Fran Blinebury’s Random Metaphor Generator

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I cannot, sadly, claim that title as something I pulled from the vast storehouse of completely worthless knowledge within my cranium. That brilliant description of the Houston Chronicle sports writer’s penchant for verbal embellishments in stories came from the pen (or keyboard) of Richard Connelly of the Houston Press.

But, I happen to agree and this article about Shane Battier and Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets getting to know each other as opponents in the World Championships completely illustrates the point.

Here are a few selections from the article:

Yao is the tent pole who holds up everything for China, the globe’s most populous-yet-staid nation, which does not dare dream of a medal and is grateful for every small measure of success.

Battier is merely one of the cogs in the machine of Team USA, which has more weapons than a military arsenal and comes from a bright, noisy place that will consider anything less than a gold medal a failure.

Yao is a tent pole? I get Battier being a cog in a a machine, but a tent pole? Plus, given his desire to squeeze in as many folksy-isms as possible, I’d think he could do better than “more weapons than a military arsenal,” but that’s just me.

The Chinese look to Yao to score, rebound, block shots and be the kind of huge monster Godzilla once was in the movies, breathing fire as he roamed the streets of Japan.

This could be my favorite line of the story. Just reading it makes me wonder if his original sentence ended with the word “movies” and some wiser copy editor, noting that Godzilla was a Japanese invention, not Chinese, added the rest.

Maybe I’m overly sensitive, but it seems like reducing two ancient countries to a single science fiction stereotype might not be the best way to ingratiate yourself into a culture while covering their teams. Then again, maybe Fran went to the Bill Parcells school of racial tolerance where he reveals secret “Jap plays,” but, of course, “no disrespect to the Orientals.” Sigh.

Yao scored 21 points. Battier scored five. Yet it was Battier who had more effect on the outcome, dropping in a beautiful 3-pointer from the left corner to open the game and then spending the rest of the night like a mosquito at a fat man’s picnic, just trying to take a bite.

As if insulting a pair of Asian cultures wasn’t enough, now he goes after the obese comparing Battier’s defense to a “mosquito at a fat man’s picnic.” Not only was this a pretty poor excuse for a sentence, it was also poor use of the Random Metaphor (or, in this case, simile) Generator.

After all, a mosquito at a fat man’s picnic doesn’t have to exert much effort to get a bite, now does he? Battier, in fact, was more like a mosquito at a…no, he wasn’t like a mosquito at all. He was more like…why the hell am I trying to make him like anything? He was pesky. How about that? Isn’t that good enough?

Apparently not for Blines, because he quickly morphs Battier from a mosquito into jumper cables in the very next sentence.

Moved into the starting lineup because U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski wanted to give his team the kind of jolt you get from jumper cables, Battier delivered guts, guile and energy.

Why would Coach K want to electroshock his team anyway? Is this some sort of Abu Ghraib-like torture device? No, it’s just the Random Metaphor Generator spitting out another not-so-clever witticism designed to tell us, in essence, that Battier played hard.

There are times for Faulkner-esque dissertations in sport, but those are best left to essayists and authors like David Halberstam and John Feinstein. For Blinebury and the Chron, their language should be based in brevity, not soliloqy. Otherwise, to borrow from the Generator, he’ll sound like a tool box full of rusty nails bouncing down a metal staircase: full of sound and fury, signifying nothing but annoyance for the reader.

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