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Under Center

This one is about sports writing, not economics or psychology.

I am getting very tired of seeing the phrase “under center” constantly when the writer means “playing quarterback”. For instance, here’s grantland.com: [The Arizona Cardinals] unfortunately have to play either Kevin Kolb or John Skelton under center this season.

Under center? Is there a hole in the ground beneath the center where the QB takes his position?

Probably the phrase comes from this picture:

Here, and in other diagrams of football strategy, the center is represented by the circle in the center, and the circle underneath him is the QB. Hence, under center.

Brilliant? No. it’s not. Because if you replace a phrase with another phrase, the new phrase should be more enlightening than the old one, not less. What do we gain by calling the quarterback “that fellow who, in a football strategy diagram exhibited on a wall, is represented by a circle that is drawn underneath the circle represented by the center’s circle”? That relationship gives us no info at all about the importance of the quarterback [= all important, not “underneath” anyone], his true relationship to the center [= the center is his flunky, not versa], the connection between the center and the QB in the essential part of the play [=none].

Calling the QB “under center” is like calling the President of the United States “Bootlick to LeBron James and every other athlete he fantasizes about”. It misrepresents his true position. The Prez is the more powerful one.

Call the center, if he is ever worth writing about in the first place, the quarterback feeder, but don’t call the QB under center.

The phrase is not even catchy. It’s boring and misleading, like all the rest of football jargon.

Fullback, halfback, quarterback, what do those absurd words tell us? Nothing. Contrast this with, for example, pitcher, catcher, and first baseman. The pitcher pitches, the catcher catches, the first baseman loiters in the area around first base. What idiot made up these football words?

While we are at it, how about those supposedly informative replays that tell us nothing.

“For you kids watching at home, that one thousandth of one percent that will one day be big enough, strong enough, and athletic enough to be middle linebackers [whatever that is], check out this replay. I’ve circled Bud Weiser here in yellow. Look at his brilliant play right THERE.”

There follows a few seconds of Weiser falling on his face with the ball nowhere in sight.

“See how he cleared the passing lane for Speedy Gonzo, you kids watching at home? Have we explained the subtle intricacies of this game so that you will now enjoy it more? What do you mean, the twenty second shot of our logo before the replay and after it interfered with your watching the actual game? We’ll replay that 70 yard pass and the one handed catch for a touchdown, all that stuff you missed, right after these words from a few sponsors.

“What do you  think, Southern Accent Jack? Aren’t those kids at home a bunch of whiny brats?”

“Sure are, Jaws. The game of football hasn’t made a man of them yet.” 

Sadly, most of the silly words used by football talkers came into use way before Smiling Dave was around to point them out. But we can still do something about “under center”. It only came into use this preseason. Let’s crush it while we still can.

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