Trite-and-true cliches always come to play

Year's worst sayings have tremendous downside, maintain their swagger

Sports Plus

January 27, 2002|By Andy Knobel | Andy Knobel,SUN STAFF

When it comes to stepping up and taking the fight against sports cliches to a new level, there's nobody you'd want pounding away at the keyboard in crunch time more than columnist Gene Collier of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Collier, who always gives the matter 110 percent, recently released the winner of his Trite Trophy, which dishonors the year's worst sports cliche.

Some previous winners: Throwback, Gut Check, They Went To The Well Once Too Often, Mentality Of A Linebacker, Smashmouth Football, Red Zone, Eight Men In The Box, Walk-off Homer.

Here are this year's Trite runners-up, with Collier's commentary (and you'll note, he really makes a statement):

"We Are All Reminded That This Is Just A Game, But ... " Yes, heard thousands of times since Sept. 11 by an announcer noting a proliferation of American flags and/or the singing of "God Bless America," it too often preceded something like "the Yankees really have their hands full tonight."

"Football," mostly as a redundant adjective. "In a big football game like this, you need experienced football players on both sides of the football, defensive football players who will fly to the football and offensive football players who can do what it takes to move the football down the football field."

"Throw The Football Vertically." Oh, please. It was everywhere, but especially on the lips of ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski, who loved so many passers who throw vertically, which apparently means forward instead of toward the sideline. If he really threw vertically, he'd be Putting It Up For Grabs.

"Hat On A Hat." We've Gotta Get A Hat On A Hat means that the defense has to account for everyone on the offense. It's dreadful. They don't wear hats. Maybe they ought to.

This year's Trite winner?

Put Points On The Scoreboard.

"It has been around forever," Collier wrote, "but really got itself resuscitated last year by analyst Joe Theismann, who said, honest to God, `You've got to score to put points on the scoreboard in this league.'

"Everyone who says this should be required to name another place where points might have been put. Just once in my life, instead of, `The Jets are in a situation now where it's imperative they put points on the scoreboard,' could I hear, `The Jets have to score'? Just once?

"If not, I suggest they put points in the mailbox and see what that gets them."

More legitimate beefs

A few more observations from Collier, who can never be accused of failing to wrap up:

You think we'll ever hear the end of Frozen Tundra? There's no other tundra than frozen, folks. It's like saying, "The liquid ocean" or invoking the burgeoning cliche Partially Deflected. It's not partially deflected. It's just deflected. Fully, wholly, utterly and irretrievably deflected. Or it's not deflected at all. Either one. Not both.

Where is the house? You know, the house with all the footballs in it. The house we hear about time after 1,000th time when someone with the football Took It To The House. It's a pretty good-sized house evidently.

Skeletons off their backs

Sometimes the worst mistake in using a cliche is mixing it in a metaphor.

Fox football analyst John Madden said this year of the struggling New Orleans Saints: "The snowball's running downhill and it's gathering moss."

Other mixed-up metaphors:

The Pittsburgh Steelers' Jerome Bettis: "We see the light at the end of the rainbow."

Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden: "I know it sounds corny, but you can't take your eye off that bull's-eye and assume you can throw your little silver hat out there and win games."

NASCAR driver Bill Elliott: "As soon as you think you have the camel by the tail, it puts you right under again."

Online prognosticator Mark Green, analyzing Mississippi State at Florida: "The Florida aerial attack will be like bombs on Baghdad, and it won't be during garbage time."

Pirates outfielder Brian Giles, on playing back-to-back series against two teams immediately ahead of Pittsburgh in the standings: "We can kill a bird with two stones."

Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rhett Warrener, on a Game 7 against the Pittsburgh Penguins: "All the marbles are on the table."

Headline in The London Times: "Shadow of Tyson looms large amid Nevada moon."

Former Boston Red Sox outfielder Carl Everett: "I have rattled some feathers in this clubhouse by speaking my mind."

Yes, and he sure made the dust fly, too.

Compiled from wire reports and Web sites.

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