Welcome again to the annual literary exercise in which we try to figure out exactly what our sports figures and broadcasters and writers are saying, particularly when they are merely trafficking in sports cliches. Our Body of Work on this matter stretches back to 1984, when, in a full column-deadline panic, we strung together every sports clichE in the book and passed it off as legitimate social commentary, a spasm that became a tradition. Here is the 28th annual Trite Trophy dishonoring the worst sports cliche of the year.
While the Centers for Disease Control ponders the question of whether players with concussion-like symptoms are more likely to have an actual concussion than players with flu-like symptoms are to have the actual flu, concussion-like symptoms is obviously the health-related cliche of the year.
With or without concussion-like symptoms, football analysts continued to speak as though they had some related ailment, perhaps FDD, or Football Deficit Disorder, the irrational fear that the audience will not know what sport you're talking about unless you identify it every five seconds.
"When you look at the Arieona Cardinals," said ESPN analyst Eric Allen, "they're a football team that runs the football more than any team in the National Football League."
It's just totally unnecessary to say football on a football show, much more to invite another superfluous "c'mon, man" from the people at ESPN who have made c'mon man part of the network's rhetorical crest. Our 2010 winner, At The End Of The Day, had a monster year, but is not going to join It Is What It Is as the only repeat winner of the Trite Trophy.
Meanwhile, several worthy young soldiers joined our reliable army of clichEs this year in a variety of sports. We were fairly startled, frankly, by the emergence of Yard Sale, a hockey cliche announcers are invoking to describe the situation where debris litters the ice -- sticks, gloves, helmets, etc., perhaps as the end result of someone Taking Liberties.
Sometimes at yard sales you might see a yardstick, but I'm not sure I'd know a Measuring Stick Game if I saw one. Heard about them the entire fall, though. People in all sports were playing Measuring Stick Games, usually against superior competition. This sounds as though it's related to a Statement Game, which, by the way, every game is.
People who once were implored to Catch The Ball At Its Highest Point, maybe you've noticed, are now said to have the ability to "High-Point The Football."
Sorry, still an impossibility. Some passes sail 20, 30 feet in the air or more, no? Nobody's high-pointing that football.
Further, what used to be called the pocket from which the Pocket Passer actually passed has somehow become the Launch Point. Teams now want a Clean Launch Point (formerly Excellent Protection), and some are even willing to Move the Launch Point in order to keep it clean, particularly if the passer has the ability to Extend The Play by Making Plays With His Feet (try making one without 'em).
Thanks for another ubiquitously productive if ultimately pointless year from Manage The Game, He's a Specimen/Freak/Load, Make 'Em One Dimensional, The Second Level Of the Defense (how many are there?), Ball Security, Pin Their Ears Back, Take The Crowd Out Of The Game, He Kept Contain, He Lost Contain, They Locked Him Up (with either a new contract or after a mug shot), Hit It Up In There, It's A Copy Cat League, Situational Football (is there non-situational football?), He Can Flat-Out Hit, Lightning In A Bottle, The Bump (sometimes still called the pitchers mound), Take Care of Business (win), Outside the Tackle Box , Get The Ball Out Early and Impose Their Will. Now before we're halfway to Christmas again, our finalists for the 28th Trite Trophy, the clichE that in 2011 best met the three ageless criteria: ubiquity, essential meaninglessness and I have to really, really hate it-ness.
-- Our third runner-up: No Question.
The people in sports broadcasting whose first response to any question is "No question ... " or "There's No Question ..." is now the majority. No perfectly legitimate question is safe from instant dismissal.
-- Our second runner-up: Take A Shot Down The Field. This used to come out as, "Why don't they throw a long pass every once in a while?" This sounds more aggressive but doesn't make a lot of sense.
-- Our first runner-up: The Edge.
You know the edge by now. Not the great U2 guitarist, the edge they launch from when they're Bliteing Off The Edge, the edge they establish when they're trying to Set The Edge, the corner they're trying to navigate when they are Trying To Get To The Edge. And the winner of the 2011 Trite Trophy for worst clichE of the year in sports:
Are You Kidding Me?
The phrase was not in the least football-centric. It got heavy play in every sport and just about everywhere else. My wife used it at least twice in reaction to the Airedale eating a throw pillow, and I think at one point Are You Kidding Me? was the official negotiating position of the NBA Players Association. On the morning after the St. Louis Cardinals twice came back from two runs down with two outs and two strikes in their final breath against the Texas Rangers in Game 6 of the World Series, the linguistic weight of all the Are You Kidding Me's? in the world likely threatened to break Google's back.
Here's to a cliche-ridden 2012.
Like we could avoid it.