cliches used to substitute for the word ‘missed’ throughout the match, but I stopped paying attention about halfway through the first quarter. Clearly the main game commentator had no intention of just simply saying ‘missed’, so I gave up hoping for it.

I love basketball. I have loved it for the 50-plus years I have been playing the game. I have loved it ever since I was given my first Manly-Warringah Paratels singlet to play in the Sydney under-10s competition way back in the 1960s.

But one thing I have never loved about basketball is the language some people use to show that they are ‘insiders’. Basketball doesn’t need it. It’s a great sport without the jargon. Jargon tends to exclude. It shuts people out if they don’t understand the language. It makes people feel unwanted and uncomfortable.

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I will be watching the second USA vs Australia games with excitement. Maybe the Boomers will get their shooting act together and play well. Is it too much to hope that the commentators will use simple language this game?

Maybe we will even hear them utter the forbidden word.