Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Having a Think on 'Having a Catch'

When we were kids, we played catch.

We played catch, we traded baseball cards, we rode our bikes to Cumberland Farms for Suzie Q's and soda, and we played more catch.

I caught up on the season finale of Mad Men last night after being victimized by a number of Facebook spoilers (is that any way to treat a Friend?), and saw Don Draper and his bespoke boys pitch the anti-smoking folks an ad campaign that featured timeless father-and-son stuff like "playing catch."
(Speaking of great Mad Men moments involved fathers and sons playing catch, remember that hospital scene with Don and some strange guy who was waiting on the birth of his son? The man quizzed Don about fatherhood and asked, "You and your boy throw the ball around?" Don, perpetual short-lister for Worst Father Ever, replied, "Not enough.")

So the notion of "playing catch" is timeless, right? Not so much.

No, I'm not talking about videgaming's methodical takeover of all things outdoorsy.

Some time, ago, "playing catch" turned into "having a catch." It's almost as if the activity was so mundane, so bereft of drama or passion, that people simply stripped the "play" out of it and rebranded it with the passive verb.

I've noticed a trend with people turning a verb into a noun and adding a "have a" before the former verb in an effort to sound trendy or smart or European, or all of the above. Let me illustrate, because that previous sentence is a bit confusing. You and I think. But a boss I used to have would say "Let me have a think" about something. (Mind you, he's not my boss anymore. I guess he didn't have a think enough.)

Or, you and I look at something. A pretentious person might have a look at that same thing.

Maybe that was a factor in playing catch turning into having a catch.

"Play catch" kicks up 128 million links on Google, including a WikiHow video link for the really-not-too bright called "How to Play Catch: 4 Steps" (As I noted in a Metro NY column a few years ago, "Catch" is one of the few games out there where the instructions are right there in the name. Are there really four steps to it? I count two--catch it and throw it. Maybe they're counting the bike ride to Cumberland Farms and Suzie Qs too.)

There's also a quote from Field of Dreams: "Could you believe that? An American boy refusing to play catch with his father."

"Have a catch," meanwhile, nearly doubles "play catch" on Google--306 million links (Granted, not all refer to throwing a ball back and forth, such as "The New Taliban Tactics Have a Catch"). There was a Wrigley Field event last year, promoted on Facebook, called "Hey Dad, Wanna Have a Catch?"--a 50 minute, open to the public, ball-throwing session for charity.

Whether you play catch or have a catch, the game is the same, and will be as long as there are fathers and sons, or fathers and daughters, or mothers and sons, or friends, or those Pitchbacks for people with no friends.

Cooling temps and fading summer sun be damned--I know what I--and my kids--will be doing when Daddy gets home from work today.


Anonymous said...

Your a great writer

Anonymous said...

I'm 40 years old and it's always been "have a catch" to me. I think it's not so much a change as it is regionalism's disappearance in a more communicative era. I found your blog simply because my wife was shocked to hear my phrasing.

To me, play catch sounds like a game where someone loses. Have a catch is like having fun. Do you play fun?