Whether Ryan Braun was trying to B.S. us when he told USA Today that his positive drug test was "BS," or baseball's steroid test somehow really is a load of B.S., one thing -- and only one thing -- is clear: Someone in this case is BSing us, as someone almost always is in sports.
No matter how you choose to euphemize it -- and the recently departed Col. Potter on M*A*S*H preferred "horsehockey" -- bulls--- has won the day. And in fact the earliest citation of the word, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, was in the title of a T.S. Eliot poem, "The Triumph of Bulls---."
Eliot wrote the poem in Paris in November 1910, making last year the 100th anniversary of the most versatile word in the English language.
That every major sports league didn't hold a centennial celebration of B.S. was a missed opportunity. Teams should have worn commemorative sleeve patches, as athletes -- and agents, owners and sportswriters -- owe a great debt to B.S. B.S. has become a second language, understood by everyone. Without it, little would get said in sports. Postgame press conferences would be silent movies. Labor negotiations would be starved of oxygen. B.S. is to sports what the language of diplomacy is to international relations: The grease that makes the gears turn.
When Deidre Pujols said that the Cardinals' offer of $130 million to her husband was an "insult," and that her family never again wanted to endure the "stressful" process of free agency, I thought of Captain Willard in Apocalypse Now saying: "The bulls--- piled up so fast you needed wings to stay above it."
Indeed, I hoped a seamstress in Anaheim would immediately set to work embroidering a bull, or a slice of baloney, or a hog being washed to affix to the right sleeves of the new number 5 Angels' jerseys sold in the team shop. It would be a fitting way to honor this exemplary piece of poppycock, in which the offer of eternal financial security is an affront, and the weighing of multiple nine-figure offers -- the literal weighing, I like to think, using truck scales -- induces stress.
The Angels ought to consider a new logo, like the Cardinals' famous birds-on-a-bat: Horses-on-a-hockey stick.
In his essay On Bulls---, Princeton philosophy professor Harry G. Frankfurt distinguished between lies and B.S. "It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth," wrote Frankfurt. "Producing bulls--- requires no such conviction."
The BSer may believe his own B.S., but few others are likely to do so in this, the dawn of our second century of bulls---. We have become all but immune. In the middle of the last century, when Hemingway said all writers should "develop a built-in bulls--- detector," such a thing still had to be acquired. It was an after-market accessory. But the bulls--- detector now comes standard, factory-equipped, so that even most middle-schoolers can translate an owner's vote of confidence as an imminent firing, or an athlete's professed desire to provide for one's family as a naked cash grab.
For the most part, there is no longer any expectation on the part of the bull----ter that we believe his or her B.S. On the contrary: When pharmaceutical commercials make miraculous claims, and then disclaim them in the very same sentence -- saying that this product being praised may in fact kill you -- the BSer has put all his cards on the table. I am BSing you, the modern BSer says. Beware my line of B.S.
Put another way: Your Mileage May Vary. Objects In Mirror May Be Closer Than They Appear. Your Call Is Appreciated. Thank You For Flying With Us Today.
When Jerry Sandusky's defense attorney, Joe Amendola, said on Tuesday that anyone who believes the grand jury report in the Penn State scandal needs to "dial 1-800-REALITY", he invoked a word that has come to mean its own opposite. "Reality TV," most of us now recognize, is an unreal contrivance. From the Real Housewives to The Real World, the word real is often a tipoff that whatever follows is patently not real.
As long as you know that, there is something to be said in favor of B.S. B.S. can soften the sharp edges of reality. Without B.S., a Personal Seat License would have to be called an Idiot Tax, and no one would feel good about that.
When we're accustomed to (and thus armored against) a daily torrent of hype, hypocrisy, flattery, self-righteousness, conditional remorse, empty piety, insincerity, conspicuous pseudo-philanthropy, mendacity, duplicity, bombast and baloney, then B.S. becomes a code easily cracked. It makes little effort to deceive. In that way, B.S. has become a kind of honesty.