Nonfalsifiable Sports Commentary

This is a very special edition of game commentary in that it contains a little bit of information pertinent to the games actually being played. Hence, for convenience, it is divided into the subsections “Pertinent” and “Nonfalsifiable,” with the latter being more portable to not this particular 2013 March Madness season, but usually only applicable to basketball.


You may be wondering how it came about that I have the wherewithal to develop a list of pertinent commentary. This section has received an “assist” from the Wall Street Journal (Small Talk Sports Metaphor Definition (TM): an “assist” is when somebody else helps you do a thing — so it’s kind of like what the word means in civilian life, with the crazy sporty twist that it’s a noun!). The slight drawback is that the WSJ is a mainstream media organization finally waking up to vague and/or nonfalsifiable sports commentary phenomenon, and may be about to blow our cover, but whatever it’s nice to see my ideas in the WSJ (again). (<–Small Talk Self-Promotion (TM))

As the kids say, go read the whole thing, but highlights include:

  • The word “chalky,” which you can use to describe this tournament, refers to how quickly the odds are changing and originated from old-school gambling with human bookies setting odds on chalkboards.
  • Ken Pomeroy runs a sports statistics site that is apparently authoritative and well-known, so try to name-check My suggestion is you do this while piggybacking on someone else’s knowledgeable sports comment: If there are numbers in it, agree and be like, “Oh yeah, I think I saw that on”
  • “Tempo-free defensive rankings” is a concept, but I admit that even after reading this post I have no idea what it means. But you don’t have to know what a phrase means in order to say something like “It’s all about [phrase],” and from context clues I am pretty sure you can use “tempo-free defensive rankings” in that blank spot. If challenged, you can give a little ground and say something like, “Ok, it may not be *all* about tempo-free defensive rankings, but you have to admit it’s at least partially about them.”
  • Louisville’s Russ Smith “might be the best player left in the tournament, and he’s definitely the best character.” WSJ has more on that in the unlikely event you give a shit.
  • Rooting for Duke makes you a douchebag. WSJ doesn’t use the d-word because it is still a mainstream newspaper, but there is clearly douche between the lines. Even I knew that, not because of sports, but because of knowing Duke fans. Ugh. More like Douche fans, amirite? (SMALL TALK SPOILER (TM): Yes. I am right)


As always, this was developed partly in consultation with actual males.

  • When someone fails to catch a ball: “Ooo, you gotta catch that.”
  • When someone scores a three-pointer (which they do by sinking a basket from outside that big circle on the floor there): You may shout a positive-word portmanteau that includes the word “three.” Examples: “Threemendous!” “Threelicious!” “Threedle-dee!” “I’m going to go look in the threesaurus for another word for good!” Etc.
  • “Did you see that?”
  • “That was quite something.”
  • “Wow.”

Now you are threepared. Heh.



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.