I watch a lot of ESPN and, even more, listen to sports radio. I don’t know if it is that I have recently had Cicero on the mind or if Ciceronian rhetoric is becoming more common in sports analysis, but I am hearing an overwhelming amount of analysts that I would swear are Cicero reincarnate. I prefer to think that these learned sportscasters have just been brushing up on their Cicero and using his techniques. The following is a list of Ciceronian strategies and how they are being used on ESPN and sports radio shows.
This is the act of inserting extra or superfluous words just for the sake of sounding smart and elegant. I don’t have a problem with this since I like a good vocabulary in a person, but I include this as a warning more than anything. If you are not 100% sure of what the word means, what part of speech it is, or how it can and cannot be used in a sentence, please, I beg you, don’t use the word. You will sound much more intelligent if you just stick to what you know. I applaud John Kruk for not going crazy with his vocabulary and sticking to who he is. On the other side of that I love Pardon the Interruption, but they drive me nuts with this.
The definition is as follows: To call attention to something by specifically mentioning you won’t do that (mannerofspeaking.org). This is what brought me to write this particular post. In an argument on a local sports radio station over the Eagles retiring Donovan Mcnabb’s number, I kept hearing the phrase, “I’m not even going to mention…” This is the most Ciceronian of all rhetorical skills! Cicero uses this endlessly to sound like he is above mentioning the unmentionables, but by saying this he is mentioning these things. He does this most notably in his speeches against Catiline and Marc Antony. In the Mcnabb arguments both the radio hosts and callers could not resist saying, “I won’t even mention the puking at the Super Bowl incident.” You mentioned it by saying you won’t mention it. This is one of the oldest of rhetorical devices and probably one of the most commonly used today.
ESPN thrives on this principle. Expolitio is basically attempting to make an argument stronger by restating it over and over in many different ways. The show Around the Horn is based entirely on this technique. All they do on that show is restate each other’s opinions while one person (usually Woody) disagrees with everyone else just so that the show is a little bit interesting.
As I am writing this ESPN is really harping on Dwight Howard for being indecisive and constant source of drama. Coniectura is using someone’s character or way of life as proof of something. In the Dwight Howard case they are claiming he is not as valuable of basketball player and some analysts are even questioning his skills. This questioning is all in response to the drama surrounding his potential return to the Lakers. They are using his character and indecisiveness off the court to talk about his game on the court, classic coniectura.
These are just a few of the ways Cicero can be heard in modern sports analysis, but there are so many and I really could go on forever. Of course, these techniques can also be found in political speeches and other news reporting, or just anywhere people are speaking about anything. A list of Cicero’s rhetorical devices can be found here and I’m sure if you just watch an hour of Sportscenter (wading through all of the awful Twitter reporting) you will find many of these in use.