Saturday, April 12, 2008

Brilliant! ***CLINK***

          I was watching the Yankees vs. the Red Sox today with my dad. He's an old-school Yankees fan. I'm a Cleveland Indians fan. I'm not sure which he enjoys more--rooting for the Yanks to win or rooting for the Tribe to lose. I let him have his fun. It keeps him going. Anyway... during today's game, Yankees 2nd-baseman Robinson Cano made a tough play on a high bouncer to his right. He's right-handed, so he had to
backhand it. It was pretty nifty, but that's about it.  Play-by-play commentator, Joe Buck called it brilliant--twice.  Color-man, Tim McCarver may have said it once himself.  I was starting to lose track.  Later, in a post-game interview, new Yankee manager, Joe Girardi, called Cano's play spectacular.
          Woah, Joe & Joe--come on, now.  The play was neither brilliant nor spectacular. The way we toss around superlatives as indiscriminately as Nerf balls these days is getting a little
out of control. To keep it with sports, Derek Jeter's miracle flip to the catcher while running toward the dugout in the '01 ALDS was spectacular. Michael Jordan made many spectacular plays. Barry Sanders and Brett Favre have made brilliant and spectacular plays.  I'm not sure if it's even possible for a play in baseball to be brilliant. There are too few options on a given play, and on such a play as Cano's, there's not a lot of thinking involved. It's a reaction thing.
          The matchbook scene in North by Northwest is brilliant. The Geico caveman cocktail party commercial is brilliant. "Can ya give us a minute?!" Yes... brilliant. Absolutely. AngelHeart is brilliant. The Rain Song is brilliant. Cano's play at 2nd base today? Not even close. Somebody's got to rein these people in. Too many young people are influenced by television personalities and what they say. These descriptions need to be accurate.
          Yes, we're careening toward the fact that "brilliant" is a relative term - which is beyond the scope of this discussion - but within the parameters of a given area or subject, ie., baseball, we are able to establish certain guidelines for use of such high praise. A guy who gets paid a cool million a year to yammer on about the game while knocking back 7 & 7s should be expected to know the game well enough to know what plays to save the "brilliants" for.  I know--it's sports and some might argue that neither of these terms could be applied accurately to anything in sports. That's just not true. Considering the complexity of football and the countless variables involved on a given play, there are many decisions that can be deemed brilliant, mainly the play called.
          Either way, "brilliant" is one example of the many superlatives, both negative and positive, whose meanings are becoming diluted in pop culture. I could come up with several examples outside of sports, but I think you know what I mean (if there's anyone actually reading this.) It's all fun and games until a lamp gets broken and somebody gets spanked. Unfortunately, this problem isn't as evident as that, and obviously not important enough for network execs or anybody else with the authority to do something about it, to do something about it.
Oh, yeah... the Guinness ads. They very effectively spoof exactly what I'm talking about, so yes... those ads are brilliant.



  1. While some could argue that "brilliant" is subjective – nothing involving the Cavemen will ever register as brilliant on my scale, for example – I do heartily agree that most people tend to ladle on superlatives where they often have no place.

    Or maybe they're just too lazy to think up the appropriate word.

    Or maybe, in their worlds, that play really was brilliant and spectacular.

    How's that for brilliant waffling?

  2. Orrrrr, he just intentionally used that word in the name of sensationalism, consciously knowing it was an overstatement... which is even worse.

  3. Orrrrr, he really didn't put that much thought into it, and it's just the first word that came out of his mouth, and in live television, you don't go back and qualify what you said unless it was blatantly wrong.