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Weekly Column: What sports personalities’ clichés really mean

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An injured Amare Stoudemire of the New York Knicks looks from the bench during Game 3 against Miami Thursday. Stoudemire injured himself punching a fire extinguisher after Game 2 and later said he did it because he "wanted to make some noise." Courtesy of MCT.

Tuesday marked a full decade since former 76ers shooting guard Allen Iverson made his infamous “practice” rant.

The now 36-year-old Turkish-league signee, had already earned three of his four NBA scoring titles. But he felt frustrated by his situation in Philadelphia and responded to media questions about how he may have missed practice with a rare burst of athletic candor.

Iverson’s words were heard ’round the sports world: “I mean listen, we’re sitting here talking about practice, not a game, not a game, not a game, but we’re talking about practice … How silly is that?”

While Iverson was nationally lambasted for his apparent disregard for such a fundamental aspect of the game, I’d like to take the time to thank him for being honest. It’s pretty rare these days.

In light of the NBA playoffs temporarily usurping Law and Order’s vice-like grip on TNT’s nightly lineup, as well as NBC’s opportunity to show sports I’m interested in for a change, I’d like to take this opportunity to look at what athletes say, and what they really mean.

The next time you watch an NBA playoff game where a player gets ejected or does something stupid at the end of a frustrating loss, listen or read what they say to justify their actions.

April 30, Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire cut his hand after punching a fire extinguisher door after New York’s Game 2 loss against the Miami Heat.

When asked why he did so, he replied:

“I just walked by, wanted to make some noise, swung my arm, hit the fire extinguisher door and didn’t even realize I was cut at all until Josh Harrellson told me I was cut,” he said in an interview with ESPN.

But what I think Stoudemire meant to say was, “We just had our butts handed to us by the Heat two games in a row! How did you expect me to handle this situation?”

And the day before that incident, Celtics guard Rajon Rondo was ejected from Game 1 against the Atlanta Hawks. Rondo was punished further with a suspension for Game 2.

His explanation for the bump:

“… As I was walking, I thought (referee Marc Davis) stopped, my momentum carried me into him – I even think I tripped on his foot. I didn’t intentionally chest bump him. But that’s what it appears to be.”

Really, Rondo? You think you tripped on his foot? And I accidentally typed that you dogged the ref after you bumped him.

This isn’t the first time an athlete has tried to weasel their way out of a situation they put themselves into, but if you’re not familiar with the typical clichés used in the sports world, here’s a few to jog your memory:
WHEN THEY SAY: “I’m here to contribute in any way I can. I’m just happy to be on the team. Starting, coming off the bench, doesn’t matter. I want to be a good teammate and contribute.”
THEY MEAN: “Y’know what ‘good teammate’ means to me? I’m in the starting lineup. Period. Damn right I should be starting. Who’s this jackanape they have playing ahead of me? Please. Dude couldn’t wash my jock. Coach better come to his senses, or the owner might give him the dreaded ‘vote of confidence.’”

WHEN THE TEAM OWNER SAYS: “Coach is running this team right now, and will be for a good long while. The coach has my full vote of confidence.”
HE MEANS: “Holy crap. This team is a grease fire. The old axiom says I can’t fire 25 players, but I sure as Hell can axe that coach, so unless this dude starts farting rainbows and gets us to the playoffs in miraculous fashion, he’s out on his butt as soon as I can find a replacement. Maybe Ozzie Guillen.”

WHEN THE COACH SAYS: “It’s a long season, and we take it one game at a time. We never look past our next opponent. We’re concentrating on the matter at hand.”
HE MEANS: “Yeah, you know damn straight we’re looking at our big rivalry game next week, our next three opponents be damned. I need a big win, and pronto. I just got a ‘vote of confidence’ from the owner. I’m hanging by a thread here, man. Are they hiring at the Taco Bell?”

WHEN THEY SAY: “It is what it is.”
THEY MEAN: “Dear God. Someday, I gotta find out whoever coined that phrase, and kiss ’em twice. It’s the perfect reflexive statement. It says nothing, and there’s no follow-up. If only I could use it everywhere. Like when my wife asks me if that’s lipstick on my collar. ‘It is what it is, honey.’ Think that would fly with her?”

WHEN EARVIN “MAGIC” JOHNSON SAYS: “I am thrilled to be part of the historic Dodger franchise and intend to build on the fantastic foundation laid by Frank McCourt as we drive the Dodgers back to the front page of the sports section in our wonderful community of Los Angeles.”
HE MEANS: “I didn’t say this. I didn’t even write it. Some PR flack did, and waved it under my nose for three seconds and I said ‘OK.’ Seriously, when I look at it now, it makes me look like an idiot. I mean, ‘fantastic foundation laid by Frank McCourt’? Seriously? And I guess we have to put the word ‘community’ in everything these days. Plays well, right?”

WHEN REGGIE BUSH SAYS: after getting his 2005 Heisman Trophy yanked from him by the Heisman Trustees in 2010: “I would like to begin working with the Trustees to establish an educational program which will assist student-athletes and their families avoid some of the mistakes that I made.”
HE MEANS: “Oh, crap. Who wrote this for me? What mistakes? I never even admitted to a mistake. Eh … doesn’t matter. Two years from now, I still won’t have done diddly-squat on this. And you’ll still be looking for me to give back the trophy. I send out a nice statement to calm the storm, and wait for two days for Ozzie Guillen to shoot himself in the foot. It’s all good. You’ll forget.”

WHEN CHARLES BARKLEY SAYS: Anything
HE MEANS: Exactly what he said.

WHEN OZZIE GUILLEN SAYS: Anything
HE MEANS: Exactly what he said. Until a few days later when he’s forced to recant at a press conference.

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