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GRE Vocab Wednesday: Super Bowl Words

Last week, the vast majority of America sat down for three hours of nail-bitingly intense American football. (The rest of the world presumably went about its usual business). The epic matchup between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Hawks was not just worthy of amazing Monday morning water cooler talk, but also called to mind many GRE vocabulary.



Are you 90% sure something happened? 98% sure it happened? Well, even if you answered yes to both questions, it is not an incontrovertible fact that the thing actually happened. What is incontrovertible—cannot be denied or disputed—is that the New England Patriots won Super Bowl XLIX (that’s 49 for those who don’t know Roman numerals). As to who played the better game? Well, that’s definitely up for debate.


On a literal level, attrition describes the wearing away of something. Grinding your teeth will result in attrition of your teeth; driving constantly will result in attrition of your car tires. On a more figurative level, attrition can describe the gradual weakening of two sides pit in combat. WWI, with its ghastly trench warfare, is a classic example. 50,000 soldiers on each were, after months of fighting, whittled down to a mere thousand.

The battle of attrition on the football field featured the best defense in the NFL (the Seahawks) fiercely attacking the Patriots offense. And the Patriots defense was no slouch, rising to the occasion to put several severe hits on Seattle’s defense. By the end of the game, both offenses were totally worn down, a fact that can maybe—but maybe not—account for what happened on Seattle’s very last offense play…


The very thing Seattle worked hardest for—to become repeat Super Bowl champions, against the 21st century’s first dynasty, the Patriots—disappeared on one poor play call. Actually, horrendous is probably a better word. Seattle has one of the best running backs in the game in Marshall Lynch, who was running through the Patriot’s defense (the only thing working against the Patriot’s defense Sunday night). Instead of handing him the ball one more time so he could easily blow through the few inches separating him from the end zone, and a historic Seattle victory, the Seahawk’s coach, Pete Carroll, decided, on second down, to have his quarterback throw the ball. The result? An interception. And for Seattle, mortification, or complete humiliation.


Something that cannot be excused or justified is untenable. To both the casual viewer and the seasoned pundits, Carroll’s play call was untenable.


Seattle was, understandably, extremely emotional after the interception. As soon as it became clear that New England had control of the ball, and thus had incontrovertibly won the game, the New England players began brawling with the Patriots players—who were happy to brawl back. Soon, an altercation, or a major fight, ensued, with the referees having to swoop in and do their best to break it up.

Altercations don’t have to be physical. Often, they simply a quarrel. I’m sure had diehard fans of both teams been watching the game together, as was probably happening in the stadium, more than a few altercations broke out.


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