Interested in becoming a sports announcer? Your first task is memorizing these classics.
Good news, everyone: I’ve exposed my skin to the harsh light of sports television for so many hours that I finally developed super powers. Well, one super power, anyway—the ability to compile the inaugural 2014 Power Rankings of Sports Announcer Clichés.
5. “High motor.” When I’m at work, there’s one thing I try to avoid: work. Thankfully, there’s TV. Any temptation to be productive invariably succumbs to the lure of the Showcase Showdown.
Recently, I had the TV tuned to the NFL combine—because nothing beats the pulse-pounding thrill of watching young men in short pants jump up and down in front of old men with clipboards. The talk was all about motors: “The kid is fast—but will he have a high motor in a game … there are questions about his motor … speed and strength only matter if the motor’s there, too.”
It’s official: “High motor” is the new “compete level,” which itself was the new “110 percent,” which I believe was the new “tying an onion to your belt,” which was the style at the time.
4. “It is what it is.” This cliché is such a cliché that referring to it as a cliché has itself become clichéd. And yet we still hear it during games, between periods and from our baristas. Surely we must be nearing the point at which one brave commentator takes it to the next level by declaring, “It is not what it isn’t”—which has the advantage of sounding like a riddle, or possibly a new line of clothing from Matthew McConaughey.
3. Stating the obvious, but slowly. Put yourself in the position of a colour commentator: Something big just happened in a game. A silence falls. It’s your turn to talk! But you’ve got nothing. NOTHING. All you can come up with is the most obvious possible remark about what just transpired. But wait! Maybe if you say it haltingly, with dramatic pauses and a solemn tone that makes it sound as though you’re shaking your head in dismay—maybe then people will mistake your super-dumb words for a profound observation! Thus was born sentences like: “Giving up two quick goals. IS NOT. How they wanted to start. This game.”
2. “Time and space.” We hear it every night. On offence, players try to “find time and space.” On defence, players try to “deny time and space.” Just once, I’d like to hear an analyst go rogue and declare that the key to victory is shadowing the other team’s star and taking away space-time.
Analyst: Jim, the Flyers need to deprive Stamkos of his ongoing presence within the interwoven continuum that governs the very nature of our abstract universe.
Announcer: I’m not sure I…
Analyst: Take away space-time! Deprive him of access to the contours of our reality as we understand it. Not even the most gifted goal scorer can fire one home on a two-dimensional net that lacks the element of depth!
1. “You just can’t…” Folks, this isn’t just a cliché. It’s an epidemic.
“Listen, you JUST CAN’T turn the ball over when you’re on the goal line!”
“Listen, you JUST CAN’T take a penalty when your team is protecting a one-goal lead!”
“Listen, you JUST CAN’T drive your tee shot through the windshield of that Lexus and expect to birdie the hole!”
Attention analysts: If you find yourself saying a sentence like, “You JUST CAN’T ski off the course and into that McDonald’s drive-thru and expect to win the downhill,” you need to know that pretty much anything else you could say—anything else—would be more useful. In future, maybe just skip the “You just can’t…” and instead give us a hotel recommendation or a good recipe?
Announcer: …and Braun strikes out with the bases loaded.
Analyst: For a zesty surprise in your potato salad, mix in a tablespoon of lemon juice!
This story originally appeared in Sportsnet magazine. Subscribe here.