Football Players Less Like Nitschke, More Like Nietzsche

Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, at the end of the day, is not a wordsmith, and it is what it is.

As my Minnesota Vikings flailed through an unsightly 14-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins yesterday, I started preparing myself for a season of disappointment. Going back to 1990, only about 10 percent of 160 teams to start 0-2 made the playoffs. It’s Sept. 20 and I’m ready to write the eulogy on the 2010 season. It’s going to be a long winter.

It may also be a season full of idioms like “it is what it is” and “at the end of the day.” These are two of the most common phrases used by sports types when explaining failure. Vikings defensive end Jared Allen is famous for using both in failures both athletic and political:

On Sept. 19, 2009, regarding the lasting effects from a cheap shot the previous season by Lions offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus: “Yeah, it stinks. My knee still clicks, but it is what it is.”

On Aug. 15, 2010, responding to New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams vow to aggressively pursue Brett Favre in the season-opener: “Those are just meathead comments. You know what, it is what it is. People trying to get their team fired up. They’re trying not to let a successful season get to them … at the end of the day people are going to talk with their pads and we’ll see how things happen down in New Orleans.”

On Nov. 6, 2008, following Barack Obama’s victory over Sen. John McCain in the presidential election: “It is what it is and McCain, I still love you, and Obama, you better do what you promised because the whole country is watching.”

What Allen lacks in prose he makes made up for in mullet. (Perhaps with Allen’s mullet went the Vikings’ 2010 hopes and dreams?)

I equally despise the cliche “at a loss for words,” but I’d rather that be the case than resorting to dumb ones. It is what it is? At the end of the day? What does that even mean? Let’s take a look:

“It is what it is.”

According to Urban Dictionary — the foremost authority on these things — “this incredibly versatile phrase can be literally translated as ‘f*ck it.'” Fitting. I’ve always felt it’s a phrase existentialist Friedrich Nietzsche would appreciate:

Jared Allen: “We worked our tails off, but Rodgers is a great quarterback, man, and it is what it is.”

Friedrich Nietzsche: “You bet your ass, it is.”

“At the end of the day.”

Urban Dictionary says, “A saying mostly used by people trying to prove points without having any other intelligent way of expressing it.” Far be it from a bunch of oversized grunts to intellectualize why they’re horrible at a boy’s game. Is the “day” metaphorical? Does it end at midnight or is that subject to change? And what’s going on at the end of the day? What’s the difference between then and now? What changed from the start of the day? Will things be the same tomorrow? Why do you not kick a chip-shot 43-yard field goal on 4th and 2 on the opening drive? Was that a call you’d make differently at the end of the day? Are you the Antichrist? Are you talking 2012 shit, like End of Days? Have you seen End of Days? Not Schwarzenegger’s best work, but it is what it is. Wait, dammit!

If I spend the next four months in a fetal position, it’s not because I can’t stand watching a season wither away. Again, I’m a Vikings fan. What I can’t stand is the nonsensical blubbering you get from the world’s most elite athletes, who can bench press 400 pounds but can’t parse a meaningful phrase even if their contract bonus depended on it.

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