Playing football in the South Plains takes a special kind of person. Nowadays there are a myriad of recruiting services out there scouring the high schools of our great nation, rating juveniles with gold stars to separate the chaff from the wheat, and all the while keeping fan bases in thrall to their judgement.
But do you really build a building completely out of marble? No. This isn't Rome or Tuscaloosa. A properly anchored wall constructed of the humble concrete masonry unit can withstand the strongest of winds. Can man sustain himself off of nothing but foie gras and ortolan? No, despite what the culinary temptations from the parking lots of Baton Rouge try to tell you. One needs properly balanced meals, with the appropriate amounts of fruits, vegetables, and grains. This is the modest realm of the 2-star recruit, the venerable bastions of real football. Honest football.
However, the approach that much of the media has taken to describe these players has slowly transitioned from somewhat accurate to blatantly patronizing. To rectify this, Viva The Matadors has decided to tackle this issue by creating a style guide for referring to and describing these players.
Some words used to describe these players have been beaten into the ground. Here are some helpful alternatives to passé terms.
- Shifty/Deceptive/Sneaky = VULPINE - All of these descriptors have become rather trite, so why not use a Latin term to describe what the those other words are trying to say: these players are foxes. Quick, sly, cunning, and prone to live under the stands of Jones AT&T Stadium due to its proximity to the football facility and weight room. Less time travelling = more time lifting.
- Scrappy = EBULLIENT - Things nobody wants to be associated with: table scraps and hands down the worst member of the Doo family. Ebullient means vivacious, high-spirited, resilient, and it has the word "bull" in it so if somebody doesn't know the definition they'll just assume it has to do with large, fierce livestock.
- Gritty = DOGGED - Gritty has long since been run into the ground, which is appropriate because the ground is made of dirt. Also, everybody in Lubbock can be described as "gritty" at one point or another in the Spring. Dogged means tenacious and persistent in effort. The word, of course, derives from man's best friend,which is also known for loyalty. This label has layers.
- Rangy/Stringy/Long/Skinny = EFFICIENT
- Short = VERTICALLY EFFICIENT
- Gym Rat = MUSCLE HAMSTER or WEIGHT WOMBAT - The term "gym rat" is very unbecoming. Rats are associated with disease, and the last thing any team needs is a staph outbreak. Hamsters, however, are stout, beloved, and don't skimp on quality cardio. Wombats are small, muscular, and a group of them is called a WISDOM. You'd be hard pressed to find any fan who wouldn't want a wisdom of quality student athletes.
- Lunch Pail Guy = EATS WHAT HIS MOMMA MAKES HIM - Again, a hackneyed phrase, and Bud Foster kind of has the market cornered on lunch pails in college football. But, I ask, what good is a lunch pail if the food inside of it is unhealthy garbage? And who says that food gets eaten? You wouldn't find a 2-star recruit trading away his celery for a pack of Gushers®. He's going to eat what is packed, because he knows his mother knows what's best for him. At dinner, do you think he's ever going to be forced to sit at the table for an extra 45 minutes until he eats his green beans? That's prima donna behavior. He's going to finish the drill, and by doing so get all of those vitamins and minerals that will help him get better, faster, and stronger.
THE HOMETOWN IN CONTEXT
Thankfully, where your recruit is from helps you choose early on how to describe them.
- RURAL AREA/SMALL TOWNS - Players from these locales are generally referred to as "country strong." They aren't afraid to get their hands dirty, and regularly proportion meals by the food pyramid. Strong family values.
- INDUSTRIAL TOWNS/URBAN AREAS - These players usually fall under the category of blue collar. They know the value of a hard day's work, and sometimes are referred to as heady, cerebral, or street smart.
- SUBURBAN AREAS - Strangely, focus of these players shifts from the individual to the school they played for. Quality developmental coaching is usually referenced, and a premium is placed on the level of competition they faced, both on the team and in their district.
THE TEAM IN CONTEXT
This section deals with how to discuss the player as he fits in to the team environment
- ON TEAM CHEMISTRY - Many refer to the elusive concept of team chemistry, but mostly just scratch the surface due to a lack of understanding of the nuances of the term. Please remember that, when referring to your 2-star recruit and team chemistry, always use the term "covalent bond." These bonds are created by sharing, and molecules created by these bonds aren't traditionally strong but do show a lot of heart. Ionic bonds are created through taking from others, which comes off as very "Me First." Polarizing in the locker room.
- ON BEING A WORKHORSE - Though there's some debate over this, workhorse is generally viewed as an acceptable term. Much like Boxer from Animal Farm, team workhorses are loyal, hardworking, and kind. They can also be turned into glue, which is proof of their cohesive abilities for the team. Instead of looking out for number one, they're looking out for the collective. Objectivism is a 5-star recruit type of philosophy.
Year in and year out, these unheralded players tend to form the backbone of the Texas Tech team, and it's hard to appreciate them enough. The least we can do is talk about them in a way that genuinely respects their talent, abilities, and contributions. Even if they sometime need help to meet the height requirement for roller coasters.