Generic Nonfalsifiable Sports Commentary: Principles and Practice


A good game-time sports comment can be either of two types. The first is well-informed, accurately describes the situation at hand, and in the best-case scenario places an instant in a game within its broader context at the individual, team, league, or sport level. I hear these occasionally and have no idea what they mean and so can’t reproduce one here. At the Super Bowl party I attended somebody referred to a rookie quarterback saying something stupid at a press conference. Comments like that.

The second kind of comment is the kind you and I are likely to make. It should function sort of like the score in a movie — if it’s really good, you won’t even notice it’s there. It should also, to switch up metaphors for a second, be designed roughly like a horoscope entry, to wit: vague enough to apply to virtually any situation, but seemingly specific enough to establish you as paying attention. It is vitally important to achieve the proper balance and, when in doubt, err on the vague side: I can’t help you if you get challenged to clarify. Caveat bullshitter.

A good way to generate generic nonfalsifiable commentary on the spot is to listen to the announcers and/or the men in the room. Like television chefs, they have to fill silence with patter even when there’s nothing going on which, for a game like football or a recipe like risotto, is like 80 percent of the time. This patter is actually where you need to tune in, though. This is where they say things like, “Ultimately, this is a team game played by individuals,” or “If he’s not covered, he’s open.” Now clearly, you can’t repeat such a remark verbatim during the game in which it is said, but if you have a pen or smart phone handy you can remember it for the next game, in which it will be equally meaningless/applicable.

But otherwise, here is a preliminary list of phrases you can use, which was developed in consultation with actual men. The site will be updated frequently with generic nonfalsifiable sports commentary (GNSC).

  • (Pre-game) “You never know till game time.”
  • “It is what it is.”
  • “It isn’t what it’s not.”
  • “We’ll have to see what happens to know what is going to happen.”
  • “At any point in the game, it’s all mental.”
  • (Pre-game) “It all depends on which team shows up.” (Note ambiguity of referent; could indicate the inconsistency of one team or a comparison between the two teams.)
  • (Football) “It’ll be interesting to see how those [defenses/offenses] match up.”
  • “Looks like we got a game on our hands.”
  • If you get the sense someone did something right, say: “That’s the play you gotta make.” If you get the sense someone screwed something up, say the same thing with a slightly different intonation: “That’s the play you gotta MAKE,” thereby emphasizing that the needed play was not, in fact, made.
  • Alternatively, and even less falsifiably, you could say: “That was a play.” Pretty much always true, unless said mid-play. Pay attention to whether people are actually playing before you speak.
1 comment
  1. Dan said:

    I like “nothing matters until [month of playoffs]”

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