Thursday, May 24, 2007

Errors of Transcription in Baseball

It's not enough that the baseball reporter, even the previously praised Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle's Sporting Green, simply and clearly transmit the story of the game's progress to the reader, although it's not much of a story without that. No, in addition it is expected that tidbits of talk about a just concluded game from those who shaped its outcome will be presented by the reporter as well, requiring Schulman, for example, to visit Giants and others who might have cause to say something about the event that's just played out, and transmit those collected comments to the reader as well.

Schulman quotes Giants manager Bruce Bochy following Opening Day:

It wasn't an auspicious start," he said. You hate to have a game like that for your opener, but you're going to have to wash it off. A lot of guys got work out there, got their feet wet.

Bochy nicely leaves unmentioned what it was that wet the feet of a lot of guys working out there, but manages to recommend a prudent clubwide washing nonetheless.

We have to throw the ball a lot better. We made a lot of mistakes out there.

A comprehensive list of the teams shortcomings is in the boxscore, Bochy singling out errant throws for special mention in his comments.

Here's an interesting perspective on such jobs of transcription by Mark Liberman of Language Log called Journalists' Quotations: Unsafe In Any Mood, which highlights one opportune moment in baseball reporting when the subtly mangled quote cannot help but slip in between the uttered word and its printed form.

Such willing errors of transcription are mostly harmless, for all I know. They may arise out of a common professional courtesy extended by baseball reporters to subjects they interview, the grant that something near what was sensibly meant by the subject will somehow make its way onto the page whatever way it's put.

It's easy enough to imagine Schulman's quotes sometimes stretched out on the rack requiring meaning of what's just been uttered, Schulman offering up to the readers of his report a determinedly sensible stretch instead of the train of words which, as originally joined, make no good sense at all.

It's also easy enough to imagine a manager like Bruce Bochy, provoked to discuss the Giants performance on Opening Day, saying just what is meant by the words quoted by Schulman above.


The Constructivist said...

Peter, my colleague at O v. C v. T just wrote a column defending Barry Bonds. No time to link to it now b/c I've got WAAGNFNP hellhounds on my trail. But it's the first piece you see when you click on the blogroll link!

peter ramus said...

Thanks, C, I'll go over and check that out right now.

JP Stormcrow said...

This was a lesson I learned first hand quite early in life. In high school a reporter from the local paper interviewed three of us for a fluff piece on some work our church was doing. In the subsequent article appeared a quote, attributed to one of us, which basically recapitulated the words of all three, but definitely not uttered by any one of us. Naive to the core, I recall being flabbergasted and appalled by such a needless shading of reality.

.. And not related to quotes, but later that summer my view of the media was reinforced again by personal experience. We had a wonderful, but fractious concert series in town, replete with much police action and tear gas. Of the three that made the paper, I could barely recognize the events described, as they were so contrary to my personal observations.