ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun posted an interview with Shea Weber this afternoon. It gets into a host of questions that Nashville Predators fans have had about the team. Why did have they scored so few goals this season? Why did so little roster turnover have such a big effect on them? Is the Martin Erat trade indicative of an impending locker-room meltdown? It has all the makings of an insightful piece, but Weber sabotages the entire process by giving very few real answers.
In the six quotes from Weber that form the bedrock in the piece, the Nashville captain uses the word “obviously” eight times. Missing the playoffs is obviously bad. Losing Ryan Suter obviously affected the team because he’s obviously a good player. The team obviously can fix roster problems in the off-season. Martin Erat obviously had a conversation with David Poile. And obviously things didn’t go the way everyone wanted this season. If you were playing a drinking game based on Shea Weber’s use of the word “obviously,” you might just pass out on the floor before finishing LeBrun’s 773-word article.
The word doesn’t add any value at all to what Weber says. It’s what’s commonly referred to as a “crutch word.” As Jen Doll of the Atlantic describes them, crutch words are “those expressions we pepper throughout our language as verbal pauses, and sometimes as written ones, to give us time to think, to accentuate our meaning (even when we do so mistakenly), or just because these are the words that have somehow lodged in our brains and come out on our tongues the most, for whatever reason.”
“Obviously” ends up serving as a sort of meta-comment by Weber on the entire prospect of talking to the media. It says, “I’m going to answer your question by agreeing with what you’ve said since you’re saying things everyone already knows. I’ll throw in a generality or two to round out my answer. Eventually you’ll stop talking to me because I’ve given you no real material to work with. Then I can get back to the more important parts of my job that this is taking me away from.”
The only question LeBrun asks that doesn’t get an “obviously” is why the Nashville Predators have been so terrible at scoring goals this season. The word is almost glaring in its absence: “I have trouble comprehending why we couldn’t [score this season]. We didn’t really have a big roster turnover. The goal drop is tough to put a finger on.” That answer comes off as the single genuine insight into Shea Weber in the entire article. It says he’s actually bothered by the lack of offense. Obviously the captain has some thinking to do over what is obviously going to be a longer-than-usual off-season since the team obviously missed the playoffs.
The real disappointment isn’t any particular word Shea Weber uses with any particular frequency. It’s that all of the questions he’s asked are legitimately on the minds of Nashville Predators fans and the captain shows no desire to answer them. After a brutal season that doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.