Friday, April 21, 2006

Writing Quality: Skip Bayless

One of my least favorite expressions: "X and Y don't even belong in the same sentence together."

Why do I dislike this? Because anything can go in the same sentence together. "X is way better than Y." "Y shouldn't even be compared to X." Any two subjects can appear in the same sentence, in part because words like "not" exist. Saying things don't belong in the same sentence together doesn't really illustrate their difference in quality. It does--but not really. Only in the way we recognize what cliches mean even if we don't know their original meaning. That's why developing writers are taught to avoid cliches. They are unoriginal and meaningless. Cliches are generally a sign of poor writing.

But there's a more important reason I don't like this cliche. By saying "X and Y don't belong in the same sentence," you are putting X and Y in the same sentence! It's a paradoxical sentence, sort of like the sentence, "I am lying."

Skip Bayless pulls this poor writing cliche thrice in his column on Vince Young.

He writes,

"Then again, comparing Vince Young with Aaron Rodgers is like putting Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf in the same sentence."

Very good, Skip. Evidently, only a moron would put Manning and Leaf in the same sentence.

Later, he writes a sentence that stands as its own paragraph:

"Mario Williams doesn't belong in the same paragraph with Vince Young."

Skip, not only have you placed them in the same paragraph, but your paragraph is only one sentence! Evidently Williams and Vince do occasionally belong in the same paragraph.

But Skip Bayless likes this cliche, and he keeps expanding it outward:

"Otherwise, Williams doesn't belong in the same zip code with Peppers."

Bayless likes the "X doesn't belong (insert some level of distance) within Y" cliche when saying that X isn't nearly as good as Y. At least he's consistent in using this well-worn cliche and he seems to be developing a pattern of expansion throughout the column.

But it's a poor, stupid, inherently contradictory cliche that only means something at this point because we all know what it means. It's a cliche that is not only counter-intuitive, but illuminates nothing.


  1. Wow- you actually read a Skip Bayless column? You're a very brave man. I don't even allow myself to click on one of that hack's links, just in case stupidity is contagious.

  2. this was great and long overdue.

  3. Skip Bayless gives me hope and depresses me at the same time... on one hand if he can write for ESPN, surely I could do something like this. On the other hand, if this is what sports media is coming to, that's bad. Skip is just awful, really only fighting Jay Mariotti for my least favorite Reporter turned TV guy out there.

  4. Anonymous4:03 PM

    Skip and Woody are pretty good on 1st and 10.

  5. Anonymous3:39 PM

    Correction: Woody is good on 1st and 10. Skip is a joke who thinks his opinions are highly superior to the rest of the worlds.

  6. well I can certainly tell you that I have read thousands of blogs and only few blogs have the writing quality that your blog has, so congrats!