Commentary

Sports figures should wield trademarks

Originally Published: March 23, 2011
By Patrick Hruby | Page 2

Bart ScottChris McGrath/Getty ImagesBart Scott had the forethought to trademark "can't wait!" Other sports figures should follow his lead.

Financial kudos to Bart Scott: By reportedly trademarking the catchphrase "can't wait," the New York Jets linebacker not only is following in the distinguished cash-in tradition of Pat Riley and "three-peat," but also securing a potential revenue stream in the face of an ongoing pro football work stoppage.

Oh, and did we mention Scott may make money on this?

Indeed, given the profit potential involved, the surprising thing isn't that Scott made things nice and legal -- it's that more sports figures haven't followed suit. Herein, Page 2 presents other well-known catchphrases that ought to be trademarked:


1. We Talkin' About Practice

Originator: Allen Iverson.

Context: After Philadelphia coach Larry Brown criticized Iverson for missing practice, the 76ers guard delivered a long rant about the relative pointlessness of focusing on -- you guessed it -- practice.

Meaning: Never lose sight of the things that truly matter. To wit: actual games, franchise player status, the dollar-Turkish lira exchange rate.

Useful for: Students who bomb on the PSATs; government agencies that fail oil spill preparedness exercises; the results of all NFL preseason and SEC spring football games; anyone who screws up and would like to deflect negative blowback; "Tiger Mom" daughters who really, really need to use the bathroom during five-hour piano practice sessions.

Example use: "We talkin' about practice." -- Mark Zuckerberg, about FaceMash.com.

Profit potential: Decent, considering that Charlie Sheen -- who isn't exactly hurting for snappy sayings -- recently used the phrase. He hasn't blown through his sitcom money yet, has he?


2. Both Teams Played Hard

Originator: Rasheed Wallace.

Context: Following a 2003 NBA playoff game, Wallace gave the same answer to five different questions in a postgame news conference.

Meaning: Like a human being, a basketball game is a unique, ephemeral swirl of thought, emotion, sensation and activity that cannot be adequately described by mere language alone. Well, that or I don't want to talk to reporters.

Useful for: Perp walkers; presidential press secretaries; investment banking executives testifying before Congress; people who enjoy literature but wish Shakespeare and Co. would just get to the point, already -- don't they know we have Angry Birds to launch?

Example use: "Both teams played hard. The end." -- Leo Tolstoy, "War and Peace," the complete, unabridged text for iPhone.

Profit potential: Low. Has stiff competition from "no comment," "I'm not here to talk about the past," "next question!" and declining to answer on the advice of counsel.


3. It Is What It Is

Originator: Unknown. Plato, John Locke, Austrian poet Erich Fried, Britney Spears, Al Gore and Bill Belichick are among many who have been credited. (And, coincidentally, would make for the best "Real World" cast of all time.)

Context: Vague, tautological construct used to describe just about anything at any time. Which is pretty much the beauty of the phrase.

Meaning: Generally conveys resignation and acceptance in wake of irreversible failure, disappointment and change.

Useful for: Learning that the NCAA tournament bracket now consists of 68 teams; learning that your alma mater still wasn't good enough to sneak into the field; checking your bracket pool standings after the tournament's first weekend; hearing a John Mayer cover of Tom Petty's "Free Fallin'" at the mall, or anywhere else, really; being Tiger Woods after hitting a golf ball during a competitive professional tournament.

Example use: "At this second appearing to take the oath of the presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. It is what it is. Let us strive on. -- Abraham Lincoln, second inaugural address.

Profit potential: Low. "[Expletive] happens" already works fine.


4. Misremembered

Originator: Roger Clemens.

Context: Clemens told Congress that former teammate Andy Pettitte "misremembered" a conversation in which Clemens allegedly told Pettitte he had used human growth hormone.

Meaning: The other guy is totally fibbing -- but I'm too much of a classy gentleman and/or concerned about subsequent perjury charges to say that explicitly.

Useful for: Plausible deniability in any dispute pitting one person's word against the other, sans corroborating digital evidence. In other words, this phrase was a lot more helpful pre-Twitter/Facebook.

Example use: "You misremember!" -- Rep. Joe Wilson to President Obama.

Profit potential: Moderate. If nothing else, has more potential on the side of a coffee mug than as a legitimate legal defense theory.


5. Taking My Talents to South Beach

Originator: LeBron James.

