January 8, 2008

Ballz: SPORTS COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS BY MAT HERRON

You say that about all the players …A slow, bloody execution of the English language is going on every day in the wide world of sports. The culprit? Sports clichés.You’ve heard them before — they wouldn’t be called clichés if you didn’t — from commentators, coaches, players and fans. But like the Pavlovian mutts we are, miraculously, we keep listening and watching, watching and listening to game after game, match after match of unending tripe.Sports clichés are vile and cancerous and threaten clarity at every turn. Fans crave details and insight. They don’t want vague, vanilla invective.Think it’s petty? Consider this: In 1993, Def Jam Records held a mock funeral for the word “def” — slang for cool, or hip. I submit that the atrocities below should share the same fate:“The dribble drive”: Holy consonance, Batman! This joiner (sometimes known as “dribble penetration”) is often heard near brightly lit, wooden basketball surfaces with nets and hoops. It is a close cousin of The Walk — as in, if you penetrate without dribbling, even Tim Higgins knows that’s against the rules.Vitriol over coaches leaving a particular school: I, too, cackled mightily when ESPN analysts referred to Bobby Petrino as a “quitter.” Just for different reasons.Somehow, we, the athletically devouring masses, entered some twilight zone wherein we believe wholeheartedly that “our coach” is in it for the fans. He’s not. No coach will ever stay with “your team” forever, because he’s looking to grab the next rung on the ladder of money and fame — even if he has to scram under the cover of night to do it.Referring to a group of fans of a particular team as a “nation”: Nations build roads, speak different languages and bomb the wrong country. They don’t tailgate in parking lots and ogle cheerleaders.“I just want to make big plays and contribute”: Athletes, I’m talking to you. Unselfish as this is, it’s garbage, because it’s what you’re supposed to do, what you’re paid to do, even in college. (Don’t lie.)Do you dress for every game and think, “Our opponents seem like nice enough guys, I’m gonna sink a couple threes on their behalf”? Or “Maybe I could steal coach’s clipboard when he ain’t lookin’”?You’re drowning. Save yourself.“… contributing early and often”: Either that, or you’re a late-and-seldom kinda player.“We just wanted to play our style of (insert sport here)”: As opposed to … someone else’s?Volume: Like their brethren in political punditry, sportscasters inevitably reach absurd levels of stentorian hyperbole over athletes barely old enough to drive. Lively banter? Witty repartee? Pure noise. Pass the earplugs.“This is a war,” or otherwise referencing “war” or “battle”: After former Arizona Cardinal Pat Tillman’s tragic murder in Afghanistan, sportscasters retired these ill metaphors out of respect for people who fight real wars, right?If only that were true. Once in a while, some windbag forgets himself on national television and lets one of these bombs slither out over the airwaves. The next imbecile who thinks this is “creative” should be dropped from an AC-130 into Tora Bora with only a Slim Pickens handbook, and forced to find his way out.Wanna see more linguistic transgressions? Visit sportscliches.com, where the webmasters have divided them into subcategories according to when they’re uttered and who says them.Personal fave? “The John Elways.” Read it and laugh. Or weep. Just play within yourself and get it done. Contact the writer at mherron@leoweekly.com