Just Tell It Like It Is

Awash in overwrought TV-speak, sportscasters can't seem to "get the job done"
February 13, 1995

When a sportscaster says a team must "turn it up a notch," I go to my TV and turn it down a notch.

When Brent Musburger says, "You are looking live," I am actually looking dead, bored listless from listening to blazered network ninnies repeat the same tired TV phrases, week after week, for a lifetime.

I am suffering from the "fatigue factor," a term that suffers from a fatigue factor in its own right. The next time he sees a basketball player panting, I suggest Dick Vitale allude to the "weariness index" or maybe the "exertion barometer." I'm assuming, of course, that the word tired is not in his vocabulary.

Did I write, "The word tired is not in his vocabulary"? Great Caesar's ghost, I'm becoming one of them.

If they are to win the Super Bowl next season, the San Diego Chargers will have to "take it to another level," a phrase familiar to anyone who has ever tried to return something at Macy's. And while we're on the subject of department stores, why are coaches always said to be making "wholesale" substitutions? Just once, I would like to see a general manager make "retail" changes in the off-season.

It was Torquemada, or perhaps Gary Bender, who said, "The Warriors will have to convert soon." Everyone has to "convert" these days. The Washington Redskins had better "convert on this possession," because if they are in fact possessed, they will need a Catholic priest to perform the exorcism. Teams occasionally throw the Hail Mary so that they might convert. And vice versa.

Grant Hill reminds me of "a Michael Jordan." (There are apparently several Michael Jordans out there, which would explain his omnipresence in commercials.) He reminds me of a Michael Jordan because he has "all the tools." Thus, he also reminds me of a Bob Vila.

A man with all the tools is often said—by a Dan Dierdorf—to "display a great deal of athleticism." Much as a man in need of insulin displays a great deal of diabeticism.

When Digger Phelps says, "This team can smell a victory"—and he says it incessantly—what that team really smells is Digger's metaphor mildewing. Victory smells like diesel fumes, for Vitale signals the clinching of every game with the phrase, "Start the bus." Yes, please, start the bus, and make sure these two are on it.

That's a great "golf shot." It is not a flu shot, a potshot or a shot of Wild Turkey. It's a great "golf shot" on a very challenging "golf course." It is also a redundant "golf phrase" spoken by nitwit "golf announcers" wearing silly "golf pants."

Basketball is exciting when the crowd "gets into it" but turns ugly when opposing players "get into it" with each other, requiring postgame interviews in which neither side really wants to "get into it." To you Buttinskis who will point out that the advertising slogan for this very magazine is "Get into it," I say, "Stay out of it."

Television has so overused its own nincompoop phrases that it has had to borrow the insipid constructions of newspapers and magazines. Ricky Watters of the San Francisco 49ers said on the Super Bowl postgame show that he was happy for "much-maligned" Steve Young. (He did not offer his opinions of "Panamanian strongman" Manuel Noriega or of "the breakaway republic" of Chechnya.) On the cable channel NewSport, a NewsReader announced last week that Mike Shanahan had "inked a deal" to coach the Denver Broncos. (Alas, he did not "ink a pact," or better yet, "nix a pact.") The baseball strike will eventually be settled, the analysts tell us, because one side will "bow to pressure" and both sides will "hammer out an agreement," preferably in an "all-night, closed-door" session.

A new Federal Communications Commission directive states that the next sports anchor who says "hacked in the act" while narrating footage of a basketball player being fouled while shooting must do the rest of the broadcast in a sandwich board that reads HACK IN THE ACT.

Penn State running back Ki-Jana Carter is the "key" player in this "key" contest, and stopping him in "key" moments will be "key." Every game now carries more "keys" than a high school janitor. I suggest we lock up this word and throw away the you-know-what before one more "key" witness gives "key" testimony that Mr. Simpson was in Key West, eating key lime pie, on the night of the murders.

You cannot stop the Niners' Jerry Rice, you can only hope to "contain" him. In fact, the Chargers couldn't "contain" Rice if they were an Uncle Ben's box, but so what? Not since the cold war has "containment" been such a "focus."

The way to "contain" most teams, we are told, is to "control the tempo." Tempos belong in the Hertz lot, sportscasters. Please leave them there. Along with your keys.

ILLUSTRATIONEVANGELOS VIGLIS

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)