But every once in a while, the adjective is legit. Such a time is now and the number is 47. Remember it, because it tells a story about the human spirit that you don’t often hear. In this case, it’s a story you hope you never have to hear again.
It is the number of football players from last year’s Tulane Green Wave team who returned for the 2006 season. What makes it beyond amazing is that it represents all but three of the 50 players who were eligible to return.
We didn’t talk a lot about Tulane over the past year. When we talked about teams that used to call New Orleans home before Katrina ripped through town, we talked mostly about the NFL Saints, who played a season without a home field. When football season ended, we switched our attention to the NBA Hornets.
But the pro teams at least had somewhere they could pretend was home. The Saints set up shop in San Antonio; the Hornets were welcomed by Oklahoma City. And we thought it was quite something that they showed up at all.
Of course, the pro teams were being paid. Even if their homes were away from home, at least they had somewhere they could call their own. You wouldn’t wish what happened to them on anyone, but if you had a choice between their post-Katrina year and what the Tulane football team went through, it’d be as easy as choosing between a hot fudge sundae and a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.
The unbelievable 47 who will begin their season on Sept. 9 in Houston are already way ahead of where they were a year ago. They have dorm rooms on their own campus and other students with whom to share that campus. They have classes and a dining hall. They have training facilities.
They have a home field.
Last year, they had none of that, beginning with the school itself. After Katrina, their school went out of business for the fall semester. Like its home town of New Orleans, it had no choice. Once the levees gave way and the Big Easy became the Big Flooded, life as everyone had known it ceased to exist.
Its home field, the Superdome, was a wreck. The families of many of the players were swept away in New Orleans’ great diaspora. The players went to classes in Ruston, but it wasn’t Tulane. It wasn’t home.
They were supposed to represent the hopes of the city, which is the same burden we laid on the Saints and the Hornets. And, while they did provide a few hours of distraction on Saturday afternoons, asking a bunch of kids made homeless by a genuine tragedy to be some real-life version of the Bad News Bears wasn’t just unrealistic, it was impossible.
The story of the 2005 season wasn’t uplifting. The team played 11 straight away games on 11 different fields and finished 2-9. Before Katrina, it had hopes of a major bowl game. After Katrina, it’s only mission was to somehow find a way to go on.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
It was a lesson no one should have to learn, not the way Tulane had to. But the value of it is as clear as the number 47. Fifty players could have gone somewhere else this year, among them fifth-year seniors who could have gone on with their lives. Only three took that option. Everyone else came back.
They came back because they had been through something very few ever do and learned more about life than most of ever have to.
They’ve got three road games to start the season before they finally get to come home to the Superdome, before they finally get to run into a stadium in front of their fans, on their turf.
Their quarterback, Lester Ricard, said when that moment comes, he’ll probably cry. He won’t be alone.
CFT: Former Penn State signalcaller Steven Bench joined the South Florida Bulls, he announced on Twitter.
CFT: The University of Nevada is honoring longtime coach Chris Ault, who stepped down in the fall, by renaming the school's football field after him.
Video: Football from NBC Sports
HBO Real Sports: Bill O'Brien
Penn State football coach and 2012 National Coach of the Year shares the challenges in turning around a program shattered by scandal. Real Sports premieres Tuesday, May 21 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.
BCS title game
Pregame color, key plays and other moments from 'Bama's blowout win.
Check out the action from the postseason.
Check out which players were best of the best at each position.
Check out some of the college football cheerleaders from across the country.