There's No Cussing In Baseball

I grew up with a fundamentalist parent, and swearing was forbidden in our home. Any swearing. "Damn" was grounds for punishment. Even "oh, God" was trouble. These are easy enough rules to live by before you go to school, and the other kids talk like they do on "South Park."

After my parents divorced, things loosened considerably. My mom, a hardscrabble Wisconsin farm girl (who'd been in the Air Force) got a job as a police dispatcher, and soon swearing became as natural to us as it is among policemen. Our pizza-and-movie-nights sounded like episodes of "The Sopranos." "This pepperoni is so f-ing good! Pass me a m-f-ing sausage! S-t, I don't have a napkin to wipe off the g-d grease! Ooh, I hope that m-f-er gets it, that f-ing b-tard deserves to get f-ed. Hey, how's that b-tch of a science project going?" Etc.

So I tend towards sailor-style cussing, myself. I've had to learn over the years to rein it in among polite company. Still, as if by reflex, when I'm excited or surprised or angry, I go off like the new Doctor Who.

One should not idly swear around children. And there are children at baseball games. Fortunately for their cherubic little eardrums, it's been years since a Twins game was exciting or crucial enough to unleash my inner cuss monster. Yes, sometimes I'll let go with a quick "oh, f-k all to h-ll" when I enter the building and see the lineups posted on the JumboTron. Still, the top cursing I've witnessed in the last three seasons at Target Field came when a drizzly, 39-degree rain delay was finally cancelled, and a pretzel vendor shouted "oh, thank g-d m-f-ing Christ!" at the top of his lungs.

Yet excitement may return to Target Field, if not this year, than eventually. And with it will come cussing. Nor do I think this is particularly bad for children. They've heard it before, even from Mom and Dad when a hammer hits a finger, or there's a scary traffic mishap, or a fully baked casserole falls to the floor.

While drunken louts should not be tolerated (nice drunks, of course, are a boon to the human race), there's nothing wrong with the appropriate level of swearing, even where children are present. It helps educate them as to the emotional power of baseball at its best. As a wise drama teacher once gently scolded me, "you should save your swearing for the right occasion; that way, people know you really mean it."

So, here are some guidelines for common swear words and when they are acceptable during baseball games (or, if you ask me, in online baseball game threads, although the likelihood of my being asked about this is nil.) BIG BIG BIG WARNING: full spellings below. Shield your virgin eyeballs.

-- "Damn." Harmless. Practically not even a cussword among African-Americans. To be avoided in the Family Section, or if you're surrounded by a bunch of eight-year-olds wearing identical Mormon T-shirts.

-- "Goddamn." Stronger. Appropriate for dumping food or beverages all over yourself. If used in conjunction with a proper name, the player thus referenced should be a real jerk (like A-Rod), not just merely a good player from the opposing team. After all, you shouldn't invoke God condemning someone to eternal torment just because they're good at what they do. But A-Rod deserves it.

-- "Shit." Said quickly, when the Twins fail at something, it's fine. Said slowly, should be used for a sense of impending doom, say when a Twins pitcher falls behind 3-1 to the opponent's best hitter, or the score has just gone 7-1 against. Said at all while reading your smartphone, unless it's really tragic news about death or illness, not cool. (Actually, using a smartphone at a game at all is not cool. Unless you're commenting on a game thread, or the game is boring. If the game's interesting and you are more interested in your phone than the game, then your presence in my field of vision irritates me, and you are a complete shit.)

-- "Fuck." This had better be a pretty important moment, and it is never acceptable as a pejorative (as in, "fuck you.") Save it for when the Twins fail at something really huge. Or, when a message on your smartphone tells you that you've just been indicted for securities fraud (expensive seats only.)

-- "ShitshitshitshitSHIT!" Used in slow-developing plays, like outfielders chasing long flies, high-skied balls that may become home runs, a runner rounding third and the ball coming into the plate, etc. A variation on this we haven't heard in a while is "shitshitishitshitYES!"

-- "FuckfuckfuckfuckFUCK!" If a crucial Twins player falls to the ground and writhes cradling any body part. Only if the Twins are doing well in the second half of the season. Until that faraway day, the preferred expletive is "poor bastard."

-- "You Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole." Appropriate for Martha Wainwright to sing, or fans to scream when Luke Scott is batting. Also, the gist of everything A.J. Pierzynski says to hitters while he's catching.

Context is all. In our post-divorce home, cusswords were colorful metaphors, nothing more. In anger, any word can be inflammatory. Words are like any other dangerous tool, such as a chainsaw. They can be precise and accurate, they can get out of control and do damage. Scream "GODDAMN IT" when an ump makes a call you don't appreciate, and you teach that kid three rows down to be a jerk adult who thinks the world should revolve around their wishes. Be a polite person who still can let fly with "ohshitno!" when a cutoff is missed in an important moment, and the kid learns that adults behave themselves but still have passionate feelings. Used properly, cussing makes kids want to become adults, and enter that secret world they don't understand, where beer tastes good and kissing is pleasant. Used in the wrong way, cussing by boorish adults creates more future boorish adults.

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