Tuesday, August 21, 2012

With the NFL season upon us, let;’s go back to 1985 when Jim Murray attempted to decipher the language of the football announcer.


SUNDAY, January 6, 1985, SPORTS


Football Announcers — What They Say, What It Really Means

    Many years ago in this country, bankers used to communicate in code. They weren't evil men, just careful, and they didn't want the public worrying about their money.
    There are fewer secrets in today's world and codes are, by and large, used only by spy groups who seek to hide their identity by waling up to strangers and saying such things as, "The moon is read and rises in the East," or, "The snows have melted in the Karakoram early this year." That way, if you get the wrong guy, he can say, "Oh, wait a minute you want Goldberg the spy. He lives upstairs with his sister."
    But there is one profession where talking in ciphers is alive and well — the football broadcasting booth. Here is the last bastion of talking in tongues in our society. The object here is not so much to continue the counterspy as to protect the mystique of football.
    Football is a game consisting of blocking and tackling and not much else. But it is the duty of those who promote it and have a stake in it to invest it with the trappings and liturgical cant of an occult Eastern religion. It is imperative that those who interpret it for you convince you there's more here than meets the eye.
    Still, it is part of the journalistic covenant with the public not to demystify football, exactly, but to decode it into understandability, take the buzz out of some of the words. Accordingly, we bring you here some of the better-known cryptographs broken down into their common English meanings:
    "This is a big third-down play." There is no such thing as a small third-down play unless, of course, it is Harvard's. Custom dictates that third downs be singled out, but remember that big third-down plays are often preceded by even bigger first- and second-down plays.
    "They have good field position." An overworked and misleading observation by hindsight. For instance, sometimes the worst field position you could have would be on the Chicago Bears' four-yard line. You might be better off with the ball on your own four. Just having the ball sometimes made for poor field position against the Seattle Seahawks.
    "They are showing blitz." The defense is going to run forward instead of backwards for a change, and play football instead of volleyball.
    "They are in the zone." Running backward again.
    "They're in a rotating zone." They started to run backwards and bumped into each other.
    "He called time out, he didn't like what he saw." What he saw was the defensive end starting to drool and paw the ground, or he got a copy of the psychiatrist's report or the cornerback.
    "He got a good read on the quarterback." He saw him coming out of the disco at 4 in the morning.
    "He audibilized on the line of scrimmage." The coach sent in a quarterback sneak but the quarterback had a date that night.
    "That play is called Yellow 30." The formation in which the quarterback refuses to sneak.
    "The end was supposed to kick out on the Y back but the nose man ran a stunt." Five-yard loss.
    "He threw into coverage." The pass was so wobbly that six guys had time to get under it.
    "We'll take what the defense gives us." Four field goals.
    "They're going into their two-minute drill." Everybody's trying, finally.
    "The safety had deep responsibility but he needed help on the inside coming across the middle." Touchdown.
    "He tried to force the ball in there." Interception.
    "He's got a quick release." Terror.
     "He's got quick feet." Terror.
    "He holds the ball to the last second." Stupidity.
    "They're dominating the line of scrimmage." They've got two more sociopaths that the other guys.
    "The momentum just shifted." So did the ball.
    "The coach's game plan was genius." Yeah, he wrote in the three fumbles, blocked punt and the two interference penalties in the last five minutes.
    Just remember the spread is not a formation, it's a sucker but; a tight end is not necessarily a lush, and, as soon as you start understanding any or all of these terms, start therapy.

Reprinted with permission by the Los Angeles Times

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