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Setting Sail with a Breakout Walk-off Homerun for the Gipper

©05 The Media Desk

      Sportscasters sometimes get so caught up in their cute sayings and lingo that the story they are trying to report gets lost.
      There's a radio guy on a national show that constantly refers to someplace called 'Cacalaka'. OK, fine, it's fun, it's different, and it's really cute and edgy. Get over it already. During the NCAA basketball playoffs it was distracting when all you wanted to hear was the scores and you had to sort out which Cacalaka school he was talking about since there were several in the tournament. [For those that don't know, Cacalaka is supposed to be Carolina, North or South.]
      A couple of stock car racing commentators seem to see types of cars on the track that nobody else does. They talk of drivers 'setting sail' down the back stretch or 'steaming off' into turn one. The last steam powered race car the Desk knows of quit running in the 1900's. (After one Stanley car set a land speed record of 127 MPH, not bad for 1906.) As for sailing, there are land sailing events in places like Bonneville, but there isn't a back stretch there... is there?
      OK, Once in Awhile. Yeah. Let the guy in car 'set sail and steam off into the sunset in Cacalaka'. Fine. But Every Other LAP? Oh please, find a new phrase.

      Other times those that are doing the sports really aren't all that knowledgeable about the sports they are covering, this happens a lot with local TV stations, and they use terms inappropriately.
      One local station has a sports guy that looks like he just escaped from journalism school and has never been TO a baseball game, let alone if he knows anything about the sport. According to him almost everybody that had an RBI last weekend had a 'Walk Off Home Run'.
      There is a specific definition for that term and it is actually a fairly rare event. It can occur only under a few special conditions. The Home Team has to be either tied or behind by just a few runs either in the bottom of the ninth inning or in the bottom of an 'extra inning'. Then a home team player can hit a Walk-Off home run if their hit scores a go-ahead run which ends the game. A Visiting Team player can NEVER hit a 'Walk Off' homer. It simply can't happen. Also, a Walk-Off Double should be a Walk-Off RBI Double since it is the run that scores that enables it to end the game.
      How rare is it? Well, consider the World Series. It has happened only a dozen times or so in the history of the Series, and only two of those have won the series. So it is not an every game type of event.

      Other cute expressions include catch phrases and, of course, wanna-be catch phrases that sound contrived and forced after they've been used three or four times. "Boogity boogity boogity" comes to mind.
      Yeah. It was cute. It was unusual. Now it's on T-shirts.

      Another one that's worn out is "Take it to the house."
      That one used to mean that a football player had made such a notable play that the coach would award him a game ball with the feat inscribed in marker on it. Now every time some of the more prima-donna players do anything that's not stupid, they want to keep the ball and 'take it to the house'.

      How about a 'breakout' play or game? Well, a breakout anything should be a career changing event. For example. For many of the actors in the "Lord of the Rings" movie trilogy, those films could be considered their breakout role, if they ever go on and do anything else. Many had been in movies before, but few had any part of something that won any Academy Awards, let alone eleven. A 'breakout' is one event that stands out as the turning point in a career, you don't have more than one or two. So a player that had a 'breakout' game three or four times a season must be really messing up the rest of the time. Either that or the sportscaster reporting on it is an idiot. Maybe both.
      Some of the worst ones come from the athletes themselves. One race car driver likes to appear even more arrogant than his image says he is. And he occasionally spouts off cocky nonsense like "They need a tissue for their issue." Even when the replay shows that it was his bad move that caused the multi-car accident that stopped the race for an hour.
      Sports has always had over the top language and sometimes relies on hype and hyperbole because the games themselves are dull and predictable.
      Is there anybody outside of New Jersey that actually expected the NETS to do anything but lay down and pout during the NBA playoffs this year? Especially playing the Miami Heat and the King of Hyperbole- Shaquille ONeil "the all-galaxy center". Yet if you listened to some of the media from Jersey, Jason Kidd, the one hundred million dollar man, was going to be the reason the Meadowlands has to build a new trophy room. Well, don't draw up any blueprints just yet.

