When NZ Cricket high performance manager Bryan Stronach tried to explain on TV why hasty action should not be taken after the Black Caps had performed so badly in the recent Australian test series, he cautioned against "throwing the bath water out with the baby."
Students of the English language will know correct usage of this old saying is a warning not to throw the baby out with the bath water – the former accorded rather more importance than the latter.
Stronach's gaffe unconsciously (but effectively) highlighted his team's miserable showing and re-ignited this column's love of media malapropisms. Maybe the most compelling occur when eager ears mis-hear, leading to an apology.
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King of the heap? Who else but the Guardian back in 2003, when Wolverhampton Wanderers football club chairman Sir Jack Hayward was quoted as saying, after Wolves were promoted to the Premier League: "Our team was the worst in the first division and I am sure it will be the worst in the Premier League."
Only thing was, he didn't say "team". He said "tea", as in "cup of tea". A fulsome apology followed.
Closer to home, the Queensland-based Morning Bulletin ran an apology after quoting a local farmer saying a flood had carried "30,000 pigs" down the Dawson River. It turned out the farmer actually said "30 sows and pigs." The reporter involved has probably never lived that one down and the mental picture of 30,000 pigs washed down a river lasts a pleasingly long time (no pigs were harmed in the making of this picture).
The Guardian again…running an apology after a report of a wedding said the happy couple would be living with the bride's father. The paper explained: "They will, in fact, be living at the Old Manse."
Sport often suffers from terrible clichés – like this monstrosity from former Leeds United manager Eddie Gray: "It was always an uphill task for us but after they scored it was downhill all the way. It left us with a mountain to climb."
Sport also provides terms adopted into common usage – like "runs on the board", "dropped the ball", "shifting the goalposts", "out for the count" and "took his eye off the ball".
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And "lunch box". This was coined after much of the UK population had watched star track sprinter Linford Christie in action for some time in his figure-hugging onesies. "Linford's lunch box" referred to something in Christie's shorts that was definitely not a tuna and lettuce sandwich (those still puzzled will have to google it but please note the offensive material warning).
Christie sued a magazine for libel after inferences he took performance-enhancing drugs. During the hearing, Christie denied this, saying he was exasperated by such articles but his antagonism towards journalists was mainly based around media use of the lunch box term.
The case was overseen by a judge who inquired at one point: "What is Linford's lunch box?" - a question later seized on by one of the leading politicians of the day as an example of how out of touch the British judiciary was.
There is a point to all this and I'm very sorry it has taken so long to get to it. Stronach and under-fire Black Caps coach Gary Stead at least fronted up post-tour, although they chose defences of voluble corporate-speak (Stronach) and a bit of a verbal shrug (Stead).
His (much condensed) view: not enough cricketers to make wholesale changes; better preparation might have helped - but it might not; they've performed well at home; Australia were just too good.
Stead and Stronach could hardly do anything else. Saying what most people think – poor selection, poor preparation, poor execution and maybe a bit of over-subscription to their own press releases – would not only threaten their jobs but might rebound on their bosses as well.
But that kind of flabby equivocation means just one thing: they and the Black Caps lose credibility. It tacitly suggests we should all be satisfied with good home-form and short-form cricket and that we are not capable of footing it with the best in their home conditions in cricket's most difficult format.
Stead did say they have to find ways to get better but, generally, his comments made me think of (true story) the editor whose publication broke the news that Paul McCartney had had a baby boy called Joseph. Turned out the baby was actually female, named Beatrice. Asked about the error, the editor said: "It's a tiny blip in a great scoop".
Stead's defence sounds much the same – a bit of a blip by a good side. In fact, it was the mother of a hiding and has set the Black Caps' cause back more than somewhat. It would have been good to hear someone say they'd do it differently next time and would school batsmen better so they didn't look quite so surprised by the bounce of Australian pitches.
So maybe Stronach got it even more wrong than mixing up his baby and his bath water. If things don't go well in the two home tests against India next month, it might be time to look into not just the baby and the bathwater – but the whole flaming bath.