Context: Uttered during "The Decision," in which James: (a) performed Kano's fatality on Cleveland sports fans; (b) made a nice donation to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

Meaning: I'm jumping ship, moving to a new location and taking advantage of a better opportunity. Oh, and so is my 360-degree mirror.

Useful for: Switching teams; hopping jobs; breaking up with a significant other; announcing your departure from a party or gathering; taunting the warden with a hand-written note left in your cell after digging your way out of wrongful imprisonment with a dinner spoon. (Protip: Do not write "South Beach" if you actually plan on being a fugitive in South Beach.)

Example use: "I am taking my talents to the King's arms." -- Benedict Arnold's Letter to the Inhabitants of America.

Profit potential: High. It's pretty amazing that the Miami tourism board hasn't trademarked this phrase already.


6. Come after me! I'm a Man! I'm 40!

Originator: Mike Gundy.

Context: Delivered by Oklahoma State football coach in a press conference rant against a newspaper column that questioned the attitude of a demoted quarterback.

Meaning: Bring it on. I'm tough enough to handle whatever you can dish. The proof? I already have to endure an annual prostate exam.

Useful for: Making the exquisitely empty gesture of offering to carry a cross (like, for instance, media scrutiny) that you already have to carry anyway (because, for example, you're a 40-year-old football coach in a BCS conference).

Example use: "Come after me! I'm a man! I'm 40!" -- Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel, requesting a five-game suspension -- the same as five of his improper benefit-receiving players -- for not notifying the NCAA or his school about his previous knowledge of the benefits, a contractually fireable offense.

Profit potential: High. It's Justin Bieber's ringtone. And you already can buy T-shirts.


7. Let's Go Eat a [Expletive] Snack

Originator: Rex Ryan.

Context: Said during HBO's "Hard Knocks" at the conclusion of an irate, impassioned, expletive-laden motivational speech to the New York Jets. About an upcoming preseason game.

Meaning: I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore! (Unless the "it" in question is a bag of nacho cheese-flavored tortilla chips.)

Useful for: Emphasizing one's point while eliminating the distraction of an empty stomach.

Example use: "When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it. Always. Now, let's go get a [expletive] snack!" -- "Gandhi," 1982.

Profit potential: Astronomical. Candy bar makers, vending machine distributors ought to be lining up to sign Ryan as a celebrity endorser.


8. Playoffs? Playoffs?

Originator: Jim Mora.

Context: Following a 2001 loss to San Francisco that dropped Indianapolis to 4-6, Colts coach Jim Mora responded to a question about his team's chances of making the postseason with a now-legendary outburst of pure incredulity.

Meaning: In life, there are no stupid questions. Except the one you just asked.

Useful for: Any situation in which an inquisitor is putting the cart before the horse, like a reporter asking Donald Trump what color suit he plans to wear while taking the presidential oath of office in 2013.

Example use: "Playoffs? Playoffs?" -- Anyone who works for the Detroit Lions and/or Pittsburgh Pirates.

Profit potential: High. From a purely commercial standpoint, these Rockies remain prime for tappin'!


9. Huge, Quickly, Bye

Originator: Tiger Woods. (Allegedly!)

Context: Final words of a supposed Woods voice mail to one of his purported mistresses, asking that she take his name off her cell phone ASAP.

Meaning: Conveys right-this-second urgency. The verbal equivalent of a 9-iron to the teeth.

Useful for: Office meetings involving looming deadline projects; phone calls from jail to legal representation and/or bail providers; infantry calling in airstrikes; monster blocks in basketball; home run calls; radio and television sign-offs.

Example use: " ... the greatest danger that can befall us in coping with this problem of Soviet communism is that we shall allow ourselves to become like those with whom we are coping. Huge. Quickly. Bye." -- George Kennan, the Long Telegram.

Profit potential: High. Would make a great: (a) 1980s action flick catchphrase; (b) overnight delivery company slogan; (c) erectile dysfunction medication commercial tag line.


10. They Are Who We Thought They Were

Originator: Dennis Green.

Context: Uttered after Green's Arizona Cardinals suffered a come-from-ahead "Monday Night Football" loss to the Chicago Bears in 2006.

Meaning: The other guy isn't so great. Even though he won and all.

Useful for: Every loser who thinks that they should have won. In other words, every loser ever.

Example use: "They are who we thought they we -- " General Custer, 1876.

Profit potential: Unknown. According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Green trademarked the phrase in 2007 ... but let the trademark lapse in 2009. Opportunity knocks!

Patrick Hruby is a freelance writer and ESPN.com contributor. Contact him at PatrickHruby.net.


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