It’s days like this when I put on the thermal underwear, flannel pants and shirt, my thickest hoodie and a snowmobile suit before I battle the arctic chill. And that’s just my sleepwear.
You know your house is poorly insulated when there’s black ice in your kitchen. And no, not in the freezer.
I can’t say these are the most wonderful days of the year around here, but there is much to look forward to. Not the least of which is my annual survey of the most popular clichés of the year.
In order to qualify, the clichés have to rise above the old standards, such as ‘he came to play.’ Or ‘two minutes is a lifetime in this game,’ or he ‘heard footsteps.’ No longer does your favorite analyst gaze upon an unconscious player and say, perhaps even with a chuckle, he got his bell rung. Now the mood is somber as we are told that the player is in the protocol. I suspect that word has come down from NFL headquarters that “the concussion protocol” is to be avoided. No need to scare those Pop Warner kids by using the C-Word.
And, yes, word does come down. Used to be that in a typical broadcast, you’d hear about the NFL more times than Le’Veon Bell gets thrown for a loss. Now, the league reminds announcers that they are to refer to the esteemed monopoly as The National Football League. Happily, the best announcers — guys like Tony Romo, Joe Buck and Al Michaels — pay no attention. Others, such as Joe Tessitore and his partner, Booger McFarland, and the unctuous Cris Collinsworth, obey their masters. McFarland and Tessitore have an obvious motive: they are terrible at their job and must always assume they are on borrowed time. As for Collinsworth, he’s simply a suck-up.
Unfortunately, moldy clichés never die. They might go away for a while but, like ear hair (believe me) and smallpox, they always come back. The other day, I heard an ESPN football “analyst” (formerly known as “color men”) who was doing a mid-major playoff game say there’s no tomorrow. Yes, it was ESPN and yes, I’m pretty sure some of those guys are being paid in Arby’s coupons, but I’m still horrified.
Unfortunately, those old chestnuts never die, but newer ones emerge from the Petri dishes of hack announcers and surge to popularity each year before the first snow emergency is declared south of Brainerd.
If this were the awards show it should rightfully be, one of those blonde Fox sideline reporters would be opening an envelope and I’d be unveiling the three biggest clichés of the year.
Alas, I’m at home trying to get the circulation back in my toes and there are no blondes or envelopes, but just thinking about my favorite clichés gives me a dopamine rush.
Now, then, the three phrases that have come to define the 2019 football season are:
Number 3: Arm Angle.
I don’t know how this made it from the baseball fields to the gridiron, but for some reason, your most prominent hacks — think Tessitore and James Lofton — have found this one just too clever to ignore.
Number 2: Gap Integrity.
Full disclosure: this should have been in the running for last year’s champion. However, I never got around to the top clichés of 2018, and since this one is still going strong, I figured that I could roll back the hands of time. For the uninitiated, “gap integrity” means “they blocked good.” This could also qualify as the most stupid cliché of the decade
That brings us to the runaway Number 1 hit of the year, which is…He stuck his foot in the ground.
I’m not sure how one sticks a foot in the ground, but apparently the vast majority of running backs are now accomplishing this feat. (That was intentional.) Rest assured, however, that running backs still run angry, downhill, with abandon and north-south.
Now we pause for an existential question: Do players define the cliché, or do clichés define the player? Or maybe it works both ways. Take Bell, for example. When he was going well, we constantly had to be reminded that Bell had this fascinating ability to hesitate before he picked up a key block and then…yes…ran downhill. Bell still hesitates…and is then tackled. And I wonder if he would be better off these days without the hesitation. It’s possible that he would, but he has been defined by the hesitation so often that it’s now a part of his persona that he cannot escape.
As for coaches…well, Ron Rivera was always a riverboat gambler. Now, he’s a reminder that all gamblers die broke. Bill Belichick has almost always been defined by one word, although it’s not always the same one. He’s either a genius or a douche. You be the judge.
And one last word for the wise: the mute button is your friend.
The bankroll climbed to $1,314 last week due to my old friends, Baltimore and the Pittsburgh under. It’s too late for me to bet the Ravens, who covered again on Thursday night, and the line seems to have caught up with the Steelers under. Therefore…
New England at Cincinnati
Andy Dalton returned to the lineup last week, but he didn’t exactly energize the Bengals. Although he could have avoided throwing a Pick-6 that might have cost his team a victory over the Browns, he didn’t and won’t get much help from an injured and inept receiving corps. Cincinnati has a chance to go the entire season without scoring more than 23 points in any game. Not good. And not easy. And it doesn’t figure to get any better against the Patriots, who can still play defense. Offensive, of course, is another matter. These teams are a combined 18-8 under this year, but the total — 41 1/2 — is still affordable.
The pick: Patriots 20, Bengals 13 — Under for $100
L.A. Rams at Dallas
After being left for dead following a 45-6 loss to Baltimore, the Rams have surged back by demolishing Arizona and Seattle to the tune of a combined 62-19. Dallas, meanwhile, is stumbling ahead with a lame-duck coaching staff and a chance to win its division with a losing record.
The pick: Rams 27, Cowboys 20 — Rams minus 1 for $50