Monday, June 10, 2019

Booya! Doubling down on sports clichés

HALLIE EPHRON: I remember when I was in high school, my English teacher Mr. McCutcheon advised someone in the class to “drop back 9 yards and punt.”  I had absolutely not a clue what he was going on about. 


Derrick-Frost-TitansvsPackers-Nov-2-08.jpg
By Ray Montgomery. Cropped by User:Blueag9. - https://www.flickr.com/photos/raymontgomery/3071342082, CC BY 2.0, Link

Years later, I was teaching in the UK and commenting that something sounded as if it "came out of left field." The Brits gave me the same look I must've given my English teacher.  They knew from cricket and soccer (aka football). Baseball was a foreign language.

These days you see a ton of sports terms in the news.
Hit a home run
Throw a hail Mary
Drop the ball
Go to the mat
No holds barred
Slam dunk

And then there's "double down." I gather it's a betting term from blackjack. It's become an annoying cliche, especially in political reporting. And like most sports terminology, it feels to me like a guy's term. To check that out I googled "he doubled down" and "she doubled down."
HE doubled down 265k hits 
SHE doubled down 28K hits
Are there sports terms you love or love to hate?

LUCY BURDETTE: We are crazy for women's college basketball, so "full court press" comes to mind. Also that was a "slam-dunk", although that would be men more than women. Actually boxing has delivered the most interesting terms--sucker-punch, throw your hat in the ring, saved by the bell, take it on the chin--I like those sayings even though I despise the sport!

On another tangentially related note, back when my golf mystery series came out, I had the bright idea of including a golf glossary at the beginning of the books. Bump and run, rainmaker, pin-high, yips, and so on. What a terrible idea! Non-golfers got the idea they'd have to know all that in order the read the book--deadly and so off-putting! At least later in the series, the glossary was moved to the end:)

RHYS BOWEN: Having been a tennis player until the discs in my spine gave out I think the most obvious one that comes to mind is "She aced it." That will stick around for a while. 

And speaking of sticking... a cricket term in England is "A sticky wicket". That means a doubtful situation. 

Cricket Stumps en.svg
By §hep - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Hitting it for six means the same as knocking it out of the park. I'm sure there are plenty of other cricket ones, but they don't come to mind right now.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: How can you not love terms like "sticky wicket?" We are such a non-sporting household that half the time I don't know what things mean. Although I did grow up with golfers, so "hole in one" and "in the rough" etc. make sense to me. And I love horse racing so I get "out of the gate" and "neck in neck," and so on.

What I would like to see retired is sportscasters! Oh my gosh, they say the most useless things. Like asking the jockey who's just lost the biggest race of his career "How are you feeling?" Duh.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Lucy, I like the glossary, so hey.  Sports terms--well, I did love that Booklist called Trust Me "A knockout." That's good, right? And continuing, we talk about not pulling a punch in the plot, and taking a dive, and being out for the count.  So yeah, Lucy, boxing. Baseball--out of the ballpark,  a rookie move, into the cheap seats. And isn't the whole nine yards from parachuting?

Isn't double down from poker? (Where you have an ace in the hole, a poker face, and know when to hold em, and know when to...)

HALLIE: I always thought "the whole nine yards" referred to football, but apparently not! Here's a fascinating piece in the NY Times that discusses this very question, dubbing the expression's source the "Bigfoot of word origins."

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I had to explain where ""Hail Mary pass" came from to youngest after someone had used it in context of the last GOTV effort in the campaign she was working on (they won, so yay!) I was surprised, since she always watched football with me and her dad - I guess we don't say Hail, Mary for the Alabama Crimson Tide.

My kids all did cross country and track and field, so I like those terms - the anchor position, the person who will carry it over the line to the finish. Sprinting of pacing. "The only person you're competing against is yourself." Hit your stride, get over the bar, in the home stretch.

What I think ought to hit the showers? "You win some, you lose some." "It ain't over till the fat lady sings" - a bad sports metaphor using a bad opera metaphor! I think there are some sports-derived saying that have become so common they've entirely separated from their origins. I was talking to someone who thought "full court press" had something to do with a pack of reporters. And does anyone really think of golf when they say "par for the course" now?

