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It is now possible in sports to hold a meaningful conversation entirely in acronyms or initials, as when Shaquille O'Neal, asked which teams ought to be in the BCS title game, answered, "LSU-USC."
Shaq, like the rest of us, is constantly coughing up alphabet soup. He wears a tattoo that says TWISM—The world is mine—and for a time replied to all Kobe-related questions by saying, "CAT," which is short for Can't answer that.
BTW (Internet shorthand for By the way), one of the many problems with the BCS is its name, three letters that rearrange themselves into so many other staples of the sports page, such as CBS (TV home of the NFL's AFC) and SBC (corporate sponsor of an NBA arena). There is, to confuse matters further, a BSC ( Birmingham-Southern College), which plays its games in yet another BSC (the Big South Conference).
But then, by age 10 the most casual sports fan has committed to memory thousands of these acronyms and abbreviations, nearly all of which rearrange themselves, in whole or part, into still other abbreviations. So ALCS (American League Championship Series) yields ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and LAC (sports ticker symbol for the Los Angeles Clippers). Order means everything. It's good in football to make an INT, bad in basketball to make the NIT. The shuffling of a single letter can cost millions. It's the difference between wearing khakis on the PGA and selling khakis at the GAP.
Still, that your brain can—in a fraction of a second—tell the PGA ( Professional Golfers' Association) from the PBA ( Professional Bowlers Association) from a PAT (point after touchdown) from PTI (Pardon the Interruption) from the ATP ( Association of Tennis Professionals) from OTB ( Off-Track Betting) from OBP (on-base percentage) is remarkable. Ask a college hockey fan what RPI's RPI is, and he'll understand what your question is. (If he attends Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, he might even know the answer.)
Typically, a star athlete's career has three acts: MVP, MRI, DUI. (Star athletes themselves are increasingly identifiable by initials alone: LT, AI, O.J., MJ.) The financial decline and fall of Pete Rose can be summarized as: OTB, IRS, IOU.
IMHO (In my humble opinion), e-mail and instant messaging are partly responsible for all this abbreviating. They've created a cryptic shorthand—from LOL (laugh out loud) to TTFN (ta-ta for now)—that has many of us asking, while trying to read an e-mail, WTF?!?
So you'll be forgiven for wondering, on any given morning, if someone barfed Alpha-Bits on your sports page. Unheard of two years ago, YAC—short for yards after catch—is now an omnipresent football yacronym. Boxers are our biggest acronymphos, bedding down with the WBA, WBC, WBO, IBF, IBO, AAU and—in the case of George Foreman—AARP, all in pursuit of TKOs.
No one need pause to puzzle out these abbreviations. Deciphering them is a reflex. If I tell you an MRI of his MCL put KG on the IL, you'll be saddened, not baffled. If I say an NFL QB has wicked BO, you will instantly reply, "PU."
The average sports fan is full of such BS (blocked shots, blown saves). One shudders to think how much brain space is occupied telling CG (complete game) from BB (bases on balls) from BC ( Boston College) from CBGB (seminal New York music club whose name stands for Country, Bluegrass, Blues).