Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Football Lexicon

Pictured above (copyright ESPN) is “The Boomer”, who began as a pretty good TV sports host and has morphed into a loudmouth caricature, who has apparently ruined his voice from years of yelling (to bring more “excitement” to the sports event?).  Just listen to him the next time you see him.  He’s constantly trying to do something with his voice…I’m just not sure what.  He certainly doesn’t sound like Chris Berman did a decade ago.

But my rant is focused not on those who report sports, but on what they say.  Here are a few of my long list of pet peeves.

“Offsides”.  Nope.  Offside.  Look it up.  You can’t be across the line that demarcates your side until after the ball is snapped.  (See also “Onsides kick” – nope.  Onside kick. )
“Play-action pass”.  Everybody says it (except Ron Jaworski, who only says it half the time) but it’s inane.  It’s a RUN-action pass.  Every time they snap the ball it’s a play, whether it’s a run, pass, punt, or kick from placement.  What makes this play special is the run action.  It looks like a run to the defense, then turns into a pass. 
“Former walk-on”.  College football broadcasters say this all the time.  Once you’re a walk-on, you’re a walk-on forever – that status will NEVER change.  Walk-on.  It means the player tried out for the team without a scholarship or formal invitation.  Just walked into camp and said he wanted to play.  Sports guys love to put “former” in front of everything…”former Cy Young winner” and “former Gold Glove winner” are just a couple examples.  Once you win the award, you get to keep it.  Once a Cy Young winner, always a Cy Young winner.  (Note: this is getting dicey with the use of “former Heisman Trophy winner” – there are 76 Heisman Trophy winners, and the Pack faces one this weekend – but Reggie Bush’s situation calls for an asterisk or something.)
“Welcome in.”  This is just plain stupid.  Nobody says “welcome in” except sportscasters, as in “Welcome in to Sports Center.”  They all do it.
Confusing a “reverse” with an “end-around”.  This is quite common.  In a “reverse”, the ball actually changes direction – the play starts with the ball moving one direction (left) and then when handed off it moves the other way (right).  In an end-around, the end involved moves from whatever side of the formation he’s on, takes the handoff, and then runs around the other side of the formation.  This is not rocket science, but the majority of football broadcasters get it wrong.
“Prolific”, “Proficient”, “Prodigous.”  Each has a separate and distinct meaning and they are not interchangeable.  Sports folks often say “prolific” when they mean “proficient.”  Last week, Michelle Tafoya of NBC said “The Saints’ offense is very prolific.”  Huh?  But they all seem to do it.
“Icing the Kicker.”  Nothing at all wrong with this phrase, except it’s possibly the most stupid thing done in football.  Coaches think if they call a time out before a placement kick, it will make the kicker “think” too much about the kick.  What it does (ask any kicker, center, or holder) is give them time to make sure everything is optimal.  Who wants to be rushed or hurried when attempting a precision play that requires exquisite teamwork and timing?  Yet coaches still do this stupid “icing” thing, and give the opposing team’s field goal unit plenty of time to make sure everybody’s on the same page.

Oh, there are many more….I could go on for hours…..but that’s enough for this time.  I’m sure I’ll be reminded of a few more Sunday afternoon when the Packers play the team with the Former Heisman Trophy Winner at quarterback.  I hear he’s a very prolific guy.


  1. Insisting on actual, real-live English wid' proper grammars and stuff like-a dat?

    Holy smokes. You're a closet Conservative.

  2. A former walk-on is one who is given a scholarship at some point. Jared Abbrederis walked on at Wisconsin, but is now on scholarship. He's a former walk-on.

    The Saints offense IS prolific in that it scores often, just as a prolific author writes a lot of books and a prolific band produces a lot of records. Tafoya was right, as she often is.

    And Reggie Bush might be considered a former Heisman Trophy winner, as he won it and then had to give it up.

  3. Jason:

    Re: sentence 1 above. OK, fine, whatever.

    Re: sentence 2 above. You're parsing words. The way I take it, Tafoya thinks prolific means proficient. The sentence, as she spoke it, needs qualification if she's to be considered "right".

    Re: sentence 3 above. As noted in my copy.

  4. It's called a play-action pass. That's the NFL term for it, used in all their playbooks. You may disagree with phrasing of name, but that doesn't mean someone's wrong for calling it a play-action pass.

  5. And, sorry, Tafoya was correct in calling the Saints offense prolific - as in creating abundance. They score a lot. I believe you're the one parsing words.