Thursday, February 10, 2011

"The ball is in your court." -a phrase in question.

Tony is a fictitious cereal cartoon who inspires children to do their best at eating food with a high sugar content.

I never really understood that phrase. I've always understood it to mean, "I've done all I can do; now it's your turn." That seems simple enough. Although, you could say the same thing even more simply, i.e., "Now it's your turn," or even just, "Your turn."

Well, maybe not, "The ball is in your court," does seem to connote a sense of positive anticipation, or a satisfied resignation, as in "I've done my very best, the decision is up to 'them,'" or "my fate is out of my hands," or, "it could go either way, but whatever way it goes, I will die in peace." "Your turn," doesn't carry the same semantical perspicuity.

However, the sui generis nature of the phrase in question, with regard to the world of sports, raises some serious questions about its adequacy. It is counterintuitive in that it doesn't make sense in the context of the most prominent sports of today's world. Would you ever hear someone in the NASCAR circuit say "Wale, I guerss that thar ball thar, is en ther curt?" No, well ... maybe, but NASCAR is not played on a court. The same is true for football, hockey, baseball, and soccer. Although all these sports are played with balls, none of them are played on a court. There is one left though, basketball.

Basketball is played with a ball on a court. Perhaps the phrase in question has some validity after all. But even in basketball, upon close inspection, this phrase is ill-fitted. What would it mean for the ball to be in the opponents court? Are there multiple courts? Is it an away game? Or, like football, is the 'opponents side' of the court the side which they are charged to defend? Unlikely at best! Furthermore, when would you ever want the opponent to have the ball? When would that be remotely positive? Now, I do acknowledge that the phrase itself is ambiguous, and yes, perhaps it is possible that "the ball is in your court," could just as easily be interpreted, "the ball is in your court, and it is also in my possession," but based on the original connotation cited above, I find this interpretation highly improbable. Maybe you will say that it is an advantage for the other team to have the ball if your team is better at defense than offense. To this I ask, who are you? Why are you reading this blog? I'm curious. No, it would seem that the phrase in question doesn't work in the world of Michael Jordan and Tony the Tiger.

Maybe if we look at more obscure sports we will find a closer fit. "Ah, yes. A good idea," you propound. "Perhaps tennis," you suggest. Well, it would appear that this phrase fits best here. In fact, according to Wiki Answers, "The ball is in your court" developed on the refined grass of American racquetry. But still I remain recalcitrant, and hold that even in tennis, the above phrase is an impostor. I've heard tennis theoreticians argue that, at its most profound, wining tennis, is simply a matter of getting the ball over the net once more than your opponent. As good as that strategy may sound when spoken aloud, it doesn't relate to the issue at hand.

Yet still, there are some things we put down, and cannot, whether by volition or otherwise, pick back up, or, to continue with the spirit of the phrase in question, cannot hit back to ourselves. You see tennis, in the true sense, not in the sense of drills etc., is impossible to play alone, and if your opponent leaves, the fence will not sufficiently take their place. Until they return with racquet in hand, the dialogue remains impossible. It's the only way tennis is possible. Which brings to mind another questionable phrase involving a kind of tangy dance and the necessity of two. Next time perhaps.

In conclusion, I've said all I can say, the ball is in your court. Watch this video.

1 comment: