Hello, Sideline Report denizens. It’s been a little while, so to catch up, let’s review where we are:
Despite its shortcomings – most notably a lack of football – the offseason does allow us to examine and comment on things that we may not notice in the course of our typical football article scans. I’m often a harsh critic, as are many of you, when we see an article with obvious typos, incorrect phrasing or sentence structure, or just general butchery of the English language. Some of these gaffes are pretty comical (“…that they put on such a pubic display…”), while others are simply annoying (“It was two years ago when the Ravens never replaced Anquan Boldin…”) I’m forced to read for content and context for a living, which occasionally robs me of clearly seeing some authors’ points, because they’re steeped in mistakes that serve to distract…a lot.
Nothing is more distracting these days, in my humble view, than the cliché.
Sports figures are routinely guilty of relying on clichés as an obvious crutch. This is certainly not in dispute; Kevin Costner’s Crash Davis famously instructs young pitching phenom Nuke LaLoosh to “learn your clichés” during one of the more memorable and telling scenes in Bull Durham. Indeed, athletes, particularly in this social media-obsessed era, are generally taught from an early age – as early as grade school in some cases – how to deal with the media. Stock answers and clichés are easy to program; most people are exposed to them early and are probably subconsciously aware of how overused a term or phrase is…but if it suits their conversational needs, they’re deemed useful. Doubly so in an interview setting, because they drift easily to mind when issuing immediate responses and require little thought to retrieve.
Football is replete with clichés, and not just in the “cover myself in a difficult interview” sense. Here’s some announcer favorites, including possible interpretations of them.
- “Hit ‘em in the mouth” – I believe this has something to do with establishing dominance over another team. In our current anti-bullying climate, we should be looking for more peaceful solutions. How about “call a summit to discuss and resolve differences”?
- ”Take the top off the defense” – This means a guy, usually a wide receiver, is really fast and can make deep catches. I think. It’s either that or it means a player can disrobe, from the waist up, an entire defense.
- “Take care of the football” – I’ll assume this means to retain possession of the football. Most footballs are coddled and inflated to a certain degree anyway…yes, Patriots fans, it’s a jab at you. Settle down.
- “He really put the wood to him” – This means, if memory serves, to hit another player really hard. It can be viewed in a few ways, really. Adrian Peterson’s preferred form of child discipline comes to mind, or perhaps it’s referring to…well, never mind. Given recent flaps in the LGBT community, it’s probably best to leave that one to your collective imaginations.
- “He heard footsteps” – This one surfaces when a receiver drops the ball, presumably in fear of getting clobbered the instant the prospective catch is made. I doubt it’s a statement regarding the echoey condition of the field.
- “(QB) threw a strike there” – Um, this IS football, no?
The list is extensive. For a real chuckle, Google “football clichés” and check out the results.
They’re used, they’re repeated, and they’re often an affront to our eyes and ears. But I submit that we can’t live without our clichés. Our favorite sport is so loaded with them that it’s impossible for us to create original terms or phrases to describe it. We’ve heard them so often that they’ve become a comfort of sorts, and I’m not sure how I’d react without hearing my favorite announcer spit out gems like “Vonta Leach is just dropping loads all over the field!” (Thanks, Mr. Dierdorf. You’re easily the worst cliché offender ever. And, boy, you are missed.)
I’m sure you have your favorites. Have at it. And while you’re at it, be sure to not play in the shadow of your goalpost, allow deep penetration, or cut back against the grain.
“Until next time…”