Collier: The 29th Annual Trite Trophy

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Escapability has become a highly desirable quality among quarterbacks in the new American century, and it's been suggested we might actually benefit from some Escapability around here, never mind that we're not even sure that it's a word.

What it is (and At The End Of The Day, It Is What It Is) is a cliché, Escapability, and therefore attention must be paid, because When It's All Said And Done, there is simply no escaping the 29th Annual Trite Trophy column dishonoring the absolute worst in 2012's reliable parade of annoyingly repetitive/repeatedly annoying language in sports and beyond.

It's A Joke, frankly.

Do you believe we've been stringing together every cliché in the book and passing it off as legitimate social commentary every December since 1984?

Me neither.

It's A Joke.

If little else, 2012 was the year when just about everything was said to be a joke, even when it most obviously was not.

It's A Joke is what was opined, just in the last month of 2012, about Georgia not being in a BCS Bowl (It's A Joke), that football is becoming a non-contact sport (It's A Joke), that the Buffalo Bills played a home game in Toronto (It's A Joke), that people are always looking to bash Tim Tebow (It's A Joke), that the Seattle Seahawks Richard Sherman won the appeal of his drug test (It's A Joke), and that funding for handball has been withdrawn by the relevant bureaucracy in the United Kingdom (It's A Joke).

It's A Joke the number of things said to be a joke.

Second, probably, to the number of sports-related issues said to be a joke were the number of things that somehow got described as Surreal.

Really? Surreal? Really?

Many significant victories in a variety of sports were described as Surreal this year, but as senior Trite contributor Ben Howard has pointed out, "I've never seen clocks melting on the wall or cats walking dogs or anything like that at the Super Bowl."

Big Props to Ben.

For future reference, all coaches and players should jam their proposed Surreal expression through the linguistic prism of at least one of its definitions prior to spew, such as this one:

Surrealism is based on the belief in the superior reality of certain forms of previously neglected associations, in the omnipotence of dreams, in the disinterested play of thought. It tends to ruin once and for all other psychic mechanisms and to substitute itself for them in solving all the principal problems of life.

Yeah, that oughta hold 'em.

Anyway, back to our show: Quarterbacks without Escapability this year could only hope to possess great Pocket Presence, which is supposedly the ability to know where you are in the pocket and from which direction the pocket might break down. For me, Pocket Presence is merely the reason I don't like to wear sweat pants, as they often have no pocket presence. Worse, some sweat pants do have pockets, but as I have poor Pocket Awareness, sometimes I don't know pockets are present.

Regardless of their Escapability, quarterbacks leaving the pocket always put pressure on the defense not to Lose Contain, particularly Backside Contain. Someone I know once lost contain after a particularly spicy platter of nachos at a Bennigan's in Tampa.

It Wasn't Pretty.

New this year from football's bottomless well of clichés was Running Behind His Pads, meaning, I presume, running low, with leverage, but there had to be a better way to describe it. Anyone run in front of his pads?

Also new was a gradual shift in the very nature of Red Zone into The Red Area, which is almost profound. Red Zone, need I remind you, is the Trite Trophy column's greatest living cliché. It was a stat that became a deodorant and a channel, for Gawd's sake. Now it's becoming The Red Area, which we can only attribute to climate change. It's melting like the polar ice caps. Talk about your Measurables.

Also relatively new to football clichedom was Flip The Field, the ability of the punt team boys to Impose Their Will on the opposition by giving them Terrible Field Position when they previously had Great Field Position even if it's funny there's very rarely anything close to a cliché in between.

It's A Joke, I mean.

Otherwise, football clichés merely became more robust as the Downhill Runner tried to get to The Second Level (linebackers I guess) and wideouts attempted to victimize pass defenders with A Double Move while your D Linemen tried to Collapse The Pocket or at least Change The Launch Point. Sometimes, if the offensive linemen protecting the quarterback managed to Keep Him Clean, the passer could Throw Up A Prayer to a receiver hoping to display the alleged ability to High Point The Football.

High Point The Football remains a truly dreadful cliché, as it is not the football that is caught at its highest point, merely the highest point to which the receiver ascends.

Of course, the people using these constructions were often better off with the clichés than with attempted cliché-free explanations, as some of those constructions were even more hair-raising.

Steelers wideout Mike Wallace actually said, "Me being a playmaker who makes plays ..." though I guess that's better than "Me being a playmaker who makes footballs fall harmlessly to the turf."

National analyst Dan Dierdorf told us that Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill had Great Movement Skills (good, because this occupation is going to require some movement), Pirates pitcher James McDonald, boldly eschewing the Can't Put My Finger On It cliché to explain his downhill second-half, said "I can't put my foot on it yet," our old buddy Merril Hoge explained that third down is most important because it's when you can "keep the chains alive," and NFL network expert Mike Mayock went as far as to say that Detroit's Calvin Johnson has imposed his will on every team he's played this season.

Apparently it was Calvin Johnson's will that the Lions would come into Week 17 at 4-11.

Sports had no corner on this market, obviously, and a special mention goes to the CNN correspondent who responded to Ashleigh Banfield's question about "an extraordinary development in Jerusalem," by saying, "yes, you're right Ashleigh; it is extraordinary and very much out of the ordinary."

Hence the term ... yeah.

Now it's time to award our annual Mixologist Medal, which goes to a speaker who in haste or fecklessness begins in one cliché but somehow ends in another, like an acquaintance of mine who, trying to warn me Don't Cut Off Your Nose To Spite Your Face, instead advised that I might end up shooting myself in the foot to spite my nose.

