This is a strange time of year for college football fans. On one hand, there’s a sense of relief that comes from having survived the drought of the offseason. Teams are practicing, media coverage is ramping up and before you know it, Brent Musberger will be telling us at what, exactly, we are looking live.
On the other hand, we’re not there quite yet, and it’s often those last few steps that’ll kill you. We still find ourselves languishing in this limbo that is equal parts excitement and frustration. As a semi, sometimes observant Jew, it reminds me of walking out of synagogue at the end of Yom Kippur – you’ve made it through the hard part, but until you’ve got some food in your mouth, the fast isn’t actually over.
And so we wait, our game day gear cleaned and pressed but still hanging in the closet, desperate for something – anything – to fill that void between now and kickoff. And the only thing there is to fill it with is talk. Talk from media days. Talk from preseason press conferences. Talk from post-practice interviews. Coaches across the country are stepping behind microphones and loading up reporters’ notebooks with quote after quote, and they’re all singing a similar tune – that their team has never worked harder, has never been stronger and has never been more prepared to take the field. And we, in turn, are digesting, dissecting and discussing every last bit of it as if it’s gospel.
The only problem is that it’s anything but.
Like preseason polls and zip codes, it’s all meaningless – not that that is some sort of groundbreaking revelation. After all, the term “coach-speak” has been around ever since the first coach gave his first interview and gave birth to the first set of clichés. It’s what coaches do, and rationally, we don’t expect anything different from them. We understand that they’re not going to throw their guys under the bus or declare a season dead before a down is played. What would be the point? The (monumental) risk for being honest and revealing simply isn’t worth the (nonexistent) reward.
But as someone who watches countless press conferences and reads countless quotes, I am still struck by how the exact same stuff is said year after year after year. I mean, the exact same stuff. It’s honestly a little uncanny, and I can’t help wondering if coaches are just taking the path of least resistance, or if they could actually be driven by some other deep-seeded motivation.
Beyond basic political correctness, could there really be something more to coach-speak?