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TV Guys Are Just Talking Jive

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NFL announcers say some interesting things. Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images.
NFL announcers say some interesting things. Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images.

It’s not time of year again. Every NFL fan has high hopes that this will be the year that, at long last, his dream is fulfilled and the team that’s frustrated him all this time will finally hoist the Lombardy trophy.

Yeah, sure, and I’m ready for Scarlett Johansson to show up on my doorstep.

Seriously, though, the opening of the season is eagerly anticipated everywhere. It’s a great time of year. We forget about lousy jobs and what’s-her-name at home. But with the beginning of the season comes the spread of that crabgrass-like weed: clichés.

Let me run down (I wish I could just run over) three of my “favorites.”

“It’s a physical game out there.

Well, what else would it be? It’s not chess. It’s not golf.

Commentators are paid good money (in fact, they’re overpaid) to do a job they love, and that’s the best they can come up with? For shame.

Maybe the game was particularly brutal. Or nasty. Mean-tempered. Chippy. Dirty. Pitiless. Cruel. Warlike. Vindictive.

“They’re starting to gain momentum.”

Momentum, the magic word, much-beloved by the mediacracy. But what does it mean?

It sounds a bit like the right stuff, the mysterious quality mentioned but never described in the great movie about astronauts.

Commentators talk about momentum as if it’s a real thing. But it’s not.

A team might be described as having “momentum” when it’s playing well (no, announcers, you don’t say a team is “playing good”) and beginning to take control of the game. But it means nothing if you don’t put points on the board. Using the m-word seems to imply that statistics such as time of possession and yards gained are significant.

Forget it, they’re nothing. The one statistic that’s always important is turnovers, which are what kill “momentum.” Which is a different way of saying that there’s no such thing as momentum. Instead, one team was playing better than the other for a period of time. But that means nothing if you don’t score points.

The truly crucial statistic is turnovers. Commit fewer turnovers and you have a great chance to win.

“He’s the kind who gives it 110 percent.”

The media love stories about the underdog who topples the favored team, conquering adversity along the way. One popular narrative is that hustle and heart are enough to overcome a lack of talent.

To reach the NFL you must have talent. You have to be strong enough and fast enough to make the plays. You must be in great shape. But evaluating what you might achieve someday in the right situation is brutally tough. Teams guess wrong much of the time. What often happens is that a player has been neglected and underestimated, and ends up proving that he has more talent than anyone thought. Also, he may have the instinct and smarts for the game that another guy doesn’t have. Maybe he just doesn’t make mistakes. He has a gift for the clutch play. He never loses focus.

Those are all part of the package. It’s not enough to be strong and fast. Those can be measured easily. The other qualities are a little tougher to get a handle on.

I don’t see many players who aren’t giving it their all. I think the effort’s there on pretty much every play. Coaches are going to get rid of malingerers and head cases. Unless, of course, they have all-world talent. See Moss, Randy.