Last Wednesday, the judge in the "Zombie Mohammed" case dismissed a charge of harassment against Talaag Elbayomy for attacking Ernest Perce V during a Halloween parade in Mechanicsburg PA. Mr. Pence, a member of the Parading Atheists of Central PA, was costumed and labelled as "Zombie Mohammed", marching next to a "Zombie Pope" who was not attacked. There's been an extensive discussion of this case over at The Volokh Conspiracy (here, here, and here).
Commenters have queried whether the judge is actually Muslim; I think that at 31:25 in this audio he does expressly say “I’m a Muslim, I find it very offensive,” and not in a context where a “not” seems to be lost or somehow implied; but some commenters disagree, partly based on other passages in the audio — if you’re interested, check out the discussion in the comment thread. Naturally, I think the judge’s condemnation of the victim is out of place (and casts doubt on the judge’s objectivity in his decision about the defendant) whether or not the judge is a Muslim. [NOTE: The judge, in the message below, says he is not a Muslim.]
The question at issue here is not whether the charges against Mr. Elbayomy should or should not have been dismissed, nor whether the lecture that Judge Martin directed against Mr. Perce was or was not appropriate. What I hope to explain is why, if Judge Martin is not in fact a Muslim (apparently he's a Lutheran), he seems to have said "I'm a Muslim".
Here's the passage in question:
They find it very, very, very offensive -
I'm a Muslim, I find it offensive.
Couldn't be clearer, right? The judge just said he's a Muslim. But then later he claims to be a Lutheran! What's going on?
As it happens, we discussed this construction almost five years ago ("Baseball conditionals", 5/23/2007). Barbara Partee contributed the initial example and the analysis:
Here's an example of the now-common way of expressing counterfactual conditionals among baseball players and managers that's so extreme I had to read it twice before catching on that it was a counterfactual; the preceding sentence and the play-by-play show that it must be, and it's grammatically consistent with other slightly less extreme examples I encounter almost daily.
(Structure: Clause1, clause 2. — both plain indicatives. Interpretation: if clause 1 had been the case, clause 2 would have been the case.) Oh, I think what makes this one a little unusual is that the first clause is in the past tense. I think usually they're both present tense.
"He could have been a little rusty early on, and then the inning he gave up four runs I think he kind of lost his composure a little bit," Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said. "He just did a little damage control in that situation, we're OK." (AP Recap of Toronto 6, Baltimore 4, game of May 22, David Ginsburg, AP Sports Writer)
In the Volokh comments section, a couple of commenters make the same point, e.g.
I do not think the judge actually said he is a Muslim.
Rather, he was using some kind of subjunctive “[If] I’m a Muslim, I find that offensive.” Compare the common “sports subjunctive.” E.g., “He catches that pass, Steelers win the game, Steelers go to the playoffs, I’m a Steelers fan, I’m going crazy” spoken by a sports announcer who is not a Steelers fan after the receiver dropped the pass.
By "subjunctive", I think that the commenter really means "counterfactual".
But maybe we should adopt the other half of his terminological suggestion (which is well established on the web) and call this the "sports conditional".
Update — a similar construction, which also underlines a possible relationship to pseudo-Q&A sequences, is in this famous scene from The Office:
You give me a gift? Bam! Thank You note. You invite me somewhere? Pow! RSVP. You do me a favor? Wham! Favor returned. Do not test my politeness.