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Defining "Portis Pockets Straight"

The Huddle of Babel, and straight pockets. (By Toni L. Sandys - TWP)

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," 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."

Haywood paused.

"You're like Super Super White Guy on this right here," he added.

By Dan Steinberg  |  September 22, 2008; 1:57 PM ET
Categories:  Redskins  
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Next: On Jason La Canfora, Vinny Cerrato and Tampering


Will Mr Irrelevant be selling "Super Super White Guy" T's?

Posted by: Ben | September 22, 2008 2:18 PM | Report abuse

No, but they already made me my own "Go Back to Israel" shirt.

Swell guys, those Mottrams.

Posted by: Unsilent Majority | September 22, 2008 2:31 PM | Report abuse

I'll buy the T-shirt that says: "I've got pleats on."

Posted by: UMD's Burning Couch | September 22, 2008 3:03 PM | Report abuse

I am going to get that portis shirt right now. And I'd definitely buy super super white guys.

Posted by: Harrison | September 22, 2008 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Come on a 36 year old white male who grew up in a typical middle class home and i knew exactly the meanings of the word he used. i've used them all many times. use some common sense and it will define itself.

Posted by: Mark | September 22, 2008 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Clinton should dress up this week as Palin and speak with that Minnesotan, er, Alaskan accent. It's sure to be more coherent than the real thing.

Posted by: Levi | September 22, 2008 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Haywood's got a future on t.v.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 22, 2008 3:42 PM | Report abuse

It's a little ironic how fat pockets are synonymous with straight pockets.

Posted by: | September 22, 2008 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Thank goodness it took someone like Haywood to “set the record straight.”
-Oh wait, saying it like that might be ‘too street’-

Translation: Thank goodness it took someone like Haywood to translate such lingo…
[And “set the record straight” ain’t even hard to translate – just to show how crazy this has all become for something all so simple]

Posted by: Bridge aka Street Smart | September 22, 2008 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Hey Dan, how about a posting on the Jason La Canfora v. Vinny Cerrato situation?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 22, 2008 5:22 PM | Report abuse

<3 Steinberg

Posted by: je suis un pizza | September 22, 2008 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Dan - I agree that you should go back to Israel. Go back to Israel and bring Bar Rafaeli back with you to DC.

Posted by: Stalk Much? | September 22, 2008 5:59 PM | Report abuse

speaking of t shirts,big shot wr thomas was wearing a T.O. shirt in the locker room after the cards game.Lets see he cant run a rt,cant catch,and gets a penalty whenever hes on the field,and promotes TO.A real redskin

Posted by: dles | September 22, 2008 6:13 PM | Report abuse

different languages, slang, street slang, blah blah blah....all those are fine when not dealing in the public eye. but when you are being interviewed by print or on radio what's wrong with using normal american english? is it really that tough? would he not be "street enough" for his boys if he took it there? what a joke. talk like you have some sense. his pockets are really straight...maybe he could buy some language tutoring

Posted by: not a hater | September 22, 2008 6:50 PM | Report abuse

SUGGESTION: Just purchase a copy of my "Urban Street Dictionary For Geeky Post Reporters"

Posted by: andrea | September 22, 2008 10:31 PM | Report abuse

Wait, wait, wait.

Brendan Haywood has been in the streets before?

Posted by: | September 22, 2008 10:50 PM | Report abuse

Etan Thomas agrees that Haywood knows all about sucker punches. "Steal is like basically you sucker punch somebody before they realize what's going on," Haywood said."

Posted by: RJ | September 23, 2008 11:27 AM | Report abuse

I actually thought "steal" had gone out of style in the mid-90s.

Posted by: Chest Rockwell | September 23, 2008 12:46 PM | Report abuse

And some people complain that "immigrants can't talk 'merican." Jeez.
I WILL PAY FOR THE ENGLISH CLASSES (not that they'd pay better attention this time around anyway). [Heavy sigh]

Posted by: Arlington Pimp | September 23, 2008 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Really? Was it really that hard to understand? I'd think Dan was short of stories, but he has quite a few today. I never thought the word "straight" would require so much reading in to.

Posted by: sitruc | September 23, 2008 6:42 PM | Report abuse

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