You hear it all the time in football coaches' post-game interviews: "My hat's off to my guys."Almost invariably, the coach who says it keeps his cap on.
Nobody actually tips his hat anymore. Etiquette died out about the same time that Bear Bryant hung up his houndstooth fedora. Steve Spurrier (the last coach to beat the North Carolina, by the way) may have been the last to routinely doff his visor.
But my ears perked up Thursday night on ESPN when I heard those words from the UNC football coach wearing his baby-blue visor as he talked about beating Pitt. Of all people, he ought to be a master of the chapeau cliché. After all, his name is Fedora.
Obviously, His Head Wasn't In the Game, no matter how well his guys Put a Hat on a Hat.
Fedora's faux pas was all the more notable because he said it in Pittsburgh, which as some of us old sportswriters know, is the home of the Trite Trophy.
The Trite Trophy is the Brainchild of Gene Collier, a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. For over 30 years, he has presented the cliché of the year in an after-Christmas column, boldfacing them in context like I'm doing here. I suppose he wrote the first one so he could take a day off during the holidays. Now, it's become ... A Tradition Unlike Any Other.
The Trite Trophy is an annual treat for ink-stained scribes and anyone else who feels the urge to edit (or strangle) TV sports commentators and interviewees as they try to Fill the Gaps in dead air.
In Collier's words:
The purpose of the annual Trite Trophy column is to expose lazy language to mockery's blistering lamp, whatever that means, in the hope that we can create A Hostile Environment for the folks who traffic in such nonsense. A quick look around, however, reveals that not only have the members of the Trite Committee (me) Lost Their Swagger, but Face Long Odds of ever Getting Their Swagger Back. More pointedly, 27 years of cliché slinging To No Avail pretty much guarantees they've Fallen On Their Faces.Go read the 2015 edition, when the winner was (drum roll) Miss Colombia ... excuse me: Next Man Up.
Just for Old Times' Sake, I've posted a list of the annual champion clichés, with links to several. After you read a few of these columns, you'll find that the Post-Gazette has Set the Edge and put you on a quota. You can come back next month, but You Don't Have to Be a Rocket Scientist to figure out how to Turn the Corner and read more.
Of course, one honest way would be to actually pay a few pennies to read the newspaper. But that's so Old School.
- 2017: High Point the Football
- 2016: In the Protocol
- 2015: Next Man Up
- 2014: Shy of the First Down
- 2013: Going Forward
- 2012: Take a Shot Down the Field
- 2011: Are You Kidding Me?
- 2010: At the End of the Day
- 2009: Dial Up a Blitz
- 2008: Manage the Game
- 2007: They're Very Physical
- 2006: It Is What It Is (the Archie Griffin of the Trite Trophy--the only two-time winner)
- 2005: It Is What It Is
- 2004: Shutdown Corner
- 2003: Cover 2
- 2002: Running Downhill
- 2001: Put Points on the Scoreboard (first runnerup was Put a Hat on a Hat)
- 2000: Walk-off Homer
- 1999: Somebody's Gotta Step Up
- 1998: Eight Men in the Box
- 1997: Show Me the Money
- 1996: Been There, Done That
- 1995: West Coast Offense
- 1994: Red Zone (the greatest living cliche--a phrase that became a stat, a deodorant, a TV channel, and even a movie)
- 1993: It Hasn't Sunk In Yet
- 1992: Mentality of a Linebacker
- 1991: You Don't Have to Be a Rocket Scientist
- 1990: Smashmouth Football
- 1989: He Coughs It Up
- 1988: They Went to the Well Once Too Often
- 1987: Gutcheck
- 1986: Crunch Time
- 1985: Throwback
- 1984: Play 'Em One Game at a Time