I’ve been in a bunch
of meetings over the past few months with buyout guys who say things like, “we’re
in the seventh inning of the credit crunch.”
In fact, it seems like every time I turn on CNBC or read the Bloomberg,
the inning metaphor is up at the plate.
The use of innings
as a proxy for time seems like a swing and a miss to me, though. Since baseball is alone among major sports in
allowing the defense to control the ball, the sport is liberated from the
tyranny of time marching inexorably forward.
I like football and basketball as much as the next guy, but the practice
of running out the clock by taking a knee or dribbling around the floor has
always seemed vaguely anticlimactic to me.
You just gotta get
that third out in the ninth inning and it could take all day to get it done. As a young pitcher, I once allowed six consecutive
hits (!) with two outs in the last inning.
In fifteen minutes, a fine pitching performance was undone and I went
from complete-game winner to hard-luck loser. All for want of just one more out . . .
A late inning grand
slam can turn a blowout into a tight game and completely reverse a game’s momentum;
anything can happen and the clock won’t bail you out. And that’s what makes the metaphor funky: it
almost doesn’t matter what inning of the game you’re in, something totally discontinuous
can occur at any moment.
Maybe that actually makes
the metaphor brilliant? Perhaps embedded
in the sense of progress toward the conclusion, there might be an implicit acknowledgement
that the credit crunch is not unlike a baseball game. And we know what they say
about ballgames: it ain’t over until it’s over.