Sports writing is more of a grind than a craft or an artform. There are stories to file every day (sometimes multiple stories), and there’s only so many ways the brain can work when trying to write that much in that short a time span.
As such, sports reporting, more than any other kind of reporting, lends itself to an amazing amount of cliche overuse. Certain phrases gain momentum, too, as a result of reading other sportswriters and subconsciously picking up these word combinations.
I don’t know if these are the most used sports cliches, but they’re certainly the ones that driving me the craziest lately:
5. “Kick the tires”
This one grew very old very quickly. “The Celtics have kicked the tires on Adam Morrison.” “The Red Sox kicked the tires on Hanley Ramirez before acquiring Jason Bay.” “Have the Patriots kicked the tires on Terrell Owens?”
I get it. It’s like when you’re looking at a car, and you sort of kick the tire while you’re looking at it. You’re not test-driving it, so you’re not even at the point of making an offer yet, but you’re at the very least interested.
If writers were interested enough to think of a new way to say this, that would be fantastic.
4. “Out with a [body part]”
When a player is injured, he is unavailable to play because of sickness or, more commonly, an injury to a body part. Let’s look at Dustin Pedroia. Dustin Pedroia is not playing. He has broken his foot. Thus, Dustin Pedroia is out because of a broken foot.
Dustin Pedroia is not, however, “out with a foot.”
The most used injury with this lazy turn of phrase is the hamstring, of course. “Tom Brady is out with a hamstring.” Or, even worse, “Tom Brady has a hamstring.” Of course he has a hamstring. Everyone with at least one leg has a hamstring. If someone is out with a hamstring, that sounds to me like that person took a hamstring out to dinner.
This one is easy to fix. “Out with a hamstring injury.” Don’t be afraid of that extra word, scribes.
3. The “First-Letter-First-Syllable” Nickname
I cannot be reasonable about this one. This is the “A-Rod” nick-naming convention. Not long ago, athletes had real nicknames, ones that had real thought and personality behind them. Night Train, The Rocket, Charlie Hustle, The Great One, The Say Hey Kid, Sweetness, and so on.
But lately, if you’re name is Alex Rodriguez, your nickname is A-Rod. Victor Martinez? V-Mart. Jason Kidd? J-Kidd. Derek Lowe? D-Lowe. Kenyon Martin? K-Mart. Dwyane Wade? D-Wade. Jason Richardson? J-Rich. Justin Upton? J-Up. Jimmy Rollins? J-Roll. Deron Williams? D-Will. Derek Fisher? D-Fish. It’s asinine.
Yesterday, I was driving home when I heard on the radio that the Blue Jays had traded “A-Gon” to the Braves. Who the hell is A-Gon? Do you mean Alex Gonzalez? Then come up with a real nickname for him. Otherwise, he’s Alex Gonzalez.
2. “Not so much”
This one is so bad that it’s spread beyond sportswriters and onto message boards, Twitter, and wherever smug fans who don’t know how to write but have an annoying opinion go to have their message heard.
“I LOVED the Sox trading for Victor Martinez. Eric Gagne? Not so much LOL.”
This is more of a fan device, so when I read those words written by someone who was assuredly paid to write them, I want to kick myself in the face. Act like a professional, and if you could, write like one, too.
1. “It is what it is”
Whenever I see or hear a sportswriter say this, all I’m really hearing is “I have nothing else to say,” or “I don’t want to talk about this anymore.” Athletes overuse this device, too, but half of them didn’t go past high school in their education, so I’m not looking to them for scholarly wisdom. Writers, especially those paid by giant conglomerates, should know better.
I love to read, and with that comes reading about sports, since that’s obviously an interest of mine. When everyone is using the same tired phrases and cliches, it sucks the life out of reading. Writers, don’t be lazy. For your next story, don’t tell me “it is what it is,” or that the Red Sox “kicked the tires on David DeJesus.” Put some thought into this. You’ll be better for it, and so will your readers.