Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Faulty Defense Mechanism

When the Seattle Seahawks defeated the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday, I switched channels. Immediately. I watch sports for the sports, not for the pregame hype, halftime spectacle or postgame analysis. Fortunately for When Write Is Wrong, my brother, Paul, stayed with the program.

Paul was ticked about a “verb” seen (and heard) almost exclusively in the sports community, so he threw the proverbial flag. The penalty? Illegal substitution.

Defensed, in this screen shot, is being used as a verb meaning defended. We already have a verb for that — it’s defended!

Defense should not be a verb, even though it’s a go-to term for many sportscasters and is listed in the dictionary as such. The verb was, is and always should be defend. Defense? As a verb? Indefensible!

My brother, in his postgame text, was more forthright in sharing his feelings about defense being a verb. His all-caps text read as follows: “IT’S NOT!!! IF A BILLION PEOPLE SAY OR DO A STUPID THING, IT’S STILL A STUPID F*CKING THING!!!”

As you can tell, my brother is not “on ‘defense’” about this issue. Paul’s annoyed. Paul’s angry. He should be. I am too, and I will be until defense rests — as a verb. I’ll continue, of course, to defend its dignified role as a noun.

The illegal substitution penalty backed us up five yards. Make it 10, because we have to add a five-yard false start penalty.

Check out the preprinted copy of the Daily News in the background.


When you come, bring a comma. You need one after YORK. The state is being directly addressed on the front page. When you address a person, place or thing, you set it off with a comma. Readers, here are some examples:

Richard Sherman, take off that hat and shirt.

Seattle, win the Super Bowl!

NFL, will you stop shoving Peyton Manning down our collective throats?

Readers, here are some examples.

(Did I mention that the headline is misleading, too? Sure, the Seahawks and Broncos are coming to the New York metropolitan area, but they’ll be on New Jersey soil when they play Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford.)

Today’s grammar lessons, like the 49ers and Patriots, are done, but I want to share a Super Bowl thought before I go:

GO SEAHAWKS! Shut down the Broncos in New Jersey as if they were Fort Lee lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge! (Nice analogy, huh, Gov. Christie?)

I’m not a Seattle fan, so why so passionate? I’ll be root-root-rooting hard for the Seahawks on Feb. 2 because I can’t pull for the Broncos. Excuse me, I’m contractually obligated to refer to Denver’s NFL franchise by its unofficial full name: Peyton Manning and the Broncos.

When the Seahawks win, it's about the team.

When the Broncos win, it's about Manning ... and the "team."

Alas, the Seahawks will be unable to buck “Peyton Manning and the Broncos.” The Seahawks, you see, celebrated too much for my liking after defeating the 49ers. To a man, Seahawks players will claim to be sufficiently motivated and ready to give 110 percent* on Groundhog Day. If that’s what they’re selling, I’m not buying. Following the win against San Francisco, they seemed overly enthused just to be in the Super Bowl, and I fear they’ll lack the hunger to make that final, important push. Don’t rejoice after running 26.1 miles. Don’t celebrate 50 feet from the summit of the mountain. Contentment impedes achievement.

I’m not downplaying Seattle’s victory against a strong San Francisco team. That was a big win, no doubt — but it wasn’t the big win. The goal of all 32 teams is to win the Super Bowl, not get to the Super Bowl. Thirty-one teams come up short, whether it’s far short (see: Dallas Cowboys) or just short (see soon: Seattle Seahawks).

Is a Super Bowl runner-up finish impressive? In a sense, sure. It’d also be very, very impressive if, hypothetically, I participated in a foot race with every U.S. citizen and finished second out of 317,397,858. Yet I’d still be a loser. I use that term not mean-spiritedly but definitively. If I gave everything I had, I’d be proud of my effort. But I wouldn’t label myself a winner, in a strictly interpretative sense of the word. I left 317,397,856 in the dust, but I inhaled the dry dirt particles of one — the victor. I was great … but someone was better. I finished second, and second hurts.

Photo by Ronald Martinez / Getty Images
Second place hurts more than third place, more than last place. If you get so close, you want to complete the task. You want to run that last tenth of a mile. You want to climb those final 50 feet. You want to win the ultimate game and claim ownership of the Lombardi Trophy.

Do you want to win, Seattle?

Do you?

I hope so, because number two is, well, sh*tty.

* I’m not a fan of hyperbole. When I hear a person say he’s going to give 
110 percent, I shudder. If you’re going to give 110 percent, it’s 110 percent of 90.91.

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