JENN MCKINLAY: I thought I might have to "ride the bench" on this one, because I was feeling a "full court press" to come up with something and it was "getting down to the wire", but I "threw a Hail Mary" and now I'm "coming up on the inside" and even though I thought I was "down for the count" and had "dropped the ball", I think I can make this a "photo finish" with "a slam dunk"! LOL! Had enough yet? Because, truly, I could go on. 

Seriously, though, the only sports terms I've ever enjoyed were the non-cliches. When Dan Patrick used to say "Dare I say, 'En Fuego'?" when a basketball player had a hot streak or when Al McCoy, the Suns sportscaster, would say "Shazam!" They always made me smile.

HALLIE: Whew! Well, done, Jenn.

Any overused cliches whose number you'd like to see retired?

Leaving you with my favorite sports announcement: a goal in a soccer game.  GOOOOOOAL! 

53 comments:

  1. I always feel out of the loop when it comes to the sports references because I have absolutely no idea what most of them mean. That said, I’d like to do away with “They just wanted it more” and “They came to win,” both of which I’ve heard on the sports segment of the news . . . . Does that mean one team didn’t really want to win or that one team didn’t come to the game hoping to win????

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    1. I agree, pretty meaningless. But the announcers have to come up with something to say.

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  2. Wow. I wouldn't have known the drop back 9 yards and punt, either, Hallie. Some of these really have entered the general lexicon. I live with a rabid Red Sox fan, and I've learned fun sayings like, "That was a can of corn" - which I think means hitting an easy lob. Or...maybe I haven't learned them, because I can't remember any more, and I'm not at home to ask the man in question, LOL.

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    1. Can of corn? I had to look that up. "The phrase is said to have originated in the nineteenth-century and relates to an old-time grocer's method of getting canned goods down from a high shelf. Using a stick with a hook on the end, a grocer could tip a can so that it would fall for an easy catch into his apron." See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossary_of_baseball_%28C%29 (Though I'm not sure how trustworthy England's wikipedia can be on baseball terms)

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  3. I grew up in non-sporting environs, too, and had to learn golf lingo when I met up with Warren, so I now understand all the "double bogey" and "out of the (tee) box" references. The ones I get unspeakably tired of aren't really sports cliches, but are attempts by journalists to carry sports into some other (ahem) arena. "Political football" used to be the bane of my existence.

    The funniest blank moment I can remember, in connection to sports, didn't have anything to do with a cliche, though. Warren brought me down from Missouri to Fort Worth to meet his parents. The Texas Christian University football team, called the Horned Frogs, was enjoying a rare winning season, which I had no idea about since they played in a difference conference from my hometown teams, so weren't covered by Missouri news. At some point in the evening, desperate for a conversation opener, Warren's mother turned to me and asked, "Do you follow the Frogs?" I'd been a theatre major. All I could think of was Aristophanes, and I knew that wasn't the right answer. Not a good way to impress my future in-laws.

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    1. Such a perfect question for future use to fill those awkward silences ... "Do you follow the Frogs?" :-)

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  4. I'm a sports fan so using terms related to sports is part and parcel of who I am. And I got to use a lot of them when I spent 25 years as a coach.

    The only thing I'd like to see retired is that ridiculous soccer "Gooooall" call. It's annoying beyond belief.

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    1. I love the goal call, Jay! It adds to the atmosphere. Just leave the vuvuzelas at home...

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    2. When that vuvuzela thing became a "Thing", the league I coached in actually had to ban that.

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    3. Definitely hole the vuvuzelas. And I love GOOOOOOAL, too. It's so satisfying. In part because it takes SO long for a soccer team to actually score a goal. Do the English-speaking soccer commentators say it?

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    4. HOLD the vuvuzelas. Heaven help you if you're at a game sitting near one.

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    5. I work with brass players. It's amazing the musical sounds they can get out of vuvuzelas. But I'll agree. They're not for amateurs.

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  5. Hallie that clip is hysterical!! (sorry Jay.) I agree with Joan on retiring "they came to win". It always astonishes me watching women's college basketball that one team is behind at the half. They go into the locker room and their coach yells at them, and they come back out and win. What could that coach have said to turn things around??

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    1. "You lose this game and nobody makes the team next year", perhaps? LOL

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    2. Seriously, I'd love to be a fly on the wall. Hopefully it would be something useful that the coach observed in the first half that the team members didn't realize, something helpful to strategy. Like a really good editor.

