Announcers’ Annoying Phrases

Back in December, I pointed you to Gene Collier’s column in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette related to his awarding of the Trite Trophy for sports writers and announcers. In no way, do I intend to compete with that work; it is one of the highlights of the year in sports writing as far as I’m concerned. However, there are a few phrases that are horribly used – - and sometimes over-used – - by announcers. Some of them are uninformative; some just don’t mean much of anything. I don’t want to give them any kind of award for this lack of communication clarity; I just with they would stop.

For example, why can’t announcers use simple expressions of mild or constructive criticism when a team or a player isn’t doing all that well? It happens, you know… Instead, the announcers or analysts are apt to say that the team is searching for an identity. Nonsense, in most cases, the team needs to be searching for talent.

Sometimes the analysis is that the team is just missing one piece to the puzzle. Normally, when I hear that I start looking for all the other things that the team is doing next to perfectly such that one more addition will make them champions. I have to tell you that has never been the case; normally, it seems as if the reason they might be “missing a piece or two of the puzzle” is that the people in charge of the team have not a clue as to what it might take to construct a really outstanding team.

How many times have you heard that the players on a team don’t seem to be on the same page or that they seem to be playing tentatively on a particular day? Next time you hear that, start to watch closely and see if the real situation might be that there is no common strategic direction provided that would allow for them to be on the same page. Clueless and indecisive coaching/leadership are often excused with these kinds of platitudes.

Sometimes, you’ll hear that Joe Flabeetz is a “great locker room guy” or that he still has a ton to contribute to a team even though “he has lost a step/lost a foot on his fastball”. When you hear that, start to watch Joe Flabeetz closely and ask yourself these questions:

    Would you re-sign this guy for next season?

    Should he really have retired at the end of last season?

Usually, you will find that the answers to those two questions are – - in order – - Hell, no” and “yes”. The announcers could help us out by just saying it…

Sadly, the verbal transgressions of announcers and analysts go beyond these “little white lies” and obfuscations. Another problem that is even worse is that too many of them listen to each other and think that they are really in the business of creating new idiomatic English. Just to clarify, they are not.

How many of these folks say “back in the day”, when they mean “in the past” or “years ago”? Far too many is the answer. Here is something I know for sure; back in the day, no one said “back in the day”.

Running backs in football in 2008 are “downhill runners”. Funny, I never heard anyone refer to Jim Brown as a downhill runner. He was just a damned good running back who was tough enough to run over just about anyone – on a level field or downhill or uphill for that matter.

In order to defend against a “downhill runner” defenses need to “put a hat on” the ball carrier. Excuse me, but we are talking about a football game here and not haberdashery.

Too often you will hear an analyst conclude his thinking with the phrase “At the end of the day…”. Excuse, me, at the end of the day would be dusk. If you substitute that word for their phraseology, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it?

The success of many teams on many Saturdays and Sundays depends on their ability to “avoid costly penalties”. What are “cheap penalties” and is it ok for teams to incur the cheap variety? Avoiding costly penalties is a critically important strategy when discussing dealings with the IRS and the filing of one’s tax returns, but we have to listen to that kind of junk while watching a football game.

Particularly on draft day – in football and basketball – you will frequently hear about the intentions of team “going forward”. Whatever happened to “in the future” or “tomorrow”? And by the way, this particular phrase is rendered meaningless by the mere fact that time does not flow backwards in this universe. So, everyone and every team will be “going forward” whether or not that might be their preference.

The same thing goes for players who need to “play within themselves”. Think about that for a moment; precisely what choice might that player have in the matter?

On several pre-game shows, you’ll hear that some analyst is busy “working the phones”. That’s fine if he is actually employed by Verizon or if he is secretly wishes he were The Wichita Lineman. [/Glenn Campbell] Otherwise, he’s just a guy who has been making a bunch of phone calls to try to figure out what is going on because that’s his job and that’s the only reason he is collecting a paycheck from that particular pre-game show.

I really do wish that the announcers and analysts assigned to the game that we all watch would revert to simple English. But I do have to admit that the obfuscation of the English language is not confined to the announcing booth. As one simple example, consider how many people strive to find ways to spend “quality time” with someone else. In the final analysis, any time you are not sleeping on a bedpan with a feeding tube down your gullet and a respirator forcing your chest to go up and down is pretty much quality time.

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…

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