Defining "Portis Pockets Straight"
One of the most enjoyable parts of the Clinton Portis-Brian Mitchell lovefest last week on ESPN 980's John Thompson Show was observing the reaction from listeners to Portis's unique style of speaking.
"Mitchell, the former Redskins return specialist, exposes the real Clinton Portis," FoxSports.com columnist Jason Whitlock wrote. "It's a humorous and sad picture. The U obviously stands for 'uneducated.' "
My friends at Mister Irrelevant fired up the "Portis Pockets Straight" t-shirt express, after his most memorable phrase, and readers helped me define some of the terms I was unfamiliar with and suggested I go back to Israel. Others e-mailed me to say this wasn't about race. "Could it be that he was using slang common to Miami?" one e-mailer wrote. "Why must it be because you are white that you didn't know what he meant? Maybe you just aren't hip to certain slang regardless of race."
Well, to test the theory, yesterday I asked Casey Rabach whether he knew what "Portis pockets straight" might have meant.
"Not a clue," Rabach said. "You know pockets straight?" he asked Pete Kendall, who was standing nearby.
"Like, not pleated?" Kendall guessed.
"That could be," Rabach said.
"I've got pleats on, apparently they say, 'I'm an old guy,' " Kendall said.
"I've got straight pockets," Rabach said, looking at his own outfit.
Which is exactly how I would have reacted to this question. By way of comparison, I asked the same question to Wizards center Brendan Haywood, who was also at yesterday's Redskins game and who had listened to the Portis-Mitchell showdown on YouTube.
"Portis's pockets are straight? That means Portis's money is on point, Portis got his money right, that's what it means," Haywood explained. "Your pockets are fat, your pockets are nice. When your pockets are nice, that means your money's right. I forgot when he said it or what it was in response to, but basically he was saying, 'Regardless of what you're saying, whatever you say, my money's gonna be right.' That's street lingo, breaking it down for you, for the people that don't know anything about street lingo."
Clearly someone's gonna get offended at some point, so please be advised that this was all asked tongue-in-cheek, and answered in-kind, and no one was being serious. Anyhow, I admitted to Rabach that some of Portis's words had gone over my head and asked him if he ever had the same problem.
"Some of it does," he said. "I'm starting to learn it a little bit better. I'm definitely getting up to speed as fast as I can....He says what he says and people look at each other."
"Context clues," Kendall said.
I asked Rabach for an example of what he had learned.
"If you say 'eight stacks,' that means eight grand," Rabach said.
Remember, though, that Rabach also has his own uniquely upper Midwest dialect, for example, using the phrase "cod lock." Does this make huddles a virtual Babel?
"I think I got a good feel for understanding a lot of different people, you can say that," tackle Chris Samuels said. "If those guys talk I can sit there and translate. Someone like you, you might struggle a little bit."
"It's a lot of different languages on our team," Jason Campbell said. "Pete Kendall speaks a different language, I speak a different language, C.P. speaks a different language and definitely 'Tana speaks a different language."
By the way, I also asked Haywood to define the fighting verb "to steal" or "steel," which Portis used during his argument with Mitchell. "Steal is like basically you sucker punch somebody before they realize what's going on," Haywood said. "That'd be like him walking up, 'Hey Brian!' and popping him in the eye."
"You're like Super Super White Guy on this right here," he added.
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