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ESPN's Lingo

September 22, 2009 - Mike Donahey
ESPN, officially known as the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network, recently celebrated its 30th birthday.
The Bristol, Conn., based company is an affiliate of the Walt Disney Co. Extremely successful, ESPN lists 10 different networks, ranging from sports radio to televising live athletic and non-athletic events. It is a staple on cable television networks and dish channels.
Host Chris Berman and former host Dan Patrick are well known in the world of sports broadcasting and electronic media in general. So well known that several years ago both were invited to discuss the “history and impact of sports television” as part of a panel at the Smithsonian Institution.
Berman is no lightweight and neither is Patrick. According to ESPN’s Web-site, Berman is a six-time National Sportscaster of the Year awardee. After leaving the network, Patrick began doing a nationally syndicated sports show.
ESPN staffer Erin Andrews was in the news some time ago, unfortunately for the wrong reasons. The network, or its attorney, announced it was her nude image on a grainy film circulating the Internet. Someone had secretly filmed Andrews in her hotel room. (There was debate whether ESPN should have revealed it was Andrews or ignored it, as it was allegedly difficult to identify the person in the film.)
Sports Center anchor Hannah Storm has earned a number of prestigious journalism awards and according to the ESPN Web-site, was the first woman in American television history to act as sole host of a broadcast network sports series. I remember her from CBS and NBC. She is skilled and professional.
There may be others who are well-known like Berman and Storm but I don’t know who they are.
That is because I haven’t watched it much recently. There are a number of reason for this, most too long for this space. Oh, I’ll take a glance at it when I’m at the Community Y after a workout or on the job there, but that’s about it.
However, “Sports Center” is one of ESPNs shows I will stop and listen to. For the uninitiated, it reports on scores and news from major sporting events, most of which have occurred that day or within an approximately 12-hour period. Interviews, game highlights make up much of it. I’ve seen some features too.
On the show some time ago, I heard several ESPN hosts using an “oral shorthand” (for lack of a better term, in describing two universities. For example, Villanova University in Philadelphia, Pa. was referred to as “Nova.” The University of Arizona in Tucson was referred to as “Zona” once. There may be others, but you get the point.

I’ve come up with a list of colleges, cities, sports teams, universities and newspapers. From it, I’ve developed my own oral shorthand to help out ESPN’s “talking heads. I’ve heard that term used to identify and I believe, used derisively to describe them.
The term may be actually used in the industry.
Once my wife and I were watching a news show or commentary when it ended abruptly, leaving the screen black, except with the words in white, talking head. They could also be referred to as “goldie throats” as well. I don’t recall where the term talking heads came from, but I do recall goldie throat was once used in a column years ago by the Des Moines Register’s Maury White, now retired and one of my favorite columnists and reporters.
To be fair and balanced, White wrote that some group (I don’t recall who) refer to print journalists as “ink-stained ragamuffins.” There may be other slang terms.
Regardless, here is my list:

Usual ESPN oral shorthand

Bobcats ‘Ats

Boston ‘Ton

Des Moines Register ‘Oinster (pronounced oin, rymes with coin, ster)

Drake ‘Ake

Illinois ‘Nois (pronounced noise)

Iowa ‘Owa

Iowa State ‘Wate

Marshalltown ‘L-town (pronounced el-town)

Marshalltown Community College L-towncomlidge (pronounced el-town-com-lidge

North Carolina ‘Nolina (pronounced no-line-a)

Northern Iowa ‘Ernwa (pronounced urn-wa)

Northwestern ‘Stern

Notre Dame ‘Er-ame (pronounced er-aim)

San Francisco ‘Cisco

Times-Republican ‘Sublican(pronounced sub-la-cun)

Wisconsin ‘Sin

Readers, send in your own example(s) of oral shorthand, real or made up, to

We’ll randomly select a number to publish.

The Times-Republican reserves the right not to publish items, names, terms or other submissions which may be construed as offensive, suggestive or ribald or not fit for a family newspaper and its affiliated Web-sites.

Awaiting your replies,

Mike Donahey



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