M*A*S*H Notes This favorite acronym for describing injury-riddled teams is getting lame from overuse

September 19, 1999

"There have been so many injury defaults in the United States
Open tennis championships," a story in The New York Times began
last week, "that the trainer's room resembles a MASH unit."

U.S. OPEN RESEMBLES MASH UNIT, confirms the headline on an
Associated Press bulletin.

"It's a MASH unit at our place," agrees Ed Metallo, a high school
football coach quoted in the Port St. Lucie (Fla.) News. "A MASH
unit."

"A MASH unit," concurs Greg Harris, pitching coach of the Class
A Lancaster JetHawks, in response to a Los Angeles Daily News
writer who used the phrase to describe the JetHawks' rotation.
"Well put."

So well put that members of the Baseball Writers Association of
America have begun to time-share a single simile, employing the
acronym for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, made familiar by the
1970 film and the ensuing CBS series M*A*S*H. "The Cardinals
pitching staff somewhat resembles a MASH unit," quips The Palm
Beach Post. "The Omaha Golden Spikes clubhouse has suddenly
become a MASH unit," cracks the Omaha World-Herald. "Yankees
rotation no longer resembles MASH unit," zings The Sporting
News. The National League Central, jokes the Pittsburgh
Post-Gazette, "is a MASH unit of a division."

This reference has legs. "[Golfer Steve] Elkington, 36, has been
a walking MASH unit," says the Boston Herald. "The Kingsmen [a
high school softball team] are a walking MASH unit right now,"
reports the South Bend Tribune, proving that the phrase is not
lame after all--at least not in a clinical sense.

Alas, before a fresh coinage can walk, it must crawl: The
Calgary Sun describes the city's Flames as "a team that looks
like it just crawled out of a MASH unit."

"We're like a walking MASH unit," Miami Dolphins coach Jimmy
Johnson confided to SI last January. This NFL season, reports
The Sports Network, "the Cowboys' receiving corps is beginning
to resemble a MASH unit." The Austin American-Statesman begs to
differ: "The Cowboys aren't the MASH unit they once were."

Their fellow Texans are another story. "Who needs another Big
Unit when you have a MASH unit that has performed like this?"
the Houston Chronicle asks of the Randy Johnson-less Astros,
whose bench coach, Matt Galante, recently gave the paper this
memorable one-liner: "Going 6-4 on this trip, with a MASH unit,
is pretty good."

The University of Illinois, alma mater of M*A*S*H Col. Henry
Blake, is one enormous tent city. "The University of Illinois is
looking more like a MASH unit these days," the AP reports of the
Illini football team. "The MASH unit formerly known as the
Illini basketball team has little gain to go with their pain,"
the Daily Illini lamented last season.

Every day, all over the world, sportswriters are conceiving the
same sentence. We are moved by a single muse.

It's British: "A list of injuries has made their dressing room
look like a MASH unit," The Guardian says of South Africa's
rugby team.

It's British Columbian: "A banged up bunch of Vancouver
Grizzlies looked like they belonged in a MASH unit," The
Vancouver Sun suggests.

It's both Tampa ("The Storm sideline resembled a makeshift MASH
unit throughout the game," reports The Tampa Tribune) and St.
Pete ("The [Oakland A's] lineup looks like a ward in a MASH
unit," marvels the St. Petersburg Times).

Sports journalism has never been for the squeamish, filled as it
is with dying prose, back-alley editing, impossible deadlines
and brain-dead subjects. But the landscape is especially
corpse-riddled right now. Buffalo Bills defensive end Marcellus
Wiley may have put it best. "It looks," he said, "like a MASH
unit out here."

COLOR ILLUSTRATION: DAN PICASSO

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)