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Tuesday, November 20, 2012
'Omnishambles' best describes U.S. sports

By Steve Wulf

Gary Bettman
Gary Bettman and the current state of the NHL in a word.
In a head-spinning week in which the Lakers spurned their own advances to Phil Jackson, Jeffrey Loria pulled a Snidely Whiplash and tied the Marlins to the railroad tracks, anonymous Jets threw their biggest-name teammate under the bus, and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman suggested that the two sides in the labor dispute cool their heels for two more weeks, you might have missed the news:

The Oxford University Press chose “omnishambles” as one of its words of the year.

Oxford actually selected two words: “GIF” (short for graphics interchange format) for this side of the pond and “omnishambles” for Great Britain. Coined by "The Thick of It," a satiric BBC TV show, “omnishambles” is defined as “a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, characterized by a string of blunders and miscalculations.” In other words, a shambles to the nth degree.

England has had more than its share of omnishambles this year, but in the spirit of the close friendship that has long characterized relations between the U.K. and the U.S., let me speak for many fans and pose this question: Can we have it, please? Pleeeeeaaasse?

You see, American sports are in a golden age … of dysfunction. The NFL season began with owners willing to gamble away the integrity of the game to teach a few of their part-time employees a lesson. The NHL is about to go dark for the second time in eight seasons. The once-proud Red Sox, Cowboys and Lakers have become punch lines, and the Wizards might go 0-82. An auction house can’t even get a decent price for the document that banned Pete Rose from baseball.

We are in desperate need of a word that describes all these failures, that links the tattered reign of the Wilpons to the paranoid delusion of the Chiefs’ front office to the deflated tenure of Lane Kiffin at USC to the what-were-they-thinking? of the NHL Board of Governors who have kept Bettman in office for 20 fracking years!

And that word is “omnishambles.”

The word of the year honor does not guarantee inclusion in the prestigious Oxford English Dictionary. The editors must be convinced that the neologism has legs enough to make its way into common usage. But we have every confidence that it will earn inclusion one day — after all, Ralph Wilson still owns the Bills.

And some words get to have an illustration next to them. What we’re asking you is for suggestions as to what would be the most appropriate sports organization to go alongside “omnishambles.” Pirates? Tennessee football? Pistons? Texas Tech basketball? Hockey owners? (If you sense an overload of NHL references, we’ll plead guilty. They’re ruining an entire sport!)

Just make your nominations in the comments or tweet them with the hashtag #omnishambles.

Let's say, for instance, you're a Houston Astros fan. "We became the first team in 47 years with consecutive seasons of 106 or more losses; we finished last in MLB in runs scored and 28th in attendance; and now we need to find a DH because we're moving from the weakling NL Central to the studly AL West. Fortunately, we have an owner who toyed with the idea of signing Roger Clemens, a GM who was previously the general manager for Petstore.com and a new skipper whose only previous managerial experience was leading the 2006 Jamestown Jammers to a last-place finish in the Pinckney Division of the Class A New York-Penn League. Wish us luck with that."

Who knows? Someday your nominee might be the image next to om-ni-sham-bles.