“Changing the culture” of sports cliches


By Sue Curtis



When I was growing up and watching football with my dad, I learned the stock phrases that related to the game. By the time I was 10, I knew what a blitz was, I understood that “run it up the gut” meant running up the middle, and that a hail-Mary had nothing to do with prayer. Well, a little to do with prayer, but mostly it had to do with a very long pass.

Thanks to an email from a reader who shared her irritation with newscasters who use hackneyed phrases repeatedly, I began to notice that sportscasters have also developed some reporting idiosyncrasies.

The first one I noticed that was a little annoying was “the key to the game.” Sportscasters would use this phrase, then talk endlessly about turnovers, gaining yardage, or big defensive plays. All of these are important factors, I know, but in my experience, the team that scores the most points has always been victorious.

The last couple of years the new buzz word was “physicality.” Is that even a word? Football is one of the most physical sports I know. If a player is not physical, I’m not sure he should safely be allowed on the playing field.

The same goes for the oft-used “athletic.” Professional analysts yak about a football player that’s “athletic” like it’s a big news flash. It would be more newsworthy if some player on the field was not athletic (which Webster helpfully defined for us as “physically strong, fit, or active).

Recently, I’ve been noticing the phrase “taking it to the house.” Since football players can only score by taking a ball (or kicking or throwing it) into the end zone, I assume the “house” is a pseudonym for that. Irritating though this phrase it, I’d rather hear that after a football score than “hit a grand slam” (baseball reference), “that’s a major dunk” (basketball), or “cleared the bases” (also baseball). Some sportscasters mix their sports metaphors to the point of absurdity.

The most grating sports comment is “this is a “must-win” game.” Aren’t they all? Have you ever heard a coach or player say, “Gosh, this game doesn’t really matter”?

This year, we’re three games into the season, and I’ve heard a new overused cliché many times. Coaches, sportscasters, and analysts have talked about “changing the culture.” Again, I’m confused. The culture for the football team used to be what, exactly? Not football? Not winning or trying to win? Not sports? Not strategy, practice, training? If it wasn’t that, what was it? If it was that, what are we trying to change? Maybe they are trying to explain that a program wasn’t winning and now they’re going to try to be a winning program. But that’s not really about culture, that’s about recruiting, training, and coaching.

I’m starting to wish the sportscasters would just call the game and other than that, just be quiet. But that would probably require a change in culture to create the keys to the announcing game. Email me at suecurtis9@gmail.com.

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By Sue Curtis

Sue is a retired public servant who volunteers at the Hospice store (For All Seasons) in Troy and teaches part-time at Urbana University. She keeps busy taking care of husband, house, and pets. She and her husband have an adult son who lives in Troy.

Sue is a retired public servant who volunteers at the Hospice store (For All Seasons) in Troy and teaches part-time at Urbana University. She keeps busy taking care of husband, house, and pets. She and her husband have an adult son who lives in Troy.