On the day after a certain university’s basketball team hung in there and won a game, a sports-oriented radio station repeatedly aired an excerpt of an interview with the winning head coach. Here’s a snippet: “We got cold. Couldn’t make any shots. … But I thought our defense was a constant. It was the constant denominator.” The constant what?
I’ve heard of a common denominator. In math, “lowest common denominator” (LCD) refers to the number closest to zero that is a multiple of the under-the-line numbers in a series of fractions. For example, if asked to add 1/3, 1/2, and 1/4, we first convert each fraction to its equivalent with the group’s LCD, in this case 12. Ergo, 4/12 + 6/12 + 3/12 = 13/12, OR 1 1/12.
From the above concept, the term “common denominator” came to mean an attribute possessed by all members of a group. As in, “The common denominator of these four athletes is that they’ve all won a state championship.” Or “The common denominators of these two short stories are an eerie, ghostlike tone and a theme about life after death.”
So, I’m left to wonder: What is a “constant denominator?” To denominate means to designate or give a name to. Constant means continually occurring or marked by faithfulness. So, was the winning team, when it was playing defense, faithfully and continually engaged in name-calling against the opposition?
To speculate about what was actually going on in that coach’s mind may serve little purpose. His realm’s media has been kind to him. He’s actually treated as though he were quite well-spoken. Vis-a-vis the guy he’s most often compared with, he’s flat eloquent.
Let’s glance at a few other of his comments.
“It was good to see us come out on the right side of the ledger.” Ledger? Really? Were you with the debits or the credits?
“I think our defense was on the same page. When we had breakdowns, someone came and helped out.” Not so tough if all you gotta do is go from one margin to the other. Just look out for the subtotals if you’re on ledger paper.
“We talk about not getting annihilated on the glass, and we did that for a period.” Sounds painful, but I can’t tell whether “did that” means they got annihilated or not annihilated.
Regarding the conference tournament: “Getting past that first game is the most important thing. It falls in line with each game is a big game. The same mindset falls in line as we enter the Tournament.” They didn’t do well in the Tournament. Perhaps their mindset fell out of line.
They made it to a post-season event, which they’d not done for several seasons. After winning the initial game, Coach said, “We’ve done a lot of firsts that haven’t been done here in a while. With that being said, get ready; there may be some more.” Some more firsts that were done a while back. “This team here, I feel like they’re hungry.” Clearly, he meant to say “This here team.” That’s how it was said down in north Mississippi.
Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.