how 'bout them Bills? discourse organization in Washington culture

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Sat May 22 16:00:31 UTC 2004

the following remarkable passage occurs in Nicholas Lemann's piece
about Tim Russert (host of tv's "Meet the Press"), "Buffalo Tim", in
the 5/24/04 New Yorker, p. 85:

[Russert] jokes with the guest or with the audience--not on every show
but often enough for it to stick in our minds--usually about his love
of the Buffalo Bills, thereby striking a note not so such of humor as
of reassurance and familiarity.  Ritualized official combat followed by
masculine joshing is deeply embedded in Washington culture--it signals
that membership in a community of important people trumps the enmity
that the system forces them to act out.  Bringing up sports not only
lightens the tone, it implies an explicit analogy to the conduct of
sports.  The Gore interview in 2000 ended with this Beckettian exchange
about the Bills' defeat in that year's playoffs by the Tennessee

   Russert:  Go, Bills.  Forward pass.  Go, Bills.
   Gore:  Bring it on in.
   Russert:  Go, Bills.
   Gore:  Here are the ribs, Tim.
   Russert:  Go, Bills.  Go, Bills.  Forward pass.

arnold (zwicky at

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