As Jay Nordlinger and Mona Charen noted on a recent Need To Know, there has always been a strain of American leftism that has insisted on native pronunciations of place names in certain aggrieved parts of the world. One presumes the practice is intended to signal solidarity with distant cousins and fellow travelers.
I first became aware of this strange affect during the 1980s while watching U2’s Bono strut the stage at the televised Amnesty International concert and asking the crowd in his unmistakable brogue, “Have you had enough of war in NEE-ca-RA-gwa?”
You find a lot of this nonsense on NPR.
Every story is of course presented in the patented, breathy, vocal-fry style so associated with public radio. But as the reporter arrives at the story’s close, out comes the ethnic last name.
“For NPR news in Omaha, this is Edward roe-DREEE-gez.”
I am noticing an uptick in the number of hyphenated, multi-ethnic handles among the on-air personalities of The Official State News Service.
“For NPR news in Phoenix, this is Pilar O’Connor-al-Ibra-HEEM.”
What gives? The frequency of these strangely stressed and accented surnames has on more than one occasion led me to wonder if the human resources department at NPR is using “exotic lineage” as one of its hiring criteria for new reporters.
Such close attention to the heritage of its on-air personalities is odd considering just how confusing and alien NPR finds the behavior of the standard-issue American football fan.
Consider this story, aired this morning, and devoted to the vexing question of just why this weekend’s NFL playoffs attracted such a huge and unprecedented television audience. Some 35 million—10 million more than watched Notre Dame lose to Alabama in the BCS national championship—tuned in to watch Joe Flacco’s Baltimore Ravens come from behind and knock off Peyton Manning’s number-one-seeded Denver Broncos.
As John Ourand of Sports Business Journal explained to Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep, this was the biggest audience ever for an NFL game played on a Saturday. Even as the popularity of other American sports are waning, the NFL is more popular than ever.
Why? How? What explains this unexpected development!?! Inskeep and Ourand struggled to come up with an answer. The best they could come up with was that it probably has something to do with advertising money. Psssht.
I have an idea.
Americans watch football because we are drawn to excellence. While things are falling apart all around us—we are becoming a second-rate nation with a second-rate health-care system, a second-rate economy, and a second-rate future—the NFL provides a haven of excellence. While our national leaders tell us that our economic problems are too difficult to solve, the NFL is still a place where complex challenges are met with a combination of planning, self-sacrifice, strength, courage, and execution. And on deadline.
Unlike in Washington, DC, in the NFL, you either perform, or you go home.
Just ask PAY-tone MAH-neeng.