Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Sports have produced some of our most cataclysmic cliches. You deploy some colorful phrase in conversation and feel like you've hit it out of the park. But commentator Frank Deford says it's time to take that tendency and punt.

FRANK DEFORD, BYLINE: We're all familiar with the many sports terms that have moved into general usage: par for the course, slam dunk, curve ball, photo finish and so on. Curiously, though, every now and then something of the inverse occurs and we get an expression which is commonly used, that has been derived from sport, but never used in sport.

For example, that awful, over-done cliche, level playing field. Never in my life have I ever heard anyone in sport - that is somebody actually right there on the level playing field - say I'm glad we're playing on a level playing field. Likewise: the ball is in your court. Nobody in tennis ever says that. Among other things, by the time you did, the ball would already be back over the net, right smack in your court.

Or: soccer moms. Does any mother who has a child on a soccer team ever call herself a soccer mom? No. And by the way, what ever happened to the word mother? Nobody ever says mother anymore. Everybody just says mom. When I was growing up, I had a mom and my buddy had a mom, but if you referred to more than one mom, you always said mothers.

There were no working moms then or Gold Star Moms or moms of invention and certainly no soccer moms. Oh well, that's a subject that deserves further discussion some other time.

But now we have a very popular new sports term that is never used in sports: game changer. Where did that come from? Nobody who plays a game ever says the game had a game changer. No, it has forever been obligatory in sport to say: turning point. Real games have turning points, but things that are not games have game changers.

Here, though, is a game changer, uniform-wise, that especially interests me. The star rookie quarterback of the Washington Redskins is named Robert Lee Griffin III. And so far as I know, he is the first player ever, ever, in the entire history of sports uniforms, to have the third on his uniform. It says Griffin III.

You see, I happen to be a third myself, although I dropped it as soon as my grandfather died and there weren't three of us with the same name around anymore.

I don't know about young Mr. Griffin, but it's a terrible thing being the third. There's no place to put the Roman numerals on forms, and it sounds snooty, like you're an earl or a duke, and sometimes you get mail addressed to Mr. Iii. That's capital I, then two lower case I's, because the computer has mixed up Roman numeral ones with letters. However, maybe if you have the third on the back of your uniform, this problem will not develop.

In any event, I am sure that all the other American thirds, like me, are rooting for Robert Lee Griffin III. I hope his jersey is a big seller, so us thirds will finally come into fashion.

(LAUGHTER)

INSKEEP: Commentator Frank Deford Iii, as he put it, joins us each Wednesday from member station WSHU in Fairfield, Connecticut. I'll try to pull myself together here.

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Pull yourself together, Steve. And I'm David Greene.

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Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford
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