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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.

Here?s how:

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.


Voros McCracken Posted: April 17, 2001 at 06:00 AM | 7 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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Reader Comments and Retorts

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Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. Darren Posted: April 18, 2001 at 12:04 AM (#603672)
We're supposed to read this crap by the guy who said "pitchers are only responsible for the homeruns, walks, and strikeouts?"
   2. Darren Posted: April 18, 2001 at 12:04 AM (#603676)

If you're so smart, why do you spell your last name with a "Y" instead of an "I."

Wouldn't an "I" be a better choice. I have a very hard time taking criticism from a guy who spells his name so strangely.
   3. Tangotiger Posted: April 18, 2001 at 12:04 AM (#603677)
Hey Voros, I enjoyed your article, and I just wish more people would be able to argue by sticking to the basis of discussion. As soon as the basis is changed, the argument is lost. I know people are bad arguers when I ask a yes/no question, and they give me a song-and-dance.

If someone can point out ONE TV debate where the debaters actually answer each other, I'd love to hear about it.
   4. Darren Posted: April 19, 2001 at 12:04 AM (#603681)

I suppose I could just keep going on like this, attacking you personally for everything you say, but I probably shouldn't.

It was a joke, from the beginning. You see, I was using an ad hominum, just as you suspected. But I was doing so to be funny, not because I'm a "turkey-stuffer." (That reference, I have to admit, was lost on me.)
   5. Craig Calcaterra Posted: April 19, 2001 at 12:04 AM (#603683)

Look Voros, you can prove anything with your fancy-schmancy "logic" and communicate it effectively and entertainingly with your "sarcasm." However, because you never were the president of a debating team, there is no way you know what you're talking about. So, spin all of the "well crafted, witty, and incisive" articles you'd like; I'd rather hear about this subject from someone who's been there in the rhetorical trenches.

Or Ray Knight, if he's available.
   6. Craig Calcaterra Posted: April 20, 2001 at 12:04 AM (#603692)


I see, you're trying to trick me with one of those underhanded tactics Voros warned me about. How to counter, how to counter......(Ah-ha!) No, I'm only saying that Derek Bell, were a memeber of a debate team, would be able to write a better column because he's a proven veteren. Or something.

(How was that Voros?)
   7. Voros McCracken Posted: May 02, 2001 at 12:05 AM (#603733)
Well, it appears that on the origin of the quote we are both kind of
right. Though I would venture to say that I am more right than you
are, since I'm a respected baseball journalist. :)

Seriously, here'a link that sufficiently explains our diverging opinions
on the matter:

It appears that the quote appeared in Mark Twain's autobiography, but Twain
himself attributed the quote to Disraeli. So either:

1. Disraeli said it, or
2. Twain made it up and attached it to Disraeli for literary purposes.

Either are plausible, I suppose, so we'll have to call this a draw.

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