The fine folks at ESPN have developed a bad habit. They have become enamored with the word “elite,” a term commonly used to describe a group of people who are the very best in a particular category of society.
Just like the phrase “at the end of the day,” the term “elite” has completely saturated the rhetoric of ESPN broadcasters. The word’s meaning is so diluted that no one remembers its original meaning.
If I had it my way, the show producers at ESPN would recognize this assault on the English language and prohibit their analysts from using the word “elite” on their telecasts. If that did happen, I imagine the analysts becoming desperate to label even the most commonplace aspects of sports as elite while they still can.
Below is a hypothetical “SportsCenter” segment featuring Host Sage Steele and ex-NFL personalities Merril Hoge and Ron “Jaws” Jaworski, who illustrate the anxiety of the final hours before wiping “elite” from the ESPN vernacular.
Sage Steele: Welcome back to SportsCenter. OK, let’s talk about the Cleveland Browns’ new quarterback, Brian Hoyer. Hoyer threw for 321 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions in the Browns’ comeback victory against the Minnesota Vikings last weekend. But guys, is Brian Hoyer elite?
Merril Hoge: Not yet, Sage. He showed some potential with his clutch ability in the fourth quarter, but I don’t like his last name. “Hoyer” doesn’t remind me of elite names like “Manning,” “Brady” or “Brees.” Right now, I would label Hoyer as a game manager.
Ron Jaworski: Merril, you’re looking past the basic numbers. Brian Hoyer has never lost a game as a starter for the Cleveland Browns. His winning percentage is 100. What’s more elite than that?
MH: But Jaws, Peyton Manning has won 157 games in his career, while Hoyer has one win. How are Peyton and Brian Hoyer on the same level?
RJ: I love Peyton as much as anyone, but he’s a spokesperson for Papa John’s. In my opinion, Papa John’s is not in the same tier as Pizza Hut and Domino’s. How can Peyton be an elite quarterback while he’s promoting an inferior pizza?
MH: Brian Hoyer doesn’t have any endorsements!
RJ: Sure, but check out Hoyer’s stubble. It’s always neat and trim. He and Tom Brady have elite stubble, and I bet they both use Gillette. When it comes to razors, I rank Gillette as —
SS: OK settle down, Jaws. Let’s get back on track. Now Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler —
MH: Now hold on a second, Sage. Jaws, are you trying to tell me that Gillette is an elite razor?
RJ: Absolutely. To me, Gillette’s ability to read the hair follicles and shave with the grain makes it the best razor in the industry.
MH: You’re nuts! Jaws, look at these baby-face cheeks of mine, and tell me that Gillette is more elite than my Schick razors.
SS: Unfortunately, we are out of time! But Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless will debate at the top of the hour whether Colgate is the most elite toothpaste on “First Take” on ESPN2.