One of the earliest lessons of journalism school is that you should avoid cliches in your writing.
As James Kilpatrick, the late, great gatekeeper of good writing once penned: “Cliches fall like casual dandruff on the fabric of our prose. They are weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable.”
You learn this early in your journalism training, and you take it to heart. And then you become a sportswriter and you quickly forget Rule No. 1.
The sports world, after all, is densely populated with cliches. Athletes are quick to tell you that they “will give 110 percent” and “leave it all on the field” as they attempt to “just play our game.”
Goodness knows, I have been guilty of quoting them saying this, allowing the casual dandruff to fall on my prose. When you’re on deadline and have only a brief moment to speak with an athlete and then write a story, sometimes you mindlessly grab the nearest quote simply to have some sort of comment in your story.
And when you go back the next day and read the article, you long for the days of Rasheed Wallace answering every question with: “It was a great game. Both teams played hard.”
Hey, at least that was original.
Yet while we ponder the role of the cliche in sportswriting, we also take note during this election season of the similarities between America’s two favorite reality shows: Sports and politics.
“Survivor”? “Jersey Shore”? They are edited with the goal of manipulating the audience. Sports and politics aren’t like that. They are more akin to “Dancing with the Stars,” where well-known people are prone to falling on their face at the most inopportune moment.
Tuesday is election day, and Americans will decide whether to extend Barack Obama’s contract or sign free agent Mitt Romney. We will decide whether our representatives are deserving of another two-year deal, and whether certain senators should be inked to another long-term contract.
And while enduring the endless political advertisements on television the past several months, the synergy between sports and politics has become painfully clear.
In politics, for example, we apparently are voting in the “most important election of our lifetimes.” Which might or might not be a more frightening proposition than the ever-present “must-win game.” And it might be more meaningful if the same pundits hadn’t said the same thing in 2004 and 2008.
Of course, in deciding this election, “turnout’s going to be important,” which is parallel to the indisputable fact that “turnovers are going to be important” and almost makes you wish that Chip Kelly were running for office.
Because, if we elect the wrong people, then Washington is simply “going to kick the can down the road.” Which, I suppose, is the opposite of “taking it one game at a time.”
Yes, politics and sports are, um, er, strange bedfellows. We have politicians trying to woo “soccer moms” and “hockey moms” because, you know, to be in touch with sports these days is to be an everyman or an everywoman.
Goodness knows, it’s crucial for politicians to project such commonness. It’s crucial for them to declare, “I have met with real Americans,” to which former NFL coach Dennis Green surely would respond, “They are who we thought they were.”
All of which will lead us to two days from now, when the ballots are counted and the winners are declared. What will the candidates do until then? I’m guessing they’ll have their game faces on.