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Couch Slouch: English language takes a hit during NFL broadcasts

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson shows off his ‘escapability’ against the Dallas Cowboys. NFL broadcasters love to use this nonword to describe elusiveness and it drives Couch Slouch nuts. (Ron Jenkins / AP)
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson shows off his ‘escapability’ against the Dallas Cowboys. NFL broadcasters love to use this nonword to describe elusiveness and it drives Couch Slouch nuts. (Ron Jenkins / AP)

The NFL remains an easy thing to watch and a hard to thing to listen to. What was once plainspoken is now plain gobbledygook; game analysts turn simple actions into tangled discourse. It sounds like English, but it is a language all its own.

Here is a sampling of some fancy-schmancy, newfangled television football terms:

Putting the ball on the ground. Okay, given the option between saying, “He fumbled,” or “He put the ball on the ground,” which would you choose? Okay, here’s another one: Given the option between saying, “He’s eating,” or “He’s ingesting his food orally,” which would you choose? I’m confident I have made my point here.

The vertical game. This is the term used if you throw the ball on deep routes. I assume this means that short passes, or the running the ball, is “the horizontal game,” but we never hear that one.

The defense can’t get off the field. The hip way to say the defense can’t stop the other team on third down. FYI: Another way for the defense to get off the field is to allow a touchdown.

Manage the game. If you are just a run-of-the-mill signal caller – instead of an elite quarterback – you are now asked to “manage the game.” Similarly, political pundits often say that we are asking President Trump to just “manage the country.”

Get to the second level. It is hard to see with the naked eye, but once a running back gets beyond the line of scrimmage – the first level – he eventually navigates the second level. Frankly, this sounds as if he is running uphill; then again, I never played the game.

Extending the play. Previously known as “scrambling.” The thing is, the play-by-play fella doesn’t even need to tell us that the quarterback is extending the play because, well, WE CAN SEE IT. Uh, it’s TV.

(Column Intermission: Team of Destiny prognostication is tough, tricky business. I should know – I invented it. This season I took a woebegone NFL team from each conference: The Buccaneers were a bust, and the Colts, 4-12 in 2017, looked like 4-12 beckoned again. They laughed at me when the Colts were 1-5; who’s laughing now? Huh? HUH? Me and Andrew Luck are two wins away from our destiny, Super Bowl 53. In all honesty, I hope I sprain my arm patting myself on the back. I love playing hurt.)

Manageable third down. If the Ravens have second-and-20 and complete a 13-yard pass, we are told that they have a “manageable third down.” But, interestingly, if that pass is incomplete, we are never told that they are facing an “unmanageable third down.”

No man’s land. That part of the field where it’s too close to punt but too far to kick a field goal; also a popular colloquial term for divorce court.

North and south. This is running straight ahead, as opposed to “east and west,” which is running from sideline to sideline and doesn’t seem terribly productive.

Running downhill. Sure, it looks like a level playing field, but this expression indicates a guy running straight ahead or, you know, downhill. Sort of a kissin’ cousin to “north and south.”

Unbelievable. I am reminded of the moment in “The Princess Bride” in which, after Vizzini says, “He didn’t fall? Inconceivable!” and Inigo Montoya responds, “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

Good pocket awareness. This either refers to the quarterback being mindful of everything around him when he drops back to pass OR the quarterback being conscious of what is in his pants pocket when he drops back to pass.

Good sideline management. There has to be a top-notch MBA program for this somewhere, no?

In space. In football terms, this describes a player with the ball with no one around him. In real-life terms, this describes the waning days of my second marriage.

Situational football. This is pretty much self-explanatory, thus I see no need to explain it.

Escapability. Apparently, this is a word, so I’ll just cry uncle here.

High-point the football. I give up on this one.

Ask The Slouch

Q. Do you agree with Bill Walton’s suggestion that the next UCLA men’s basketball coach should be Barack Obama? (Jason McCormick; Portland, Ore.)

A. I’d go with Jimmy Carter – like Obama, he played high school hoops; unlike Obama, he never trash-talks on the court, plus he created the U.S. Department of Education.

Q. I did a Google search – did you know that you are the first writer, in the modern era, to use the word “codswallop” in a sports column? (Don Pollins; Hyattsville, Md.)

A. Nonsense. I believe Jimmy Cannon used it in a 1965 column on Howard Cosell.

Q. Should the Washington R*dsk*ns consult with Wells Fargo on how to create fake season ticketholder accounts? (Jack O’Brien; Fairfax, Va.)

A. Actually, the R*dsk*ns might one day be playing home games at a Wells Fargo branch.

Q. Did the Wizards’ John Wall concoct his bone spur malady in an effort to get out of any future NBA expansion draft? (Brian Hoard; Charlottesville, Va.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!

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