It is a phrase uttered over and over and over again. A verbal cliche that permeates the world of sports but has also branched out to all other parts of our sound bite world.
As I sat watching endless coverage of Don Imus' remarks and his subsequent firing from MSNBC and CBS radio, an interview on MSNBC with Steve Capus, the president of NBC News, caught my attention. It was interesting on many levels - him explaining his organization's thought process on the firing, him being interviewed by a person who works for him, etc.
Then, after exhausting all angles of response, he said it. He said that phrase, those five words, heard over and over and over again.
"It is what it is," the president of NBC News said.
I was surprised he used such a cliche, but I couldn't disagree. Because, as we find time and time again, it always is what it is. It's a stock answer, an oratory easy button, a phrase meaning so little said so often.
I guess I expect more from the president of NBC News. But he's hardly alone in using those words. Everyone, it seems, is doing it.
Tiger Woods says it. Earlier this month, when asked at the Masters about his putting, the No. 1 golfer in the world replied: "It is what it is."
Movie stars say it. During this past awards season, Eddie Murphy was asked about age hampering actresses more than actors. His response: "Actors get to go much longer. Sean Connery can still do action movies... It is what it is."
NASCAR drivers say it. Jimmie Johnson worked in a pair of cliches when talking about finishing second in the Nextel Cup Championship: "We showed up and gave 100 percent, and it is what it is."
Big-city mayors say it. New York City's Michael Bloomberg's response to last July's power outage: "It is what it is."
White House Press Secretaries say it. Scott McClellan, former Bush press secretary, tired of describing Vice President Dick Cheney's accidental shooting of Harry Whittington, said: "I don't want to make this about anything other than what it is. It is what it is."
Male coaches say it. A few weeks ago, Jeff Bzdelik was hired as head basketball coach at the University of Colorado. When asked about his new conference and his new team's lack of success in it, he said: "The Big 12 is intimidating and the inconsistency of the tradition here, well, it is what it is."
Female coaches say it. Before embarking on a run that would land her University of Tennessee women's basketball team the national title, Pat Summitt was asked about the Lady Vols' bracket. "It is what it is. It is a tough bracket, but there is no easy route to a Final Four or national championship," she said.
Gwinnett's favorite son says it. And more than once. Last year, with the Atlanta Braves' playoff aspirations ended, Jeff Francoeur said: "There isn't anybody who thought (making the playoffs) wasn't going to happen. It is what it is. You can't change anything now."
The former Parkview star didn't change his phrasing this season. When asked about the Braves unilaterally renewing his contract instead of signing him to a long-term deal, he said: "It is what it is. They (Braves) hold all the cards."
The "It is what it is" card is played often, which is how the phrase was voted the No. 1 cliche of 2004 by USA Today. Three years later, it's still going strong, with everyone from Britney Spears, talking about not having her child in a car seat, and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, speaking about invading other countries, joining this not-so-exclusive club.
Willie Randolph, manager of the New York Mets, is also a member. Last year, he reacted to news that ace Pedro Martinez was out for the season by saying: "It is what it is. There's nothing much we can do about it."
That's also true of this pet phrase. In the world of cliche, it is a king. There's no stopping it, nothing we can do. After all, it is... well, you know.
Todd Cline can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Tuesdays.
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