A particularly annoying trait of modern sports writing, especially in the columnist and TV talking head ranks, has raised its ugly head recently in the past few years — it may have existed long before this, because writers are always fascinated with their own rhetorical and nomenclature inventions — that’s just how we are as a group. But you probably need to make sure that your neologisms serve an actual purpose, and on this point, most of them are usually failures. Our best examples these days are a couple of favorite punching bags: ESPN’s Skip Bayless and Jason Whitlock, who’s now peddling Real Talk over at Fox Sports.
Bayless is almost too easy a target. I’m not sure he writes columns for any print outlet, in any form, any longer — he seems to have disappeared from Page 2, and thus is allowed to let pure id flow on First Take. The love of his own clever turns of phrase just keep rendering him silly. Some of his favorite creations include:
- As the KG trade to Boston came to fruition weeks ago, he got mileage out of “Kevin Gar-NOTT” to represent Garnett’s inability to get Minnesota further than the first round of the playoffs save one year. What are you supposed to do with a mediocre supporting cast? KG did the best he could with very little.
- Allen Iverson is always “Me, Myself, and I”verson, supposedly insightful representation of ball-hogging and “selfish” play on his part (remember, that selfish play is what got Philly to the Finals in 2001.)
- Terrell Owens becomes “Team Obliterator” — and while he does have a bad track record, it’s setting up for a failure that may not happen. Every little aspect coming out of Cowboys camp now is an excuse to bash Owens.
These three, along with other, less concise tropes (why hasn’t Tiger won by coming from behind on Sunday?) litter his ability of an attempt on something semi-coherent (and to be fair, he probably has one of the smarter takes on Barry Bonds.) But it does your argument no good if you’re relying on tired neologisms of your own invention. Somehow, the argument becomes secondary to use of your own clever cliche. The neologism is supposed to support the argument; Bayliss just comes up with a cliche and finds a way to bend his argument to it.
Someone should tell Whitlock this, too. Infamous for labeling gangsters the “Black KKK” in his Vegas All-Star column, he then took his media ride, got to calling Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson “domestic terrorists” on national television (I can’t remember whether he did it on broadcast or cable news), and always has a nice new trope to pull out for anyone who crosses his path. The latest column linked to above has a couple of genius tricks:
- Replacing “s” with “$”, to note selfish aims on the part of Sharpton, Jackson, and Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer, whom Whitlock has accused of using the Imus scandal for recruiting/attention/fundraising (with no proof.)
- Stringer is now “Nelson Womandela.” I’m still trying to figure out when the coach got up on the soapbox and asked for freedom.
Again, someone has to think these are clever, right? Are these really necessary to address the argument (Rutgers center Kia Vaughn’s suit against Don Imus)? No, it’s just a way to make a dig without having to explain the context, and evidence of a writer in love with his own words, whether spoken, on the paper’s page, or cached on the Internet. It’s actually sad, because Vaughn’s lawsuit is most likely one of those that won’t stand up in court; his argument isn’t necessarily wrong there. Need more proof?
Real Talk is a must-read for any hardcore football fan. No one in America writes more provocatively and intelligently about football than yours truly. Football is in my blood.
Ah, the naked appreciation of ego run wild.