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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

My Ten Favorite NFL Catch Phrases

For this top ten Tuesday, I chose to have a bit of fun. Every football fan has their little catch phrases that they have picked up from analysts, coaches, and players. I am no different. All of these phrases are very memorable for the moments that they represent. When I hear someone use these terms, I always think back to when they were said and the circumstances that led up to those words. Whether they were said during a highlight reel, or a game, or even a meltdown at the coaches podium, their words became part of fan culture and continue to be used daily in sports conversations everywhere.

10) "You Play To Win The Game!" - Coach Herman Edwards

As the head coach of the New York Jets, Herm Edwards had just 39 wins (41 losses). So his frustration with his team was understandable. On October 30, 2002, the Jets had just lost to the Browns and dropped to 2-5 on the season. During Edwards' press conference following the game, a reporter asked him about the team's ability to win. The coach responded with his most famous quote.

While obviously annoyed and frustrated with the question, Herm Edwards started off calm by saying "This is what's great about sports...". Then without much warning the Coach began to shout "You play to win the game! Hello? You play to win the game!" Here is a coach who is never at a loss for words. I mean, he has even published his own book of quotes. But this rant, at this press conference became Herm's most memorable quote and later became a part of fan culture. Fans continue to use these words when their team displays lackluster or half-hearted effort.

9) "Is This Fun Or What?!" - Coach Steve Mariucci

Steve "Mooch" Mariucci loved being the coach of the San Francisco 49ers. He loved the bay area and displayed his emotions all over the side lines. But, before every game, he would look at various players and staffers and ask "Is this fun or what?". He wasn't really looking for an answer to the question. It was just his way of letting his team know how much he enjoyed game day.

Mariucci compiled a 60-43 winning record as 49er head coach. However, Coach Mooch was fired after the 2002 season and went on to coach for the Detroit Lions. I don't know if his famous catch phrase followed him. But I do know that some 49er fans still use it on game day Sundays. There has even been a highlight reel made only of Steve Mariucci saying his catchy phrase.

8) "Boom!" - John Madden

Whether he was talking about a big hit on the field, a Thanksgiving Turducken, or tough actin' Tenactin, John Madden loved using the word "boom!". It was probably his most popular Maddenism (phrases or ramblings contributed to John Madden). He retired from sports broadcasting a few weeks ago, but his signature catch phrase will undoubtedly live on. We may not get to see him use his telestrator or hear his burly voice. But, television's most colorful color commentator left us one word to describe excitement in football and it will be used with pride.

7) "The Bears Are Who We Thought They Were!" - Coach Dennis Green

Poor Denny Green. That's how you felt after that loss to the Bears. The Bears entered the game 5-0 and were heavily favored over Green's Arizona Cardinals. But this was Monday Night Football and the Cards came into that game pretty pumped up. Coach Denny Green had them prepared and they showed up and embarrassed the Bears for 40 mins. They sparked off a 20 point lead on the undefeated Bears on national television in Arizona. If the story ended there, it would have been a major highlight in the season for the Cardinals. The fact is, football games last for 60 mins.

The Bears rallied back to win 24-23 and Coach Green created one of the most memorable press conferences for any coach in resent memory. "The Bears are who we thought they were! They're who we thought they were!" exploded the Head Coach. There were a few expletives and lots of shouting about their previous preseason game and crowning the Bears. The coach went on to say "But they are who we thought they were, and we let 'em off the hook!". Green's rant became infamous and fans and analysts everywhere jumped on the phrase. It has been used throughout the following seasons and even in a Coors commercial.

6) "Oh, What A Bonanza!" - Joe Starkey

Joe Starkey, the long time voice of the San Francisco 49ers, was always fun to listen to. He served as the play-by-play announcer for the 9ers for over 20 years, as well as the commentator for the University of California, Berkeley Golden Bears since the mid '70's. During that time, Starkey is known for many famous calls including Cal's game vs. Stanford in which the band stormed the field.

But it is his tag line of "Oh, what a bonanza!" that became his signature call. Today, players, commentators, and fans alike use Starkey's signature call to indicate a big play on the field. More specifically, a big play that ends up in the end zone. The "bonanza" had to be a dynamic, successful, ESPN-highlight worthy of a play to earn Starkey's signature catch phrase. Every player that ever heard the line during their highlight undoubtedly felt honored.

5) "Get Your Popcorn Ready!" - Terrell Owens

The first time I heard Terrell Owens, aka T.O., spout off "Get your popcorn ready!", I had no idea what he was talking about. I was watching my 49ers get whipped by the Atlanta Falcons during the 2001 season. T.O. had no catches, for 0 yards at the time. While on the sidelines, he kept saying "That's okay. Just get your popcorn ready!" While I thought, "why don't you shut up and catch something already!". In any case, he went into half time with no catches, no yards, and no touchdowns. But, he did have one heck of a catch phrase.

