Once and for all can we get something straight? There’s nothing soft about softball.
Top-flight, competitive softball.
Using it as a metaphor to describe smarmy questions — “softball questions” — from a reporter to his or her favorite candidate is …
A wild pitch.
Ever stand in against a Jennie Finch fastball delivered at 70 mph from 43 feet?
And I don’t wish to because there’s nothing soft about that.
The fastest pitches in men’s softball have been timed at 95 to 100 mph, fired at a hitter from 50 feet.
The blink of an eye.
Any reporter lazy enough to write “softball question” as a descriptive for a puny journalistic effort is off base. Deserving to get picked off.
Describing a pathetic question as “softball” isn’t the only inaccurate label in circulation.
We strike out in lots of ways.
“Killer whale,” for example, refers to what scientists say is one of the most gentle creatures known to man.
Arabic numerals originated in India.
Chinese checkers was invented in Germany — and it isn’t even checkers.
Koala bears aren’t bears.
The horned toad isn’t a toad.
And catgut comes from sheep.
The list goes on.
The point here is, to ask a fawning question intentionally easy to answer, has nothing to do with looking at a ball coming in your direction at 70 to 100 mph and deciding in a quarter of a second whether to attempt a swing at it.
A first-rate softball pitcher not only has a blazing fastball, I hasten to add, but with a flick of the wrist or other magic trick, can make the ball curve or dance or drop justlikethat !!
Or the pitcher can throw a change-up.
The 70 to 100 mph bullet that’s anticipated can turn into a maddening floater, instead. The batter could swing at it two or three times — and miss each time.
At any speed it’s impossibly difficult to hit a softball thrown by a top-flight pitcher.
About as difficult as refusing to use a hack cliche in describing a hack question at a news conference.
So, no more “softball questions.” Please.
But if we’ve got to have them, call them something else.
“Stupid” comes to mind.
Corky Simpson is a veteran journalist who writes a column for the Green Valley News.