Friday, May 27, 2011

The "G Word"

Here it is, folks: the "lost entry" I alluded to in the Summer Filler for New Mexico. It's not quite the same entry that was so cruelly taken away from me that week, but it's the most faithful reproduction I could put together. Hopefully you'll enjoy it.

For many of you -- particularly those of Italian descent -- "the G word" refers to "Guido," an ethnic slur and source of consternation and debate among Italian-Americans. But today, I'd like to submit to you another "G word" most commonly used among sports fans which unequivocally needs to be retired, or at least replaced with something better. Like the more well-known word, it's also often used as a put down, with more than a hint of condescension beneath the surface. I'll let pull up the curtain here for me:

gim`mick (gim-ik) noun - 1. an ingenious or novel device, scheme or stratagem, especially one designed to attract attention or increase appeal. 2. a concealed, usually devious aspect or feature of something, as a plan or deal...3. a hidden mechanical device by which a magician works a trick or a gambler controls a game of chance.

Incidentally, a hand-off out of a zone read fits that third definition pretty well, don't you think?

Yeah, we've all heard this word used to describe the pistol offense before, and it seems to have once again come into common use since Colin Kaepernick's draft selection by the 49ers. We'd be some of the richest fans in the land if we had a nickle for every time a national columnist or ESPN talking head used the words "gimmick" or "gimmicky" to describe Nevada's offense. It's a term seemingly as old as the sport itself, and Nevada is not the first -- nor will be the last -- to have it directed at them.

But herein lies the first problem of using the word "gimmick" to describe a way of doing things in college football, or any other sport for that matter: it's ignorant of the sport's evolution over its history. The people who call the pistol "gimmicky" today are the same people who would've called the spread, shotgun, single-wing or even the forward pass gimmicks when they were first introduced. The word implies that there's only a select few "acceptable" ways of doing things on the field, with no room for creativity or deviation of any kind. Apparently, across 120 different FBS programs in college football, there's absolutely no reason to try anything different or differentiate yourself from other programs in any way -- who knew?

According to many Cal fans, this was the result of a "gimmicky" offense the Bears had never seen before...or because Mike Mohamed didn't play...or because it was on a Friday night...or because of the altitude...or because the tide wasn't out yet...or because the players were all on their periods at the same time...

That last point segues perfectly into my next one. Take another look at that first definition of the word: "...especially one designed to attract attention or increase appeal". This would limit the number of programs who use gimmicks in some way to EVERY SINGLE PROGRAM IN THE ENTIRE FRIGGIN' NATION!!! The pistol is no more a gimmick in attracting attention to Nevada football than Boise State's blue turf is in attracting attention to theirs (but for the record, Nevada's is MUCH cooler). The same thing can be said for the Fresno State "V", Oregon's infamous football uniforms and Auburn's network of boosters skilled in leaving wads of cash in discrete places (allegedly). In case you hadn't noticed, recruiting players to your program is all about "attracting attention and increasing appeal". If you're going to call the pistol a gimmick, fine, but apply it equally to everything which fits the definition and not just to the quirky offense you don't know or care enough about to understand.

And that last sentence leads me to the final reason why the "gimmick" label has to go: it's convenient. It's an easy way by which casual fans and self-proclaimed experts alike can quickly absolve themselves of the task of learning more about it. Rather than find out exactly why the pistol has worked for Nevada, they simply call it a gimmick and use the label as a means of downplaying what it has been able to do. It speaks to laziness on the part of the person saying it, and rather than making them look more informed, it has the opposite effect.

So to recap why we should stop calling things in college football "gimmicks" or "gimmicky":

~ It's ignorant of the sport's history
~ It's ignorant of what a gimmick really is
~ It makes you yourself look ignorant when you use the word

Not much else to it, really. If you want to be a trendsetter amongst your friends, put some thought into crafting a more respectable name for innovations like the pistol. But if you don't mind looking or sounding like these idiots...

...then by all means, keep saying "gimmick".

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