In the second half, T.O. caught 3 touchdowns. One of those touchdowns was to tie the game and send it into overtime. There was 17 seconds left on the game clock at the time. His third touchdown was in that overtime; a 52 yard game winner. The lesson I learned? When T.O. says to get your popcorn ready, you better have some popping in the microwave; because he is ready to put on a show.

4) "That's Why They Play The Game." - Chris Berman, ESPN Analyst

Chris "Boomer" Berman is one of ESPN's most popular analyst. So it's no wonder that he would have a couple of catch phrases in this countdown. This particular phrase from Berman is used when a team who is highly favored to win that week's game, actually gets beaten by the underdog. Berman likes use the line during his NFL Primetime show which shows the highlights from that week's games.

He usually sets it up by talking about the favored team and how dominate they have been. He mentions their stats, their markee players, and why it is virtually impossible for them to lose to the team they were scheduled to play that week. Right before the highlight he gives the line "That's why they play the game." Basically, all the hype, stats, streaks, and previous performances in the world cannot determine the game's outcome. Only the game itself can. Couldn't have said it better myself, Boomer.

3) "Playoffs? Playoffs! Don't Talk About Playoffs! You Kiddin' Me?" - Jim Mora

On November 25, 2001, then head coach of the Indianapolis Colts Jim Mora had just lost to the San Francisco 49ers. But, it wasn't the loss that upset him. It was how the team lost that sent him into one of the most famous coach tirades in NFL history.

The team had turned the ball over to San Francisco 5 times; 1 for a touchdown and 3 others in great field position. The coach entered into that press conference pretty steamed. His rant started with a run down of how badly his team performed. Someone interrupted him and asked about making the playoffs. The rest is sound byte history. Mora answered "Playoffs? Playoffs! Don't talk about playoffs! You kidding me? Playoffs? I just hope we can win another game!".

That rant became the catch phrase for NFL fans, analyst, players and anyone talking about playoffs. It also became a Coors beer commercial. The sound byte can be heard around the country on radio shows, NFL highlight shows, and anywhere playoffs are mentioned. That reporter probably gave Jim Mora a headache that day. But, Mora gave us the gift of his rant that will forever be repeated.

2) "How 'Bout Them Cowboys!" - Jimmy Johnson

As a 49er fan, four words invoked nausea in me for years. You see, the Cowboys had just beaten the 49ers (again) in the NFC Championship (again) and there they were, in the locker room gloating (again!!!). What added salt to the deep, deep wound was the famous catch phrase that came out of that locker room celebration. Former head coach Jimmy Johnson looked at his team, beaming with pride and shouted "How bout them Cowboys!" to a roaring Dallas team with cameras capturing every gut wrenching second.

But, here is the beauty of time. Although Dallas went on to win the Super Bowl that year, the 49ers eventually got their revenge and finally beat them. Dallas' team would later grow old and have to rebuild. As the team began to have some down seasons, the 49er fans stole their famous catch phrase and used it to mock them. As recent as last season when the Cowboys imploded and even stars such as Tony Romo, Jason Witten, and Terrell Owens couldn't get them to the playoffs, the catch phrase came in handy for us 49er fans. When and if the Cowboys find a way back, I am sure those words will invoke the same sickening feelings it did back in the early '90's. But for now, the Cowboys are actually the one team cringing when they hear it.

1) "And He Could... Go... All... The... Way!" - Chris Berman & Howard Cosell

This has got to be one of the most famous catch phrases in sports. The originator is the late, great Howard Cosell, so most of the credit goes to him. But, once again, Chris "Boomer" Berman of ESPN shines here with another catch phrase he helped to make famous.

Berman uses the line during highlight reels on the shows NFL Primetime, Sunday NFL Countdown, and Monday Night Countdown when describing a player who is taking the ball to the house. That is, getting a touchdown for you laymen out there. "And he could go all the way!" is used by fans, analysts, players and even video games. Needless to say, it is my favorite NFL catch phrase of all time.

This top 10 list was a fun look at the fun we have while watching our favorite games. Catch phrases has become a staple in fan culture; an inside joke between the die hards who know how they originated. Not only are they a part of fan culture, they are also a part of pop culture and even a part of American culture as we see them being used in our everyday lives. Go ahead and yell "Playoffs?!" Ala Jim Mora, or tell someone to "Get your popcorn ready!" just like T.O. It might make you feel like you're ready for some football.


Scot said...

When asked about his team's execution, Tampa Bay coach John McKay said, "I'm all for it".


Other gems from McKay:

"Well, we didn't block. But we made up for it by not tackling."

"Half of these guys are brainless. And the other half are gutless."


Anonymous said...

Hey Q,

Loved the catch phrases!!

Here are a few more that may not have even originated in the NFL but many are used fairly often:

"Are you ready for some football?"

"Any given Sunday"

"OHHHH, That's gotta hurt"

"He's gonna feel that on in the morning"

"That's gonna leave a mark"

"Take it up the gut"

"Pick six"

Any of these can be overheard at your local sports bar and most seem to have a Madden tone to them.


"Q" the fan said...

Those are all great ones, guys! I've definitely said a few of those from time to time.

-Q the fan