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It's Oct. 1, fall is in the air, and all seems right with the world. I'm referring of course to the terrific news out of Montreal -- not that the Expos are finally moving to D.C., but that Youppi has received a stay of execution.
This is how bizarre baseball in Montreal had become. We heard barely a peep from the locals while MLB was making a mockery of them and their team over the last two years. (Hockey fans, pay attention to the Expos' sad decline, which began with the 1994 players strike. I'm quite sure the hockey lockout will trigger the same scenario in one of the fringe NHL cities in the U.S.) But people truly seem bent out of shape over the prospect of losing the mascot, a disconcerting creature even by the standards of genus-nonspecific furballs.
"Youppi will not die with the death of the Expos," team vice president Claude Delorme declared with appropriate Gallic gravitas. Youppi may accompany Les Expos to Washington. But if he/she/it can't get a visa, Delorme said he's gotten offers from a few Quebec locals to buy Youppi's name and persona from the club. You go, Youppi ...
The playoffs begin next week, which means we're going to be hearing a lot from Yankees manager Joe Torre, which means I'll be doing a lot of cringing. Torre is the best manager in the game, well-spoken, intelligent and extremely accommodating to the media. But in interviews Torre is a world-class practioner of a verbal trick that drives me crazy: The use of the word "you" when he really means "I" or "we."
Consider this quote in Thursday's New York Post, when Torre was asked about the possibility that Kevin Brown will get a spot in the postseason rotation: "If you wanted to start him, I think you'd have to be satisfied with the fact you're dealing with 80 or 90 pitches." Or this from earlier this week: "It's always a worry when your pitchers have trouble and you start the playoffs next week."
Lots of managers, coaches and athletes do this, and even if it's done subconsciously, I think there's a reason for it. On one hand it's a way of drawing the listener in, making fans (or reporters) feel they're part of whatever decision process the speaker's describing. On the other hand it's a subtle cushion that keeps the speaker from having to express an opinion as his own.
If Torre said, "I want to see Kevin Brown throw 80 or 90 pitches before I start him," it would sound like a direct challenge to his prickly starter. (And we know how Brown reacts when he gets pissed off.) Instead, all Torre wants is something any reasonable person would want -- hey, "you" would want to make sure Brown could throw 90 pitches too. "He's" not worried about his staff -- but "you" would be. (For the record, I'm not quibbling with the substance of Torre's quote. If it were up to me, "I" would leave Brown off the playoff roster.)
You don't even know what you would call this grammatical two-step. (Fourth person? First person once removed?) But you hear coaches and player do it all the time. It's a subtle way for them to keep from owning up to what they think and letting us inside their heads. So a few weeks ago, instead of saying "I really want to kick Boston's ass" on the eve of New York's series with the Red Sox, Torre said, "You're looking forward to winning games."
The "you" phenomenon is a small thing, something you might only notice if it is your job to coax information from coaches and players. But you just had a good idea: Maybe "You"ppi can get a job as New York's mascot. ...
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I'm not quite sure what the target audience is for this, but as a public service to hopelessly bored Canadians and other unoccupied NHL fans I feel compelled to inform you that there will be hockey on TV this fall. Something called G4techTV will play a video game version of the entire 1,230-game regular season NHL schedule. Beginning Oct. 13, when the phantasmagoric Flyers take on the liquid crystal Lightning, you can catch highlights, scores and stats on a daily show called "Sweat," which sounds like SportsCenter (or SportsCentre, as it's known in Canada) for people with bionic thumbs. G4techTV bills itself as "the only 24-hour television network devoted to games, gear, gadgets and gigabytes," but I can't find it among the 4.6 million channels on my cable system. Still, I won't be shocked if the virtual NHL gets better ratings than the real thing. ...
I've never really been into video games, not counting the few thousand hours I wasted playing Sega's NHL Hockey in college (perhaps I should send my resume to G4techTV), but I knew tons of kids who loved to play Nintendo. I've just found out there are people who love to play Nintendo ... music. I present to you the Minibosses, a Phoenix-based band devoted to playing the background music from classic Nintendo games. (I had always assumed a band of that name would be little people covering Bruce Springsteen songs -- something along these lines.) I can't really comment on how faithfully the Minibosses have recreated the feel of Mega Man 2 and Castlevania 3, but the boys sound like they have some talent. (Even to a non-gamer, the live version of Ninja Gaiden rocks.) A bit of Googling reveals that the Minibosses are not a genre of one -- the Nintendo cover scene also includes The Advantage, the NESkimos and Select Start. I'm guessing the Minibosses don't get as many groupies as more conventional bands, but Lara Croft is probably putty in their hands. ...
Until next time, you're hoping that you have a good weekend.
Sports Illustrated staff writer Stephen Cannella covers the NHL for the magazine and contributes frequently to SI.com.