Stay classy: The worst words in sportswriting

John Sommers II

Some columns never die. The "get some class" column is the perfect example of one.

There is a list of words used in bad sportswriting that, if included, should let you know that whatever you are reading is written for a sixth-grader, and not a particularly intelligent one. This list includes the word class, a word used by bad sportswriters to connote some kind of universal standard of very serious, humorless behavior adults must engage in at all times in order to be considered proper and admirable.

There is a reason I never, ever use this word: I am an American. We have classes, yes, big, sprawling classes we never talk about because it is deeply uncomfortable and antithetical to the notion of being American. Calling someone "classy" is by extension calling someone else "déclassé," or "reduced for fallen in status." it also makes you sound like a 75-year-old man, and not a particularly smart one. If you're comfortable with that, then there you are.

But I'm not into the serious use of a nobility's standards to define anything. If you say someone is "a prince among men," you might assume that means something. I assume it means that person is a total dick, and probably doing nothing to earn the money someone gives him simply for being him. Invoking the word classy is a sad appeal to an insane and dead hierarchy, the last resort of a cornered and defenseless killjoy.

So if Steve Spurrier wants to throw fish hooks at Clemson in the middle of Marcus Lattimore's birthday celebration--the one they're having because Lattimore has at this point literally given up two healthy knees for the university--then that's fine. What's not fine is getting your war on because Spurrier--heavens!--can, like most adults, process a few things at once in a situation, and do so in the form of a passing aside. In other news, he probably tells jokes at funerals, too.


Marcus Lattimore rally video || Lattimore injury coverage

And that's the real crux here when we talk about the word classy. You say it's an inability to conform to a certain standard of adult behavior because we are talking about SERIOUS THINGS when we talk about sports. What we are talking about is sports, a phenomenally unimportant and stupid thing in the grand scheme of things. If I wanted something serious, I would be watching financial news, and not pulling my hair out over Florida's inability to pick up backfield blitzes. Someone telling you to grow up might be very correct in doing so, but there is also this: growing up doesn't mean embracing a theatrical misery in well-ironed clothes seven days out of the week.*

*Example: "That guy's got a tie and he looks like he would welcome death's sweet embrace. He's clearly worth trusting!"

The other thick-skulled assumption here is that Steve Spurrier has to demonstrate class by liking Dabo Swinney, or his old nemesis Ray Goff, or anyone else he may genuinely not like. Real maturity is admitting that you don't have to like people, and in fact can dislike them productively. Real maturity--or intelligence, even--would be thinking about how Marcus Lattimore, sitting in his hospital bed with a shattered knee and no real definite answers about his future, probably laughed his ass off at this, and how the entire rivalry that helps put money on the table benefitted as a result.

I don't feel one way or another about Dan Wetzel. I met him once. He is just a dude, and one that's done fantastic work on deadline. I do hate this column, and any other column relying on the same hoary admonition of "DURR THIS GUY GOTTA MAN UP/GROW UP/SMELL THE COFFEE" that you see applied to Lane Kiffin, Cam Newton, Dwight Howard, Bryce Harper, Tony Stewart, Serena Williams, or any other person with a shred of humanity, humor, or even (yes) large streaks of permanent immaturity.

This eternally recycled meme is a prince among column-starters: it's judgmental, lazy, and should have its head cut off in front of a cheering crowd of filthy peasants.

P.S. If you wanted a real moment to excoriate Spurrier, this would have been it, not that. That's a moment when Spurrier did something genuinely reprehensible and begging for criticism, and not this.

P.P.S. Dabo, for his part, understands this entire game better than anyone writing about it.

You could read that, laugh, and appreciate it for the light humor it offers while being healthily indifferent, but we have a column to write about how Dabo's OMG TOTALLY SEXIST FOR EMBRACING UNFAIR STANDARDS OF HUMAN BEHAVIOR.

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