As a college football fan, this should be the best of times for me, what with 35 bowl games between the third Saturday in December and the first Monday in January when it all ends with the alleged national championship game between Alabama and Notre Dame.
Unfortunately, bad grammar, mispronunciations, lack of geographic knowledge and even lack of basic understanding of the rules of the game from those charged with bringing 70 different teams into our living rooms can make this a hazardous time indeed.
But, in the spirit of the season, rather than criticizing those in the electronic media, I will offer just a few friendly reminders and hope they are followed in the next several weeks.
Alarmingly, in one of the bowl games that has already been contested, I’ve had to hear “Nevada” referred to as “Ne-vah-duh,” which is harder to take than fingernails across a blackboard.
And since there are two teams from the Beaver state slated to play bowl games in the next several days, over and over again I’ve heard references to “Ore-e-gone,” most notably by former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz, who really should know better.
It’s “Orygun,” plain and simple. And Eugene and Corvallis are both in the Willamette Valley, where the natives bristle when they hear it pronounced “Willa-met.” It’s Willamette, dammit, and those two words rhyme. And no, it’s not “core-vahl-us,” it’s “core-val-iss.” I don’t know what it is about East Coast announcers always adding an “h” here and there to West Coast names.
I’ve even heard “spo-cane” a time or two instead of “spo-can,” in reference to that charming city in eastern Washington.
And while we’re on the subject, the capital of Idaho, where the Boise State Broncos play, is known as “boy-see,” not “boy-zee.” And the folks at North Dakota State, which will play in the I-AA championship in January, refer to their mascot as a “buy-zun,” not a “buy-son.” Hey, it’s their animal. They can call it whatever they want.
A first-year player is not a “freshmen,” a second-year player is not a “southmore” and when a team lines up on the wrong side of scrimmage, it’s not “offsides,” but simply “offside.” Likewise, it’s not on “onsides” kick, but an “onside” kick.
In the fourth quarter of relatively close games, ball carriers for the team that is leading will be routinely criticized if they run out of bounds, “killing the clock.” Oddly, the clock magically comes back to life after the ball is spotted ready for play — except in the final two minutes — and the harm is minimal, but we’re never told that.
When it comes time to kick a field goal, commentators are constantly trying to estimate the distance of the kick ahead of time, almost always inaccurately. The easy rule of thumb is to take the yard line where the ball is placed (the line of scrimmage for true believers) and add 17 yards. If you can’t add 17 quickly in your head, ask someone.
“Time of possession,” which commentators make a big deal about, is irrelevant. When you score every other minute as Oregon does or run a no-huddle offense, your time of possession tends to be very low indeed. The only statistic that makes any difference is “points scored.” Keep your eye on that one and you’ll know what’s what.
Which brings me to another point. When Team A has 13 points and Team B has 9 points, Team A is not “winning” the game, 13-9. Team A is “leading” the game, 13-9, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s winning. We won’t know who’s winning until the end of the game.
When the quarterback is sacked and flat on his back, he is “lying” on the turf, not “laying.” Similarly, the football is “lying” on the ground, not “laying.” Only the Delaware Blue Hens are allowed to “lay.”
If Michael Jordan interrupts the game with an ad for his “Lay Flat Collar,” I expect the color analyst to immediately point out that it’s actually a “Lie Flat Collar” and no one should buy it until Michael cleans up his language.
After years of listening to those who call the games, the best of the best is ESPN’s Rod Gilmore, who never makes any of the above mistakes. Then again, he’s a Stanford guy, so what do you expect?
Now that we’ve set the record straight on all that is wrong with college football, it’s time to sit back and enjoy such delights as the GoDaddy.com Bowl, the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl and the Pinstripe Bowl. It’s too late for such epics as the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl or the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl, but maybe next year.
Let the games begin.
— Reach Bob Dunning at firstname.lastname@example.org