The waning moments of tonight’s Wake Forest-Duke game featured a graphic that highlighted the continued massacre of the English language. The victim, as is often the case, was the word “intangible.” This perfectly innocent word was once again subjected to a coordinated effort to raze its satisfactory meaning.
As the clock wound down, play-by-play man Tim Brando said:
“Let’s take a look at the intangibles that may have had an effect on this game – turnovers, points off turnovers, fast break points, bench points, and points in the paint.”
Brando’s partners-in-crime then guiltlessly posted a graphic on the screen that compared the teams’ performances in each of these categories. Discussion ensued. Then, somewhere across the Atlantic, from the general direction of Stratford-upon-Avon, an anguished cry rang out into the wintry night.
Look, if something is intangible, it means it cannot be touched or quantified. It’s abstract. Things like “creativity,” “leadership,” and “the anger a reasonably intelligent 22 year old male feels when a word is mangled” are intangible. I understand that you cannot palpably touch a turnover or a point, but their clear occurrence before thousands of watchful eyes and their subsequent logging as data suggests that these are things we can measure with a great degree of certainty. These are outcomes, not concepts.
Historically, broadcasters and analysts discuss a player’s value with respect to his numbers (i.e. points, rebounds, assists) and his “intangibles” (i.e. leadership, knowledge, attitude). If points have suddenly fallen into the latter category, what counts as “tangible” now?