A Whole Concurring Opinion, Just About Numerical Agreement:

From Oakland Raiders v. NFL, a California Court of Appeal decision filed on July 28:


The Raiders are a diverse group of athletes. But despite such pluralism, the Raiders is a singular football team, and because of this, I must concur in the technical propriety of such phrases as "the Raiders asserts," "the Raiders does not contend," and "the Raiders was discriminated against," which appear in the main opinion. However, although these phrases may be sound, their sound, to me, is personally foul and deserves dissent, if not a 15-yard penalty and loss of down. This is especially so when the phrases are read out loud.

I have long been a loyal fan of grammatical agreement. The natural harmony between subject and verb is usually euphonious. But my boosterism has not deafened me. Though the merits of agreement may be great, here it is grating. The phrases noted above are like blasts from an air horn or plastic trumpet, blaring technical correctness.

Obviously, with a subject like "the Raiders," the writer enters the challenging zone of subject-verb agreement. And in this appellate opinion, I do not think we should have simply agreed to "disagreement." However, I believe we could have reached our goal of meaning and avoided fumbling dissonance with a judicial substitution: pulling "the Raiders" and going with a second-stringer like "the plaintiff."

Interesting -- but, is it just me, or does the above sound like more fitting for a blog post than for a court opinion?

Or could it be that some concurring or dissenting opinions have long been just official-looking blog posts?

DNL (mail):
Not to threadjack, but...

The honorable judge is simply wrong.

The Raiders are not a singular football team (and I do not mean to make a joke in saying that; however, one could jokingly point out that the Raiders are perhaps the WORST example of a "singular" football team, even in the post-Romanowski era).

Each team member is an Oakland Raider. Kerry Collins is the Raider QB. Jerry Porter is a Raider WR. Randy Moss is also a Raider WR. Together, they are Oakland RaiderS.

This, naturally, causes some issue with the new trend to pick a singular noun (e.g. Miami Heat) as a team icon. A few years back, I spoke about this on my now defunct blog. But make no mistake: The Red Sox are a baseball team, and Manny Ramirez is (sadly not a Met but a) Red Sock.
8.8.2005 3:48pm
Stephen Aslett (mail):
You'll be suprised how many concurrences in old English cases (1800s) read like a blog comment section. You'll see things like:

Hifalutin, J., concurring:

I concur in the honourable Lord's most inestimable judgment for the reasons he so clearly gave.

Hoitytoity, J., concurring:

I concur as well.

Fiddleston, J., concurring:

I write separately only to express my horror at the ghastliness of the defendant's crime. Premeditated murder is, perhaps next only to regicide, the most damnable and contemptible legal wrong in our fair land. It is good and well that we affirm the defendant's sentence.
8.8.2005 3:57pm
Steve Smith (mail) (www):
The majority opinion should have made reference either to "Oakland", "The Oakland Raiders", "The Raiders" (with the capitalized article preceding the team name), or the "Oakland NFL franchise" if it wished to refer to the franchise as a singular entity. References to "the Raiders" connote a grouping of two or more football players, and as such is plural. Justice (Judge?) Rushing really needs to make better use of his concurrences.
8.8.2005 4:19pm
Steve Smith (mail) (www):
Sorry. Make that " such are plural."
8.8.2005 4:19pm
washerdreyer (mail) (www):
First, while the concurrence is interesting, what would be even more interesting in some ways is for someone else to site to that concurrence for the grammatical proposition it lays out.

Second, the first comment suggests some kind of odd grammatical rule about aggregation which I can't really follow. Something like "if each member of a group can be described using the group name without the letter 's' at the end and preceded by an indefinite article, the group name itself, if it ends in an 's' cannot be singular." AFAIK this isn't really a grammatical rule, and simply appears to be one because of the appearance of the letter "s," frequently used to form plurals, at the end of the singular group name. Or I might be wrong, it's happened before.
8.8.2005 4:21pm
marc (mail):
Have you never heard the sports (excuse me, Sport) news on BBC world service? Manchester 'were' defeated seven nil. Borneo 'were' surprised by East Hampton's cricket prowess. I can't stop giggling when I hear it. Something about two countries divided by a common language no doubt.
8.8.2005 4:38pm
Kevin Bryan (mail) (www):
This is a UK/US split, as the last commenter noted. Companies and sports teams take the singular in the US - Coca-Cola is big - but often take the plural in the UK - Manchester United are popular. It's not cut-and-dry, though.
8.8.2005 4:45pm
RPS (mail):
What has long been a bane of my existence is to read "Raiders were..." and "Heat was..." Sports Illustrated, for one, treats team names that end in "s" different from those that are not naturally plural terms. Being nothing more than practical, both names are referring to a collection of individuals who play a team sport. Hence, both should use the same verb. This is not a matter for grammatical rules, but simply common sense.

While we're on grammar and sports, I wish people would go back to pluralizing RBI. It seems to me most sportscasters now go out of their way to say 2 RBI instead of 2 RBIs. I understand the view that its true plural would be Runs Batted In, but I prefer to think of the RBI as an entity in and of itself and not an acronym a la AARP. 3 RBIs just sounds better than 3 RBI.
8.8.2005 5:01pm
Shelby (mail):
Not being a baseball fan, I've always thought it should be "RsBI".

You mean "cut and dried"? ;-)
8.8.2005 5:09pm
DNL (mail):

That's funny, because "RBIs" is a pet peeve of mine.
8.8.2005 5:10pm
Milhouse (www):
And governments. The Bush administration is wasting billions of dollars on stupid things, but the Blair government are wasting thousands of millions of pounds on even stupider things. (Note that an English billion is 1000 times bigger than an American one.)
8.8.2005 5:12pm
Matthew G.:
Seems to me that RBI works as both singular and plural. "He had three RBI" sounds perfectly normal to me.
8.8.2005 7:43pm
JohnO (mail):
In Flood v. Kuhn, the majority opinion starts with a long homage to major league baseball and has a long list of its historical stars. My recollection is that some of the Justices refused to join that section of the opinion because of which players were listed as great players (or maybe because they thought that exercise was frivolous and unnecessary) and other Justices demanded additions to the list as the price of their joinder in that section of the opinion.
8.8.2005 11:44pm
Cold Warrior:

This is a UK/US split, as the last commenter noted. Companies and sports teams take the singular in the US - Coca-Cola is big - but often take the plural in the UK - Manchester United are popular. It's not cut-and-dry, though.

I recall seeing a real headscratcher (for an American) of an ad on a brand new flight from Dallas to London:

"American Airlines now fly direct to London. Yippee!"
8.9.2005 3:12pm
washerdreyer (mail) (www):
Flood v. Kuhn is the only case in which a Justice joined in every section except the fact section, according to the Eskridge, Frickey, and Garrett casebook.
8.9.2005 3:48pm
Kev (mail) (www):
I don't think the use of "RBI's" is as annoying as the redudancies that can occur with some other abbreviations, such as entering your "PIN number" at an "ATM machine."

Oh, and the UK/US split happens for musical groups, too: "The Who are playing at Wembley."
8.11.2005 3:51am
Kev (mail) (www):
Whoops, make that "redundancies." I guess a "redudancy" would be some outgrowth of the word "dude" and would thus only occur among the teenaged or out there in California. ;-)
8.11.2005 3:52am