SC has lately become a fan of a reality TV show on NBC called Three Wishes. Whereas typical reality shows are focused on pushing people to do their worst (think Jackass, Fear Factor, or in a slightly different vein, American Idol), Three Wishes is an uplifting show where ordinary people with hard luck have their lives changed through the efforts of the show's crew. Examples of this have included the gift of a device that helps calm stuttering to a college student who dreamed of running for office, and helping a child with traumatic head injuries be able to play outside again. For the most part, the things they help out with are a matter of lacking money or influence, and by coming through with a decent production budget (and the generosity of various donors), there's a lot they can do to make people's lives better.
However, Friday night's episode featured a wish that might have been a costly mistake for the show's producers. It featured a high school student born with a leg condition that left him unable to play any sort of sports. In lieu of being an athlete, he had spent his high school years as the trainer for the school's football team. No operation or prosthetic could fix this one, but the team's players had approached the show's producers hoping that they could do something nice for him anyway.
Rather than just asking the student what he might wish for, cast member Diane Mizota took him out on the school's football field after a game, and had him whisper her his wish during a ceremony to honor his efforts. At this point in the show, the exact nature of the wish was not revealed to the viewer.
Later, it turned out that his wish had been:
I want to be an NFL trainer and do something special for my team.
The first half of this wish was fulfilled by arranging for him to spend next summer as an intern with the Cleveland Browns. But now, we finally get to the crucial linguistic problem.
There are two ways in which that sentence's referring expressions (aside from the "I", which we know is the student) might be interpreted (pay attention to the subscripts):
1) I want to be an [NFL (team)]i trainer and do something special for [my team]i.
2) I want to be an [NFL (team)]i trainer and do something special for [my team]j.
The first sentence expresses the idea that he wants to be an NFL trainer and do something special for the NFL team employing him, which presumably would be accomplished by acting in his capacity as trainer. The second sentence really expresses two wishes: that he wants to be an NFL trainer, and that he wants to do something for his high school team. The show's producers assumed that #2 was the case, and arranged for each member of the team to receive an LCD HDTV set from Dell. Whereas the first parse cost them no more than whatever the Browns might have charged for their participation, the second one added minimally $600 times whatever the number of players on the team was. Figuring on a 40-man roster, that's $24,000, and that assumes they were just monitor-sized, which did not look to be the case.
Truthfully, though, from watching this kid talk, there's no way he didn't mean #2. Your guess is as good as SC's about what else he might have meant by "do something special", but while TVs might not have an obvious connection to football ([we disagree -- the NFL, NCAA, and sports bar owners everywhere]), it was perfectly clear that his wish was being fulfilled for the right group of people. And just as clear that sometimes there really isn't any ambiguity where it would seem to be in language.