JUST FIGURED OUT that watching 12 hours of NFL games on TV 20 weeks a year for a half-century or so, I now have spent 500 full days of my shattered life listening to the most bizarre English-language commentary this side of Nancy Grace.
Most football broadcasting can be divided into four simple categories: smart (10 percent), dumb (54 percent), spectacularly dumb (21 percent) or Tony Siragusa (2 percent). The rest (13 percent) is all clichéd.
Today we celebrate those football clichés that litter every telecast:
"He is able to walk off the field under his own power." How else do you walk off the field? Heck, you never hear about somebody "walking away from a meeting under his own power" or "walking away from a marriage under his own power."
"They're in four-down territory." Frankly, this best applies to colonial settlers encroaching on Indian land in the 18th century via marauding, pillaging and rampaging.
"It depends on the spot." It always depends on the spot, on and off the field. Next.
(NFL Network's Mike Mayock on the Rams' Sam Bradford: "When he can step into the throw, he's as accurate as any quarterback in football." Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning should take note.)
"... great hand-eye coordination." When you think about it, the key to most success in American history - Edison's invention of the light bulb, Burger King's creation of the Whopper, Warren Beatty's whirlwind courtship of Annette Bening - is the result of great hand-eye coordination.
"You can throw out the record books when these two teams play." I hope they recycle them.
"They need to get [a wide receiver] in space." I think this means they want to get him open, but it could mean they want to hook him up with NASA.
"Ball security is paramount." This is a Jon Grudenism, oft-stated with abundant authority. According to the football-speak former coach, holding onto the pigskin is more important THAN ANYTHING ELSE. Yet I just checked the Ten Commandments; I guess ball security was the 11th one.
"That missed extra point could come back to haunt them." I can't tell you how many crawl-down-your-spine, creepy horror films I have seen that start with a missed extra point.
(Mayock on Bradford again: "When he's got clean-feet vision, his accuracy on the deep ball is as good as anybody in football." I don't know what "clean-feet vision" is, but this fella sounds like a keeper.)
"That's a costly turnover." Me? I always shop around for low-priced turnovers.
"They'll take over in the shadow of their own goalposts." Outdoors or indoors, daytime or nighttime, those goalposts cast quite a shadow.
"He's deceptively quick." How can you tell?
"They're better than their record indicates." No, no, no, no, no, no, no - as Bill Parcells used to point out repeatedly, you are EXACTLY as your record indicates.
"He had the presence of mind ..." First it takes hand-eye coordination to make a great catch, then you need the presence of mind to get both feet inbounds before absorbing a hit without fumbling - that's ball security, folks; otherwise, you might commit a costly turnover.
"He's running downhill." It's unbelievable how many tax-funded stadiums are built on a slope.
"He's trying to get to the second level." First you've got stadiums that are built on a hill, now you've got fields that have staircases.
(Mayock on the Ravens' Joe Flacco: "When Joe Flacco can set up in a solid pocket, he's as good as anyone you'll ever see." Wow - that's a lot of quarterbacks. But, hey, I've seen 'em all since Johnny Unitas, and I only rank Flacco 53rd for quarterbacks setting up in a solid pocket.)
"They're in no-man's land." Originally, I thought this was referring to Lilith Fair, but apparently, it's the part of the gridiron - between your opponent's 35 and 50 - in which a field goal attempt would be a little too long and a punt might not net a lot of yards, so a team just goes for it. I guess we're talking four-down territory.
"They have to establish their running game." Actually, they don't.
Ask The Slouch
Q. Coaches and media people often say a team has "a knowledgeable fan base." How does one identify an unknowledgeable fan base? (Philip Murphy; Boardman, Ohio)
A. If the guy sitting next to you at a game is bare-chested with a letter painted on his torso, that's one telltale sign.
Q. Wouldn't the World Series get a lot more attention if they held it after football season was over? (William Murray; Chicago)
A. I'm sure Bud Selig is working on this as we speak.
Q. Ever get a lap dance while watching a bowling event on TV? (Mark Steinberg; Seattle)
A. No - how would I be able to reach my PBR in a can?
Q. The AFL and NFL coexisted for only 10 years before those two pro leagues merged. Aren't we way overdue for an SEC-NFL merger? (Steve Knack; Bethesda, Md.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!