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  6. Back in my (very brief and unsuccessful junior high ) Cheerleading days, someone used to start the chant “first in in 10 let’s do it again. “I had no idea what that meant. Well of course I know it’s first and 10 let’s do it again. But I made it through a whole football season clueless.
    Because of the recent ruin situation, I have found myself watching hockey. Whole new worlds! Icing, high-sticking, power-play. I guess power-play can be for any sport, right?, and it is certainly useful in real life.

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    1. I'm thinking you meant "Bruins" instead of "ruin," Hank? Made me laugh out loud!

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    2. Hank, this made me laugh--recalling the boys' football games and the cheerleaders.
      They had their cheers and, darn it, they were going to use them! Uh, didn't seem to matter what was actually happening on the field at the time!

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    3. One year while I was in high school the cheerleaders embarrassed the coaching staff by having such a low understanding of football and basketball that they sometimes yelled offensive cheers when the team was on defense and vice-versa, so the following year the school instituted a sports test as part of the cheerleading tryout process. The girl who was the top gymnast in the state didn't take the test seriously, bombed on it, and was not on the cheerleading squad that school year. But all the cheers from the sidelines fit the situation on the field or court!

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    4. I hope that prepared the poor dear for her first job interviews.

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    5. Stickhandling. A useful hockey term.

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  7. And I always have wondered, too, about the locker room pep talks. Like they didn’t know they were supposed to win in the first place?

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    1. Well, you hoped they do. But if it isn't working in the first half, try try again. You've gotta fire them up somehow.

      Plus, it is the sign of good coaching that you can adjust strategy at the half and have a better result because of it. Ask Bill Belichick, the master of the halftime adjustment.

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  8. New to the Women's World Cup, VAR, or video assistant referee. The center ref can call for VAR review (she sketches a large rectangle in the air) for goals, penalties, red cards, and mistaken identity. I've seen too many games with goals scored from the off-sides position, or hand balls not called in the box. So far, it's worked well and kept the players honest.

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    1. Those video reviews really do change the game. You see them in all kinds of sports now... the photo finish in the Kentucky Derby. I wouldn't want to be a referee... they are, after all, human.

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  9. I raised a few children, from Little League to armchair quarterbacks -- how's that for an over used cliche -- so I am familiar with most of these, if only overheard from the kitchen while frying chicken.

    But "the whole nine yards"? For decades I've been sure that was a reference to cloth and looming and the amount of fabric in a bolt, that when a man's suit was ordered from the tailor, he was charged for the "whole nine yards" no matter how much wool was actually used. So I looked it up and found exactly one reference out of hundreds that supported my theory. So much for my trivia store.

    The only sports we watch now are baseball games, preferably our local AAA team, the Triple Crown, if that can be called sport, the Super Bowl, and both winter and summer Olympics. I have to explain most of them to Julie. 'Nuff said.

    May I brag just a tad? My eight year old grandson, Connor, is quite the ball player. Last weekend he hit a stand-up triple deep into right field, preceded by an unassisted double play at first base. Watch this kid. He's the first in family history to have any athletic ability at all.

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    1. What fun!! Congratulations to Connor! There's nothing like sports success to build confidence. Just eight???

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    2. He was eight in September.

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  10. Andres Cantor has impressive lung capacity! And I SO agree about the uselessness of sportscasters. We usually turn the sound off, in the rare occasion of watching a football or basketball game. All the statistics are already on the screen, right?

    Congratulations to Connor, Ann! That is impressive, especially for an eight-year old!

    I've had three kids in sports: soccer, basketball, cross-country, and track. Plus, gymnastics, ballet, and martial arts. And I still have no idea what "offsides" means. So don't look to me for any sports cliches!

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    1. Karen, in 'our' day no one played soccer. I learned about offsides watching my daughter play. Wasn't there offsides in 'girl's basketball' - I'm sure there was such a thing.

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    2. Yes. It has to do with a player who is on the wrong side of the center line, I think, but basketball goes so fast, I couldn't figure out how anyone could see that.

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    3. Pretty sure that was when you only played 6 girls on either side of the court. You know when they thought females couldn't stand up to the rigors of running up and down the full length of the court.

      The only other way for that kind of call is if you cross half-court and then go back over it with the ball without the other team having touched it. That's the violation that stands now.