It's a bit of a weak field this year, but we certainly appreciate Ben Roethlisberger's mix of Grab The Bull By The Horns and Pamplona's Running Of The Bulls to come up with "You just need to grab the bull by the horns and run with it."

Our winner, however, is Steelers sideline reporter Craig Wolfley, who, in a discussion with broadcast buddy Tunch Ilkin, cautioned the ballclub about Letting Teams Hang Around while simultaneously advising they Let Sleeping Dogs Lie. The result was some kind of admonition about letting sleeping dogs hang around, and for that Wolf wins the annual Mixologist Medal, and I'm thrilled for him.

Surprisingly, if not exactly Out Of Nowhere, baseball had a Breakout Year, perhaps A Career Year, for clichés as some reliable structures and some new entities Got Legs.

Bugs Bunny Changeup was all over the place, describing a hellacious change like the one the Gashouse Gorillas struck out on by swinging thrice at the same Bugs pitch. Unless, of course, the pitcher in question Struggled With His Command, a rare condition for the game's Top Of The Rotation starters, of each it was exhaustively said, He Misses Bats.

The Pirates missed bats, too, mostly their own, at least after July, which ended with repeated entreaties for them to Add A Bat, preferably a Corner Bat, certainly a Power Bat, or at least someone with Some Pop In His Bat. All this in a year in which the state of Pennsylvania was desperately trying to add some bats as well, as something called white-nose syndrome was threatening to wipe out the state's indigenous bat population, which would have allowed the insect population to Run Amok. Baseball had its own white-nose syndrome back in the mid-80's, leading to the Pittsburgh drug trials, but hey, Let's Not Go There.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, frustrated in earlier attempts to land the Trite for one of his barrel clichés (his pitchers were missing the barrel while his hitters were trying to barrel the ball), this year pushed hard with We Shower Well, meaning the team put losses behind them in a timely manner. Eventually however, the Pirates didn't shower so well, and so quiet logically, they stunk.

Now before we get to the introduction of our finalists and to the winner of the 2012 Trite Trophy, let's say hello to some of the great clichés here in our live audience At Radio City. Great to see you Clock The Ball, Chew The Clock, Wind The Clock, Spike The Ball, Great Ball Skills, Ball Security, Get Him More Touches In Space, Get Him More Touches Down Low, He's A Beast, He's A Freak (when you're On The Clock, and there's both a beast and a freak available, what do you do?), Coach 'Em Up (can you coach 'em down?), A Disappointing Loss (aren't they all?), Not My First Rodeo, Killer Instinct, Whatever It Takes, The Century Mark, We Left It All Out There (well go back and clean it up!), Get Inside Their Heads, Take The Crowd Out Of The Game, He Has It All, Step On Their Throats, A Game We Should Have Won (again, aren't they all?), Records Are Made To Be Broken, Put Up The Numbers, The Total Package, In The Conversation, In The Discussion, and please don't send me any email with You Forgot One in the subject line because I haven't forgotten any. I just don't have space and besides if I could just forget these things, would I have been doing this since the fall of the Mondale campaign?

It's A Joke.

OK then, on to our finalists:

Our third runner-up is Going Forward, a tremendously annoying language-wide yet sports-centric cliché that could disappear almost overnight if we could just remember the simple reality that 99 percent of sentences that include Going Forward have the same meaning without Going Forward. Going Forward, in a sad irony, gets us nowhere.

Our second runner-up: Stretch The Field Vertically.

Seriously, unless you're over at Heinz Field literally pulling the turf up, you're not trying to stretch the field vertically, or the defense vertically.

Our first runner-up: Take The Top Off The Defense.

Amazing, right? Rarely have two finalists been so interrelated. Most teams trying to Take The Top Off The Defense try to do it by Stretch(ing) The Field Vertically. This apparently means throwing the ball over the entirety of the defense, thus taking its top off. The Steelers, by point of interest, had a season offensively in which the running game could not even Take The Bottom Off The Defense.

And the winner of the 2012 Trite Trophy (do not rush the stage): Take A Shot Down The Field.

A cliché better left to deer hunting, Take A Shot Down The Field has become the intensely preferred construction of people desperate to avoid saying "throw the ball deep," or even "go long," of "throw the bomb," all apparently antiquated terms. Over and over again every weekend, it was time, in someone's opinion, to Take A Shot Down The Field.

Thanks for joining us at the 29th Annual Trities. Remember to drive safely and watch out for that Wintry Mix.

By the way, you meteorologists, that Wintry Mix cliché? It's stupid. If there is a mix, then obviously it's winter. There is no summery mix.

What would that be, rain and Skittles?

It's A Joke.

PREVIOUS CHAMPIONS

Year The year's worst

2011 Are You Kidding Me?

2010 At the end of the day

2009 Dial up a blitz

2008 Manage the game

2007 They're very physical

2006 It is what it is

2005 It is what it is

2004 Shutdown corner

2003 Cover 2

2002 Running downhill

2001 Put points on

the scoreboard

2000 Walk-off homer

1999Somebody's gotta step up

1998 Eight men in the box

1997 Show me the money

1996 Been there, done that

1995 West Coast offense

1994 Red zone

1993 It hasn't sunk in yet

1992 Mentality of a linebacker

1991 You don't have to be

a rocket scientist

1990 Smashmouth football

1989 He coughs it up

1988 They went to the well

once too often

1987 Gutcheck

1986 Crunch time

1985 Throwback

1984 Play 'em one game at a time

mobilehome - genecollier

Gene Collier: gcollier@post-gazette.com


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