      We'll end this piece with the Ultimate Sports Cliché. "Win one for...."
      Quick: Who was 'The Gipper'? And don't say Ronald Reagan.

      The phrase "Win one for the Gipper" has been used, misused, and abused to the point where it has left the world of sports altogether and has become a cliché now used everywhere. Business team meetings, game shows, even family reunion three legged races, and what's worse on the floor of Congress during attempts to rally Conservatives to a cause well after even the actor that played the real George Gipp has left the scene. We won't mention the movie gag- "Win one for the Zipper".
      Yes. There WAS a Gipper. He was born in Laurium, Michigan on the Upper Peninsula about seventy miles northwest of Marquette in 1895. He was a big boy, standing about six foot two and weighing about 185 lbs (this was before anybody could spell 'steroids'). Intelligent and driven Gipp excelled at everything he did in high school in Chicago and later at Notre Dame, except he found campus life at the staid Catholic School not much to his liking. Yes Gipp gambled on sports, and rumors about his off campus carousing are nearly as legendary as his exploits on the gridiron. But it is more his final words to Rockne that sealed his name into history.

"I've got to go, Rock. It's all right. I'm not afraid. Some time, Rock, when the team is up against it, when things are wrong and the breaks are beating the boys, tell them to go in there with all they've got and win just one for the Gipper. I don't know where I'll be then, Rock. But I'll know about it, and I'll be happy." George Gipp's final words to Coach Knute Rockne, 13 December 1920

  Rockne did not make the speech to the team about 'Winning one for the Gipper' until the 1928 Notre Dame - Army game at Yankee stadium, in which the Irish were nearly hopeless underdogs and behind at the half. After Rockne's impassioned address Notre Dame beat Army 12-6.
  Ronald Reagan starred as the 25 year old Gipp in the movie "Knute Rockne All American" released in 1940.

      The Desk has heard that phrase used by coaches and managers on high school and college fields. It was uttered once by a coach overseeing batting practice for a minor league team. The Desk even remembers it being used by a group playing a game at a union picnic. One of those lame brained TV sportscasters has even been known to say 'they won one for the Gipper tonight when....'
      Now come on. How many high school kids have any idea who George Gipp or even Knute Rockne were? How many had seen the Reagan movie which would at least give them some sense of what the phrase was about? OK, let's be fair, how many high school kids today know anything about Ronald Reagan past recognizing the name?

      George Gipp didn't even go to Notre Dame to play football. Baseball was his sport in high school and he had plans to play center field for the Chicago Cubs after graduation.
      Gipp's football career at the South Bend, Indiana school is simply the stuff of legend. This was back when most players played offense and defense as well as special teams. Gipp racked up over two thousand yards rushing and scored 21 touchdowns. He intercepted five passes on defense and returned kicks to the tune of over six hundred yards. His nearly one hundred punts averaged thirty eight yards per kick. Counting the extra points he kicked, Gipp scored 156 points for Notre Dame.
      George Gipp was named the first ever All American from Notre Dame. His school rushing record stood for over fifty years.
      Gipp was regarded by Grantland Rice as the finest all around football player he'd ever seen after fifty years of covering the sport.
      His death at 25 from complications from Strept Throat ended a most promising life as a professional athlete and a great man.

[SIDE NOTE: the Gipp Memorial Park in his hometown of Laurium, MI has fallen on some hard times. More information is available at Donations are being actively sought to restore and preserve the memorial. Thank you ]


      Most of the time these clichés and other sports adjectives are tossed around without regard for where they originated, or even what they actually mean.
      Well. The Desk knows. And if it doesn't know, it finds out. If something interesting turns up, it passes it along.

      And you're welcome.

       [NOTE: The Desk is NOT affiliated with any of the above named organizations or individuals except for being a former sportswriter.
       All individuals, team names and leagues are registered to their respective owners and are used without intent to disparage or disrespect any individual or organization of Professional Athletes.

        Thank You ]

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