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April 29, 2016

Ahhh, we're once again at that time of the year when self-important men who've never served in the military gather to divvy up a group of younger men who happen to be very good at the game of football.

For some reason, these high-level decisions take place within the confines of a ''war room'' - even though the only thing that conjures up any thought of actual combat is Laremy Tunsil's ''gas'' mask (wink, wink).

Enough with this gibberish.

The NFL draft isn't held in the middle of Afghanistan - you know, a place that knows a thing or two about actual warfare - so let's stop using military terms to describe the extremely safe, secure rooms (complete with catered meals) where general managers and their minions decide which college players have the best chance of helping their teams win more games next season.

While we're at it, here's a few more entries we'd like to eradicate from the sports dictionary:

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ALL WAR-RELATED TERMS: Like the aforementioned room, most of these can be traced to football's obsession with turning military tactics into gridiron terminology. We're pretty sure that linemen aren't doing their blocking in deep holes designed to keep them out of the line of fire, but they're nevertheless known for working ''in the trenches.'' A quarterback is the ''field general,'' but Tony Romo is the only one with a star - and it's on his helmet, not his collar. While we're at it, those like Romo are capable of throwing long passes, not bombs. And the goal is to get to the other side of the 50-yard line, not enemy territory.

A TRADITION UNLIKE ANY OTHER: Augusta National has relished this moniker for its annual golf tournament, but outside of concession stands that sell pimento cheese sandwiches and the awarding of garish attire to the winner, the Masters actually seems a lot like most golf tournaments. They play 18 holes. Par is 72. They have tee boxes and fairways and sand traps. And the guy who shoots the lowest score wins. A tradition like every other.

PHYSICALLY GIFTED: This term is generally applied to African-American and other minority athletes, supposedly as a compliment when it's really more of a racial slight. The flip side of this, of course, is the white athlete who gets pegged as a ''hard worker.'' These stereotypes diminish athletes of every color. Guess what? Anyone who makes it as a professional athlete probably has some genetic gifts the rest of us are lacking, but the major reason they got where they are is because of their obsessive work ethic.

BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME: This famous line from the 1989 film ''Field of Dreams'' became the standard pitch for every city that wanted to build a new stadium or arena to lure a pro sports team. Instead of ghostly baseball players emerging from the cornfield, all the taxpayers got was hefty bills for subsidizing billionaire owners. Besides, this came from an era when we romanticized baseball as some sort of metaphor for life. Until the minimum wage is raised to $507,500 a year, let's send that silly notion - and this saying - back to the cornfield.

TALK ABOUT: A plea to my journalism colleagues out there: Please, please retire this lazy starting point to seemingly every so-called question uttered in locker rooms and postgame news conferences. May we return to asking actual questions instead of needlessly reiterating that we want answers in the form of spoken language.

FRESH TIRES: Apparently, the tires used in NASCAR come from a bakery. Otherwise, why would they say the good ol' boys are heading to the pits to get a ''fresh'' set of rubber? Fresh is a loaf of bread right out of the oven. The tires that are changed to in the middle of a race are new.

STUDENT-ATHLETE: There's never been a bigger abuse of the English language than this one, shoved down our throats in hopes of justifying how we've allowed our institutions of higher learning to be co-opted into professional franchises (only with the added benefit of not having to actually pay the players). Those who run these money machines like to tell us it's all about the kids. Yeah, right.

BASKETBALL RING: And finally, we give you the latest misguided attempt to blend the worlds of politics and sports. While stumping in Indiana, presidential candidate Ted Cruz decided that the best way to appeal to voters in that basketball-crazed state was to re-enact a scene from the movie ''Hoosiers.'' And then he went and called the basket a ''ring.'' Cruz might've seen a boxing match held in a ring, or put a ring on his wife's hand when he asked her to marry him. But rest assured, no one has ever shot at a basketball ring.

We don't even need a war room to figure that out.

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Paul Newberry is a national writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/paul-newberry .

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