[Note: Damn, I wasn't expecting this to get so many hits (hi there!) or I'd have written something better. I have, however, fixed a couple of the more blatant errors. Feel free to mail me
if you want to take me to task for my poor grasp of football terminology.]
A couple of times recently I've heard people complaining that sports coverage in the news is expected to be highly technical and laced with jargon, but that if a science or technology story uses any specialist language or jargon whatsoever it's derided publicly as "elitist" and "inaccessible".
Let's take a trip to a parallel universe.. (wobbly lines effect)
HOST: In sports news, Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti today heavily criticised a controversial offside decision which denied Didier Drogba a late goal, leaving Chelsea with a 1-all draw against Sunderland.
INTERCOM: Wait. Hold it. What was all that sports jargon?
HOST: It's just what's in the script. All I did was read it - I've got no idea what it's really on about.
INTERCOM: Nobody without a PhD in football's going to understand that. Who wrote this crap? It's elitist rubbish, people will just turn off when they hear it. "Late equaliser"? "Offside"? We've got to get this rewritten so it's more accessible.
HOST: Let's try this again, then. In sports news, a London football referee has reinterpreted the rules of the game in a manner which is causing controversy among the footballing establishment. Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti described the moment the referee revealed his new version of the rule.
ANCELOTTI: Well, obviously the referee called that decision as he saw it, but even I could see three men between Drogba and the goal. It's terrible refereeing, and we're disappointed to have been denied the win because of such a poor decision.
HOST: Hahaha! Wait a moment, Mr Ancelotti - our listeners will need to have some of that egghead jargon explained to them. Can you explain it a little more simply?
ANCELOTTI: Well... the referee decided that Didier was offside, and I don't agree with that decision. It was clear from the replay that the goal should have been given.
HOST: So in layman's terms, what exactly does "offside" mean?
ANCELOTTI: Offside? Well, it means that if there are less than two opposing players between an attacking player and the goal, and the attacking player is in front of the ball...
HOST (interrupts): ... "Goal?" I'm sorry, all this jargon is difficult to understand. Can you put it in the form of a simple, easy-to-grasp metaphor?
HOST: Well, let's go to the phones and see what the public think about this. Line 1 - Mick in Surbiton.
MICK IN SURBITON: I just don't see the relevance of this to everyday life. What difference does Mr Ancelotti's work make to the everyday taxpayer? Was this game funded by the government?
HOST: Good point, Mick. Line 2 - yes, Steve in Bromley, you're on the air. What do you think, Steve?
STEVE IN BROMLEY: I think we need to hear the real story here, which is how the footballing establishment refuses to enter into any debate on this alleged "offside" rule. Why should we have this establishment view of how many players need to be between an attacking player and the goalmouth presented as if it's gospel fact? I read an article on the Internet which said there's strong evidence that in fact, four or even five players need to be in front of an attacking player for them not to be offside, and I don't think this is being presented in an unbiased manner. Why should we believe this Ancelotti guy?
HOST: Food for thought, Steve. I believe Mr Ancelotti's still on the line.. Carlo, do you have any response to that?
ANCELOTTI: Well, the offside rule is clearly documented and the vast majority of authorities have agreed that it is being interpreted correctly as "two players" for many years now. There's no real debate as to whether the offside rule exists or how it should be interpreted. That's why I was so disappointed in the referee's decision.
HOST: Let's take another call. Line 3.. Angela, in Newcastle. Hi, Angela!
ANGELA IN NEWCASTLE: Yeah, I'd like to ask why this establishment figure is attacking the referee so viciously. The referee employed an interpretation of the offside rule which most so-called authorities would consider "wrong", but I think that's just a really arrogant view, assuming that this so-called offside rule is as set in stone as they want us to think it is. This referee is just being victimised for being a maverick who brings things out into the open that the money-driven football establishment and the sportswear manufacturers want covered up. I'm certainly going to think twice about letting my children play football now.
HOST: Well, that's all the time we have for now. Later on we'll be holding a Q&A with the referee, who continues to maintain that his "four player" interpretation is supported by the available editions of the rules and that the football establishment is trying to silence his viewpoint. We'll be talking to well-known sports personality Lance Armstrong to hear his reaction, and in our Special Investigation segment we'll be looking at the sometimes controversial history of the offside rule. Please do keep emailing and calling in, especially if the old "two-player" rule has affected you or your family.