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— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Tuesday, April 17, 2001
Change the Subject, and Change Your Life
Voros steps onto his soapbox to hawk his latest discovery.
Friends, by the time you finish this article, your life will be changed forever.
Sick of being bested in arguments? Tired of starting an argument with someone, only to find out they know more about the subject than you, and have unlimited amounts of evidence to back up their arguments? Sick of wondering if you should change your opinion based on new information?
I know you are.
That?s why, for a short time only, I?m going to give you the secret to make all these worries a thing of the past. The solution is so simple and yet so effective, you?ll wonder how you ever got along without it. General Managers, Sportswriters and Usenet trolls know about it. Do you?
What is this panacea of verbal warfare? Change the subject.
That?s right, if an argument isn?t going your way, change it. Argument about market size and competitiveness not going your way? Change it to an argument about payroll and the playoffs. Want Pete Rose in Hall of Fame? Talk about what a jerk Ty Cobb was. Think Alex Rodriguez is overpaid? Talk about the average salary of a teacher. Yes it?s just that easy.
One of the easiest and most time-tested ways of changing the subject is known as the ad hominem? Now you may or may not know what this is. If you do, you probably equate it with simple name-calling. But nothing can be further from the truth. You see, the key to effectively changing the subject this way (and most ways) is to make it seem like the same argument. Now there are true artists in the ad hominem out there, but they aren?t any more effective at it than most people, just more stylish. All you need to learn on your way to effective ad hominems are a few key phrases:
? Aren?t you the guy who said ______________?
? Even you would agree that ____________.
? If you?re so smart, how come you don?t run a MLB team?
The key is to let your audience know that there are reasons why anything your opponent says can?t be trusted. And there?s always an audience. If not, why are you arguing? When you do so, you, of course, will know that the person making the argument has no bearing on the validity of the argument; it stands or falls on its own merit. But the validity of the argument isn?t important, winning the argument is.
Now you may be thinking, "What happens if someone accuses me of using an ad hominem?" No problem, just point out their use of Latin and call them pretentious.
See how easy it is?
What if you don?t know anything about the person and can?t use an ad hominem? Don?t worry, there are other ways to change the subject. For instance, try using the strawman. A strawman is when you take the other person?s argument and restate it (slightly changed of course) in a way that seems overly simplistic and easily refuted. An example? Let?s say someone argues that there are several AAA outfielders that could outhit Derek Bell while costing less money. You counter with, ?So you?re saying that any AAA outfielder could outhit Derek Bell?? Unless people are following closely, they won?t notice the change.
Want more? You can always change the argument by repeating something somebody really smart once said. No one will notice that the quote was not made with your argument in mind, they?ll just know that you can?t argue with such a smart person. For example, say someone points out that there?s a very clear and accurate relationship between batting statistics and runs scored? Repeat Benjamin Disraeli?s ?There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.? It doesn?t matter that Disraeli didn?t have On Base Percentage in mind when he said it. What matters is that your opponent can?t disagree with someone so smart. If he does, see the above paragraph on ad hominems.
Still not prepared, don’t worry there’s even more ways to change the subject.
By far the most common way to change the subject is the beloved allegory. An allegory is a story in which the events are used to symbolize event separate from the story. Allegories are truly lovely argument winners, because they so effectively change the subject, the whole subject and the complete subject in rather rapid order. Basically, if you can prove that the events in your allegory are correct, by the time that?s done everyone will forget what the original point was and will just assume you were correct. Guys like Neville Chamberlain, and Adolf Hitler are good to use, and things like Vietnam and Tobacco Companies are also very popular. What do they have to do with Baseball? Nothing. And that?s the point!
The possibilities for changing the subject are endless. You’ll never lose another argument again because you’ll never finish a losing argument! Changing the subject will change your life!
You simply won?t believe how easy it will be to defend even your most questionable beliefs with this tactic. Criticize the current Dodgers management by talking about Sandy Koufax. Criticize Jim Thome by comparing him to Manny Ramirez. Argue for a salary cap because of increased ticket prices. Argue against the evidence that player salaries don?t affect ticket prices because ?the fans know better.? (Special thanks to Bob Costas.) Say the Red Sox lost because ?we didn?t compete.? Say the White Sox lost because they weren?t hungry enough. Flummox the locals with "the Pirates lost because the fans didn?t show enough support."
Your options are limited only by the amount of tangentially related material you can come up with.
So go forth and brandish this mighty weapon I have bestowed upon you. Armed with this knowledge, your wit and wisdom will be unmatched in the baseball world. No mortal will be able to withstand your barrage of misdirections and irrelevancies. That is, of course, unless they read this article too.
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