Discover more from Football Archaeology
This is article #15 in a series covering the origins of football’s terminology. All are available under the Terminology tab above. My book, Hut! Hut! Hike! describes the emergence of more than 400 football terms.
Among the odder words to enter the language of football is trickeration, and the walk it took to enter the game is equally unusual. Trickeration originated in the world of music with the release of Cab Calloway’s 1931 Trickeration, a song about the jazz and dance scene in Harlem at the time. Best as I can tell from the lyrics, trickeration referred to musical and dance tricks that produced joy or fun. That meaning was picked up in 1932 to describe the pitching of Guy Bush, a White Sox pitcher, but otherwise remained in the musical world for the next four decades.
Trickeration’s big break came in the mid-1970s through the creative language of boxing promoter Don King, who handled the “Thrilla in Manila” and the “Rumble in the Jungle.” King regularly accused his business adversaries of misdeeds or trickeration, despite being regularly accused of doing the same himself, and later being convicted of manslaughter.
After King faded from the sports scene, trickeration entered the football world not through coaches or players but via newspaper columnists of the mid-1990s when they slipped the word into descriptions of financial or other maneuverings within football (e.g., the nomadic movements of the Raiders franchise.)
Columnists then began using the term to describe specific trick plays or offenses that used misdirection and trickery. It was not until 2007 that a coach, Brian Kelly, was quoted using trickeration to describe a play or opponent.
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