The language of it all

Nicholas Mercer
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Nicholas Mercer

Taking a couple of steps to his right, a second baseman takes a quick glance to his double play partner.

Sticking up his left hand with the middle and fourth fingers curled downwards leaving two pointing upwards, he relays a set of instructions to the shortstop.

“Let’s get two here,” he says.

At the same time, a batter adjusts his pine tar stained helmet and steps out of the box eyes towards his third base coach while the man on first peers across the diamond. Both are looking for instructions.

The coach is giving signals.  His right hand goes to the brim of his hat then immediately slides down his right arm signaling a hit and run.

A puck skitters along the boards and two hulking players are on a collision course for the black disc.

The player in white gets there first.

Suddenly, he hears the words, “chip, chip,” as his left-winger claps his stick on the ice looking for the puck.

Tapping the puck off the boards and by his opponent, his forward scoops it up and is streaking down the boards.

“Wheel!” the defenceman shouts, emploring his teammate to skate.

Basketball shoes squeak on the hardwood court. The repetitive bounce of the ball cannot conceal the set of instruction coming from the coach on the sidelines to his point guard on the floor.

“Motion, motion,” he shouts.

The guard calls for a pick from his big man and they run the play.

What connects three of these scenarios?


Each contains a form of language exclusive to the three sports. The second baseman, the coach and the defenceman are all using language that connects them to their teammates.

Language is something that connects the human race. It allows us to communicate, as a society and a people.

The world can’t function without it.

Sports language is like any other dialect spoken on the planet.

There are words and phrases exclusive to the world of sports. Often it goes further than that.

Sometimes words can crossover to other worlds, bridging that gap between societal groups.

The word beauty is a prime example of that.

While it never started in the sports vernacular, it has crossed over.

It has become a word used to describe the talent level of an athlete.

Does not matter who or what sport.

If he’s talented, he’s a beauty.

Even if he’s not talented but sticks up for teammates, he’s a beauty.

Football is another one.

While the name of a sport, it has two different meanings to two very different groups of people.

For millions of people, it means the beautiful game. For millions others, it means America’s game.

This simple word connects sports fans all over the world.

I realize the word human connects everyone on the planet, but not in the way football does.

Mention human in passing and the person won’t bat an eye. But, mention football and watch their ears perk up.

Watch words form on the tip of their tongue. You know you’re in for some discussion.

Now, I’m not naïve to know this isn’t restricted to the world of sports. I imagine mentioning the words Dunderdale, Rob Ford or Stephen Harper will elicit the same response.

But, I’m referring to just another aspect of what makes sports great.

I mean, the shortstop from above is from the Dominican Republic and speaks poor English, while the second baseman is from Omaha Nebraska and speaks no Spanish.

Yet, they know exactly what each other is saying.

That’s what I’m getting at. That’s the beauty of sports and the language contained within.

See, there’s that word again.

— Nicholas Mercer is a reporter/photographer with The Compass. He lives in Bay Roberts and can be reached at

Organizations: Dominican Republic, The Compass

Geographic location: America, Omaha Nebraska, Bay Roberts

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