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Decorating the Jargon

CJ Dudek, Sports Columnist

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Welcome to another installment of the sports terminology translation station.

Since Rosetta Stone hasn’t yet developed a ‘sports watchers to non sports watchers’ educational explanation software yet, the time has come to translate common sports terminology for those who don’t speak fluent ESPNese.

Sadly, there aren’t enough inches in this column to break down every single sports term and its immediate meaning. Instead, the focus here will be to breakdown the backhanded complements of sports that share the airwaves with Michael and Kelly.

The first term that deserves decoding is the term ‘glue guy.’ This term comes up primarily in basketball, although baseball and hockey see this term in their word banks occasionally. The player’s relevance to the team is usually brought up when Skip Bayless or Stephen A. Smith are in the middle of debating who is the better team.

A ‘glue guy’ is most commonly defined as a mediocre player whose primary function is to be a catalyst to improve team chemistry. In the NBA, Derrick Fisher of the Oklahoma City Thunder would be a good example.

Back in Fisher’s heyday with the Los Angles Lakers from 2000-2004, he averaged roughly 11 points per game and his signature moment was a falling away ‘there-is-no-possible-way-this-shot-should-go-in-but-why-the-hell-not’ three pointer in the 2004 playoffs.

Nowadays, Fisher is a backup guard who will occasionally hit a three point shot; that is, if he has enough space to read “War and Peace” before a defender gets to him.

Talking heads and journalists will reward the ‘glue guy’ term to a good teammate who can’t produce on the court anymore in order to get good quotes from him after the game. Everyone who follows Fisher knows that he hasn’t averaged more than ten points per game since 2008 and hasn’t been a reliable defender since 2005.

Yet because Fisher is a nice guy that serves as an important catalyst for team chemistry, nobody is going to outright say Fisher sucks. Instead, they give him the backhanded complement of being a ‘glue guy.’

Synonyms for glue guy include ‘hustle player,’ ‘hard worker,’ or any player description that includes the word grit.

Now the sports terminology translation station will break down what it means to ‘turn back the hands of time.’ This phrase will make appearances from football to hockey and every sport in between.

When a player ‘turns back the hands of time,’ he or she is an older player who is statistically producing similarly to when they were in their prime. Anyone who has watched ESPN in the last two weeks has heard this term applied to Kobe Bryant, after two historically great (40 plus points and 12 plus assists) games in a row.

Although the black mamba deserves the praise, there is a bit of bile in pundits saying Kobe is turning back the hands of time.

For one thing, that phrase is a not-so-subtle reminder that Bryant has played in the NBA for 17 seasons and is 34 years old. Kobe being an experienced NBA player is not necessarily a bad thing because certain players do get better with age; like a fine vino.

Still, nobody likes to be reminded that they are not as young as they once were and Bryant probably doesn’t want to be reminded that the last championship he won was in 2009-2010. He is still a good player who just happens to be up there in years.

There are no synonyms for the phrase ‘turning back the hands of time,’ although there is probably one daylight savings time joke in there somewhere.

Another term to break down depicts the constant breaking down of athletes’ bodies.

When a player frequently gets hurt over the course of their career, they are plagued with the dreadful ‘injury prone’ label. This term is also not sport-specific and more people fit the bill than in a casting call for Les Miserable.

Perhaps one of the most drastic cases of an ‘injury prone’ player would be former Boston Red Sox outfielder and vanilla ice cream substitute J.D. Drew.

Over the course of his career, the infamous Drew missed roughly 96 games per year during a five-year span in Boston. The injuries ranged from a strained lower back to sore knees to ouchies that saw Drew out of the Red Sox lineup a total of 606 regular season games with the Red Sox.

Drew missed so much time due to injury that the fan base of Red Sox nation not only questioned the severity of Drew’s injuries, but also assigned him the dubious (but hilarious) nickname of “Nancy Drew.”

Synonyms for injury prone include ‘injury plagued,’ ‘soft,’ ‘frail,’ or in the most extreme circumstances, ‘quitter.’

While ‘injury prone’ is by far the most condescending term that the translation station has defined, perhaps the most loaded term would be ‘trade bait.’

Players who are ‘trade bait’ are athletes that a franchise is looking to get rid of in return for other players, draft picks, cash, or some combination of the three.

On the surface, that doesn’t sound so bad because ‘trade bait’ implies that the player openly being shopped has value. However, the notion that a player is expendable decreases his overall value to the team and, therefore, some could have a lower opinion of his or her production.

Before the NBA trade deadline this year, Los Angeles Clipper guard Eric Bledsoe was mentioned in more rumors than Kris Humphries and Kim Kardashian.

Bledsoe put up good numbers off the bench for the Clips (21 minutes, nine points, three rebounds, and three assists per game), was a player with the potential to get better (only 23 years old at the time), and was a part of the deepest team in the NBA.

So the Clippers tried to dangle Bledsoe as trade bait in order to lure that final piece to make a championship run this season. Bledsoe ultimately didn’t get traded and now his value has depreciated because of the Clips openly willing bargain for Bledsoe.

The biggest reason that being acknowledged as trade bait is partially condescending is because it can hurt the psyche of a player. If a player has to hear that his or her name is being discussed in trade rumors then it automatically becomes a distraction to the team.

Instead of worrying about winning, trade bait players like Bledsoe have to answer questions about how they are dealing with the rumors of their impending departure.

The free trial in ESPNese is now over. Hopefully now the language of sports is a bit easier to translate.

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