Monday, August 27, 2007

Anti-intellectualism, PFT, and Tiki Barber

ProFootballTalk is frequently anti-athlete, and engages in mockery of just about anybody involved in football for a whole host of reasons. And I suppose there's a place for that. But one particular form of PFT's mockery stinks of anti-intellectualism. PFT makes fun of Tiki Barber for using big words; essentially, PFT makes fun of Tiki Barber for sounding smart.

Currently, when the main writer at PFT uses a word or phrase that might sound smart, he'll insert "thanks, Tiki" in parentheses directly afterward. Today "(thanks, Tiki)" appeared after the word "extemporaneously." On August 19th "(thanks, Tiki)" appeared after persona non grata.

The main writer at PFT has claimed that he makes fun of Tiki's vocabulary because Barber is a fake intellectual, using big words pretentiously (ah, thanks Tiki?) to sound smart. As I showed, I'm not so sure. After all, if he's made fun of for using big words, how exactly is Barber supposed to show that he is a legitimate intellectual?

I'm not sure what an athlete or ex-athlete would have to do to convince PFT that he/she is a legitimate intellectual; it's possible that "intellectual athlete" simply doesn't fit into PFT's schema.

I guess I'll leave it to you: do you think PFT's mockery of Tiki Barber's big words constitutes a negative attitude toward intellectualism (whatever that might mean)? Or does Tiki Barber deserve to be mocked for his supposedly pretentious vocabulary?

Anti-intellectualism is a problem in our country. Science is frequently rejected for non-scientific reasons (evolution, global warming). Political candidates seem to deliberately dumb down their diction to appeal to the masses. Too many people speak of academia and intellectual pursuits with derision. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I see PFT engaging in this very problem in its mocking of Barber's diction.

ADDENDUM: One of the early words (though possibly not the first--another similar critique shows up a few hours earlier) in Barber's vocabulary that caught PFT's ire was "bloviate" in late October. Not a common word, but easily understood in context.

But here's the sure sign of an anti-intellectual bent: if a speaker uses a word you don't know, why is the speaker at fault?

If somebody uses a word that you don't know, you should not assume it is the speaker who has a flaw: you should assume it is you, for not knowing the word. To hold it against the speaker, rather than yourself, shows an animosity toward the person for being (at least in this case, for knowing a word you don't know) more intelligent than you.


  1. Anonymous9:28 PM

    Tiki did go to Virginia which has a pretty good English department and so I think he is a bonified intellectual

  2. "bonified"... yes, he does have strong bones. :)

    I agree with you on this issue... not that I'm a huge fan of Tiki Barber, but unless he is incorrectly using big words (which I don't really believe has been PFT's contention), then I don't see the problem.

  3. Anonymous11:05 PM

    of course the other issue with PFT is that they say that Tiki's use of "big" words alienates him from the common football fan. Obviously PFT believes that the common football fan sits on his couch, scratches his balls, and only has a limited vocabulary

  4. Anonymous11:45 PM

    The guy who runs PFT is a smartass, a description he probably would readily admit to. When he is in full-blown smartass mode, and I think that applies to his Tiki mocking, I wouldn't pay any attention to him. He's just an adolescent twit sometimes.

    To give credit where it is due, however, his reporting is sometimes supeior to professional journalists', primarily because he doesn't have maintaining access to sources as a one of his prime concerns. The Vick fisaco was an first-rate example. ESPN's football guys (the ESPN legal guys were another story) were frequently pathetic in their blatant peddling of the Vick or Falcons' party line, whereas PFT was much better at describing what any intelligent commentator trying to be analytical could plainly see.

    Yeah, PFT has it's pretty silly moments, but I'm glad it exists.

  5. Anonymous6:41 AM

    Brad Childress is not an intellectual person THAT is for SURE!!!


  6. Didn't PV attend a poetry reading that featured Brad Childress last year? I guess you never really CAN be SURE!!!.

  7. Anonymous8:19 AM

    PFT is beneath me. and it's beneath you too tiki.


  8. What's particularly annoying is that PFT also mocks Emmitt Smith for his "butcherings of the King's English" (today on the site). So don't act too smart, or they'll make fun of you, but don't sound too stupid, or they'll make fun of you. They evidently want all their TV commentators comfortably middle brow, just like them.

    I should add I don't even really care for Barber. I've written a few times about how silly it is that he criticizes the coaching style of the coach that helped turn him from decent RB with a fumbling problem into an elite RB (interesting, isn't it, that Coughlin is partly responsible for raising Barber's profile, which helped him land his current job?).

  9. Reminds me of Geico commerical with cavemen.Just shows some deep seated problems within self.PFT would have a hayday with Tyson then.Wonder what would happen if Birk spoke out about something.

  10. Anonymous9:59 PM

    I'm not sure what an athlete or ex-athlete would have to do to convince PFT that he/she is a legitimate intellectual; it's possible that "intellectual athlete" simply doesn't fit into PFT's schema.


    What's particularly annoying is that PFT also mocks Emmitt Smith for his "butcherings of the King's English" (today on the site).

    Well... not to put too fine a point on it, but it sure looks to me like one thing "an athlete or ex-athlete would have to do to convince PFT that he/she is a legitimate intellectual" is be white.

    Their attitude sure looks like racism to me.

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