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Columbia Missourian

Welcome to my March Madness

By Tom Warhover
March 14, 2008 | 5:00 p.m. CDT
Tom Warhover is the Columbia Missourian's executive editor for innovation.

Dear Reader:

Basketball fans, take note: I can’t stand to hear another broadcaster talk about the Tigers. The end of the season can’t come soon enough.

I’m not tired off the mediocre season. I don’t fret over the talent or heart of the young men and women on their respective teams. My daughter and I may argue over the value of shorts hovering somewhere around mid-calf, but even hem lengths can’t upset me like the words that come out of the mouths of media professionals describing a team.

My ire is simple. “Team is an ‘it.’”

The women’s basketball team pulled off a great upset on Tuesday. IT, not they, advanced to the next round, where IT lost. They, the Tigers (the individuals on the team, that is) described the joy and disappointment during tourney week.

That’s how the language is supposed to work. The mangling of pronoun agreement sets my teeth on edge. I become irate, beyond reason. Twice this week, I simply had to turn the radio off. (I’m focusing on that particular medium only because of this week’s particular outbreak. The virus can be found across platform, though, including this newspaper.)

The Missourian’s former sports editor, Ray Murray, made the quotation above famous in the newsroom and beyond. He grew so tired of repeating the mantra that he had T-shirts made so offenders could just read the words on his chest.

I should connect my point to something global here. I could rail at the message-ification of the language, or even pine for the days when writers didn’t make up words like the hum-dinger in this sentence. I could pine for the days when fliers (not flyers) were posted on bulletin boards and plans were accepted, not excepted.

I won’t give in to the temptation. I won’t be elitist about the language — or am I too late already? I’ll try to take the same attitude as a friend who owns a wine shop on the East Coast. He describes his place as a “snob-free zone.”

That said, I’ll still want to scream when I hear or read that little word “they.”

Welcome to my March Madness.