"You have trained hard and you're ready. Now let's execute. . . . We are all very, very proud of you. I wish you good hunting and godspeed. God bless you all."It could have been George Allen addressing the Redskins before a Dallas Cowboys game, or was it Knute Rockne exhorting the Fighting Irish to give their all, or his modern-day counterpart, Lou Holtz?
But it wasn't a calisthenics taskmaster with a whistle. It was Rear Adm. Riley D. Mixson, head of a battle force of 30 ships in the Red Sea, to his fliers as they prepared for war in the Persian Gulf.The terms that sports once borrowed from war are being borrowed back, and the distinction between them is blurring.
So often, coaches, players and TV announcers indiscriminately mix their terminologies. They talk of aerial attacks, long-range bombs, and out-flanking the enemy. There are football plays called blitzes, and players called flankers. Quarterbacks are field generals, and basketball players are praised for their floor generalship.
Now, as the sports world becomes acutely aware of how inappropriate this is, men at war are beginning to sound a lot like coaches, players and sportscasters.
"It's almost as though it's come full circle," ABC Sports' veteran announcer, Al Michaels, said. "The terms began in the real world, transferred to the fantasy world of sports, and now they're being taken back and used in war again."
Last Sunday, the NFL broadcast crews of Dick Enberg and Bill Walsh for NBC and Pat Summerall and John Madden for CBS scrupulously avoided battle terms to describe football. ABC's Monday Night team of Michaels, Frank Gifford and Dan Dierdorf vows it will do the same on Sunday's Super Bowl.
"I don't know that war is a part of the vocabulary I rely on anyway," Dierdorf said. "But, yes. If by chance I say something during the telecast that in any way refers to war terminology, it'll be a mistake on my part. I'll try very hard not to do it."
Some samples of metaphor mixing:
- Lt. Col Randall Bigum, commander of a squadron of F-15Cs: "We're not letting down our guard. We can't. The price is too high. There is a lot of speculation going on right now in classified circles about what his game plan might be, if he has one."
- Capt. Jack Briggs, 26-year-old FB-111 pilot, before his first sortie: "The anticipation of it was just like a big game. You fall back on the training."
- A 25-year-old F-14 pilot who identified himself only as Wes: "I feel like I felt before a high school football game - butterflies in my stomach, excitement, fear."
- A unidentified American pilot speaking after the first wave of aerial attacks: "I've been training for 13 years for this day. It's like being a professional athlete. Today was the first game and the opponent didn't show up. We went out there and ran our first play and it worked great. We scored a touchdown and there was nobody home." War and sports have a relationship that predates modern TV lingo, leading to natural blending of terminology.