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 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.
Posted: April 17, 2001 at 06:00 AM | 7 comment(s)
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