I know language changes, and I know that when it does, I’m one of the last to know. I try not to be surprised when I discover that it has. But boy, this sure caught be my surprise yesterday.
Background first. Local football hero Jake Locker was selected eighth overall in the NFL draft last April by the Tennessee Titans, the second quarterback selected. A year earlier, had he chosen to declare for the draft with a season of college eligibility remaining, there was talk that he might have been the first pick of the draft. But an injury-marred senior season in which weaknesses in his passing game were brought to light dropped his stock. For a while, talk was that he would be a second-round pick. Then, in the various combines and individual team workouts that players participate in to show off their talents, his stock rose again and the best guess was that he might be a late first-round selection. None of the major draft prognosticators figured him for the second quarterback of the draft. But Tennessee did, and that’s what matters.
None of this is really to the point, except as explanation of why I would bother looking at an article posted online at Sports Illustrated yesterday about Locker’s situation. In it, Chris Burke raised the issue of how much playing time Locker will get this season in the context of the continuing holdout of the Titans’ great running back Chris Johnson. Just a few weeks ago, after the new NFL collective bargaining agreement was approved the Titans picked up long-time Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, presumably with the plan of starting him and allowing Locker to learn from him. As Burke explains:
The Titans did go out and sign veteran QB Matt Hasselbeck to start for them as Locker eases his way into the NFL. But should Locker’s status on the depth chart be tied to Johnson’s holdout?
Without Johnson, an average Tennessee team becomes a mediocre one. If picking Locker didn’t set off a full-scale rebuilding plan, losing Johnson may.
Finally, I get to the point of this post. See the bolded sentence? Has it come to this? Is mediocre now a synonym for bad? Is it?
I didn’t know. I was still under the impression that ‘mediocre’, as its very root suggests, is in the middle. Median. Average. Yes, sure, median and average are different, but forget the mathematical details. The point is, there’s nothing bad about being average. We can’t all be above average, Lake Wobegon notwithstanding. And if you’re mediocre, you’re not above average, but you’re not below either. You’re just, you know, average. That’s the meaning of the word. Isn’t it?
Oh well. I won’t fight it. Live and learn.