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  11. I'm not gonna lie....I love a good sports cliche. My baseball cozy that is coming out in the next few months, um, swings for the fences, in baseball references. So I'm okay with it. :)

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    1. Welcome Nicole! Nasselin is Nicole Asselin and her book is MURDER AT FIRST PITCH. I'm a huge baseball fan, even love the cliches.

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    2. I'm looking forward to reading Nicole's book and hope that JRW spotlights it upon release!

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  12. We never really got into why sports phrases are www so widespread. Is it because sports, playing and watching, are so ubiquitous? Why don't we have tons of phrases for activities that are even more widespread, like schooling or parenthood? Does it have anything to do with the fact it's traditionally been men who do sports, and not women?

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    1. There's also a ton of cliched phrases related to war and fighting.

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  13. Okay, I don’t have a clue what anyone is saying today!! When did you all stop speaking English??!! (Yeah, not a sports fan:-)

    Blogger has not been allowing me to post for the past three or so days, so I’m trying to get this in the back door.

    DebRo

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  14. GOOOOOOOOAAAAAALLLLL! LOL!!! I'm not a soccer watcher so that cracked me up!!!

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    1. It's really my favorite thing in a soccer game. Even when it's the team I'm NOT rooting for that gets it.

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  15. There are a few I dislike, probably that soccer "goooooal" thing the most (or is that the least?). Most of them fly right past me, because I am used to them and know the intended meaning, depending on context. That "can of corn" is kind of a favorite, because it's mostly only used by the older baseball announcers, when I was listening to it on the radio, years ago. However I think the use of sports cliches is very, very overdone these days, as if the sportscaster don't have the vocabulary to describe what's going on without them.

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  16. Even though I was married to a Scot for thirteen years, and my daughter played soccer, AND I write British books, I am still clueless as to the rules. But I love GOALLLLLLL!!

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  17. JENN I loved Al McCoy - we used to watch the Suns on tv and listen to them on the radio - he was the best at describing what was happening on the court! I remember he said "heartbreak hotel" when they missed a shot, "swisheroo for two" when they made one. I still say swisheroo for two at my nieces basketball games LOL.

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  18. I grew up in a sports household, so all these are familiar to me. I would, however, like to retire the "why do you think you lost?" or "how do you feel?" questions when posed to losers. Um, not good and the other team scored more points? But what I really love are Yogi Berra-isms. "It ain't over til it's over" is one of his. Also, "Always go to other people's funerals. Otherwise, they won't come to yours."

    Also, I know from experience the locker room pep talks often center on strategy changes based on what the other team did in the first part of the game. When you see a massive turnaround, it's often less "pep" and more, "Okay, they're doing X, so we're going to do Y."

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    1. I think "how do you feel could be -- should be -- dropped in all situations. Just once I'd like to hear the answer "with my fingers".

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  19. I grew up with basketball, baseball, and golf, and I have always lived in Kentucky, where horse racing is King. So, I'm certain that my conversations must be peppered with sports phrases right out of the gate, although I'm not sure I can add anything new to what has already been said here. I will say that having actually achieved a hole-in-one that if I use that phrase I am using it with the knowledge of its full impact.

    Oh, I did think of one I don't recall seeing above. "No harm no foul" comes from basketball, and my husband and I have both used it. "Step up to the plate" or the shortened "step up" is one I've used. One that is getting a bit tired for me is "there's no i in team."

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    1. But "there's no I in team" is still pretty accurate when trying to get all 10 players on a team to work together.

      My way of explaining this concept to the teams I coached was to say "Meet your 10 new best friends" or "There's only one bad attitude allowed on my teams...mine."

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  20. Well, all I can say is, I sure hope the Raptors win tonight and then it will be all over, and I won't have to listen to all that blah blah blah on the radio (even the CBC!) about basketball and Raptors and Jurassic Park. Yikes!

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  21. I don't follow any sports except figure skating and horse racing's Triple Crown. The men in my family used to watch baseball, football, basketball and golf. I think that plus reading made me familiar with most of the sayings. Not really sure about "hat trick' from hockey. I think it has something to do with three.

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  22. I admit I'm rooting for the Rangers. One more game to the chamionship. Hubby and I had our first date at a hockey game.

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