The words of the sports world are, well, something


The Orioles have that “something” about them.

Nearly impossible to quantify, or even explain, people in every sport are always looking for the next guy with that “special something” to provide “something” to the team so their fans can have “something” special to celebrate when “something” happens.

So, what is “something?”

Well, as far as I can tell, it has something to do with intestinal fortitude, otherwise known as “guts.” Of course, there are other times it appears to be in the context of having charisma — the inflappable ability to lift an entire team to new heights through leadership skills and personality. And, when discussing the Baltimore Orioles, in particular, announcers appear to be using “something” as a substitute for that old Orioles magic that seems to pop up when the team makes a surprising rally to save victory from the proverbial jaws of defeat.

It has been a fairly popular subject at nearly every newspaper I’ve ever worked at over the years — how sports writing has a vernacular all to its own. There are things a reporter can write in a sports story that makes all the sense in the world in that section of the paper, but simply baffle those who work in news or regular features.

For instance, “something.” This appears to be the new buzz word among sports scribes and announcers, sitting aside the reigning king, “it.” Quarterbacks in football, for instance, are often discussed in terms of “He has ‘it,’” or ‘He doesn’t have ‘it.’” I’ve often thought this was just laziness or an attempt by the person who says “it” to sound like he or she is in on the secret, and it would simply be too exhausing to explain the meaning to us who are outside the majestic castle of personnel evaluation.

I also find it intriguing in the weeks leading up to the amateur drafts in basketball and football to hear the terminology bantered about by the draft experts. There should be closed captioning at the bottom of the screen as the draftniks speak, explaining what in the world they are talking about, or at least putting up a disclaimer stating that the words coming out of these people’s mouths might actually drop your IQ if you are exposed to them enough.

It’s as if the “experts” believe they have to justify their positions by focusing on buzzwords. Let me give you a few examples:

• “He struggles to reach top-end speed, but he has good hip-swivel and ball skills and has an ability to make plays at the next level.”

Translation: He’s slow, but he can catch a ball if it’s near him because he can turn around really fast.

• “He does not have a big rope, but he anticipates well and he certainly has ‘it.’”

Translation: His arm is weak, but he’s smart and people like him.

• “He is a five-tool guy, but you have to worry about his make-up.”

Translation: The guy’s got talent, but he’s a moron.

• “He’s a bit of a fireplug and can get caught up in the wash, but he’s going to keep bringing it.”

Translation: He’s short and can’t get through other bodies, but he tries real, real hard.

• “He uses his length to gain position, masking his athletic shortfalls.”

Translation: He’s tall.

• “I don’t care what anyone says about his 40 times or combine numbers, the guy’s a football player and he goes out and makes football plays on the football field. He can really help a football team out down the road because he’s a football player at heart.”

Translation: I’m not smart, but they pay me a lot of money to say stuff.

• “Which John Doe are you going to get when he gets to the pros?”

Translation: This guy is a bit schizophrenic on the field, and the money is probably going to make him worthless, and you might want to start shipping in lawyers now because this guy could become a modern-day Caligula.

Of course, the silly terminology and butchered euphamisms in sports aren’t relegated to those who analyze draft prospects. They range from the sublime — “Peyton Manning is a maestro out there” — to the downright insipid — “Make no mistake about it. This game is a war, and both sides are going to fight to the end.”

Peyton Manning is not a maestro, on the field or anywhere else. Nor is he a “brilliant architect.” He’s a quarterback, and he makes tens of millions of dollars a year to throw a ball.

And, sports are not a war. They can be extremely competitive, and generate a lot of emotions, but they are not war. Comparing athletes to the men and women who sign up to literally go to war is akin to comparing an actor to a police officer. One is an entertainer. One could die.

Stop it.

Look, I am enjoying this playoff run by my beloved Baltimore Orioles as much as the next fan, and I am eagerly awaiting the American League Championship Series against Kansas City.

But I might have to watch the game on mute. The announcers simply do not have that “something.”