The Things Football People Say

I’m two-thirds of the way through another fall football weekend, having watched a high school contest on Friday, several college games on Saturday, and preparing to watch at least one NFL game on this Sunday afternoon. I’ve listened and observed fans yelling at coaches, coaches yelling at players and officials, and announcers bloviating one inane cliche after another. As a former high school football player and coach, a former radio and tv color commentator for high school football, a lifetime fan of the sport, and as a lover of language, this weekend I’ve concluded that there are a number of tired and boorish behaviors and expressions pertaining to the game that I wish my fellow fans, players, coaches, and announcers would put to rest, including the following:

  • It is/was a heavyweight fight out there. First off, why “heavyweight?” Do fighters in lighter weight classes NOT fight with the same amount of intensity? In truth, heavyweight bouts are often the most lackuster and boring as they lean on one another and throw a minimum number of punches. I’ll admit that I’m no expert on combat sports, but at the end of the day, the strategy involved is pretty simple: beat the crap out of the opponent while managing to hold onto your own crap.
  • It is/was a true chess match between these coaches. No, it wasn’t. I’ve played chess and I’ve coached football. In chess, the players have the same type and size of pieces and, although they may move in unique directions, they are all moved at the same speed. Trust me, if my players are bigger and faster than the other team’s players, I’m going to kick their ass ninety-nine times out of a hundred. Let’s put the brakes on referring to football coaches as chessmasters. Coaching football isn’t exactly equivalent to contemplating quantum physics.
  • The praising of coaches for “halftime adjustments.” Yes, occasionally, a minor adjustment or two may make a difference, but the majority of the people making this statement could never tell you exactly what that “adjustment” was. For example, moving a d-lineman from a “2” to a “3” technique or “feathering” an option quarterback, or playing “man under.” Most of the “halftime adjustments” I remember weren’t “adjustments” at all but merely reminding the players of what that’d been coached to do all week that they had failed to do in the first half.
  • It is/was a war out there. No! It’s NOT! In war, people get shot at and sometimes die ingloriously without fanfare. You’re playing, coaching, or announcing a GAME in which injuries are relatively minor and rare in comparison to the permanence of war wounds and deaths. You’ll play, coach, or announce another game next week. There is no “next week” for those dead soldiers. Not only is this metaphor trite, it is insensitive and borderline insulting. Just stop it.
  • “No one believed in us! It was us against the world!” Once again, no. The fact is no one had actually thought much about you and your game or season except a relatively small handful of supporters and media types. Quite frankly, the “world” doesn’t give a shit that you won or lost or that you are conference champions or playoff qualifiers. Your games are an opportunity for fans to escape the problems of real life for a couple of hours, but prior to those hours and not long after, we have mouths to feed and bills to pay. We’re not obsessing over you and your team or season. Those who are could probably use a reality check.
  • “We just have to take it one game at a time” is just a silly thing to say. What other choice is there? Once again, it is not a chess match in which it is possible to play multiple opponents simultaneously.
  • I hear fans yell, “Get ’em fired up, Coach. The boys aren’t fired up!” Let me tell you something about being “fired up.” For a player, the “fire” goes out after about five seconds once the game begins or about up until the first time he gets “punched in the mouth” or “slobbberknockered” by the opponent. Other than the so-called “halftime adjustments,” there’s nothing more overrated regarding locker room coaching practices than the pep talk. I’ve watched and coached a number of truly “fired up” teams lose by fifty points.
  • Giving 110%. There’s no such thing. In languge, an absolute word or phrase is one that is complete and total. Words that are inclusive, all-encompassing, an end in themselves, and cannot be modified in any way. For example, there’s no such thing as “more than perfect.” Perfect is perfect, and you literally cannot give more than you have to give or one hundred percent.
  • Troy Aikman recently commented and later apologized for a version of the commonly-heard, quite chauvinistic complaint that we may as well “put a dress on the quarterback.” Yikes. This reminds me of when my boys were children, and my wife overheard me stupidly admonishing one of them to not be “such a girl.” Again, yikes! Trust me, I never made that mistake again. What was I teaching them about females? I mean, their mom was/is a girl, yet my suggestion was that females were/are somehow inherently inferior to males and that it is somehow shameful to be one. Idiot.
  • “Bullshit! Bullshit! Bullshit!” in response to an official’s call that doesn’t go one’s team’s way. Have we really sunk so low as a society that this is acceptable to chant in the presence of children? Regrettably, God and every one of us knows there are much worse things yelled at referees. It’s no wonder that youth sports are suffering from a dearth of folks willing to serve as officials.
  • My last one is not a specific term or phrase, but please remember that if you feel the need to express your dissatisfaction with a player’s or coach’s performance in a public and loud manner, that player’s or coach’s parents or spouses are most likely in earshot. When I was still coaching, for a number of good reasons, my wife stopped attending my games, partially because it pained her to watch me suffer defeat after defeat but also in fear of what she may hear voiced about her husband’s job performance after he had sacrificed the majority of his family time that week to spend it working with the children of those very “fans” berating him.

I’m not trying to be the “get off my lawn” guy or to suggest that I have been guilt-free of committing some of the very behaviors I’ve condemned. I just think in all situations, we could do a better job of thinking about what we’re saying/doing before we say/do it, especially when the people we’re saying it about are kids or coaches or officials who are just doing the best they can with what they have.

Coaching days.

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Published by tyfroth

My primary passion and vocation is teaching literature and composition on both the high school and university level. My avocation is writing novels that explore contemporary themes/issues relevant to both young adult and adult readers.

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