Common sports metaphors come to life

One day, my attention was captured by a story online.

The story, by Laura Hale Brockway, was called “A handy guide to common sports metaphors.” Sports metaphors (or phrases or idioms) are used universally in the workplace. For those readers who have never played or followed sports, sports metaphors can be a headache. I’m going to tell you how Hale explained the metaphor in her story, then give a real-life example of my own.

Behind the eight ball – to be in a difficult situation; to be in a losing position. The phrase is thought to come from the game Kelly pool, in which players assigned balls with numbers higher than 8 – balls that are behind the 8-ball in order – have little possibility of winning.

Current example – Any college or university which is under investigation for wrongdoing by the NCAA.

Block and tackle – to get back to the basics. In football and rugby, blocking and tackling are the basic components of the game.

Current example – One thing the Kansas City Chiefs and many football teams at every level don’t do very well – tackle.

Covering all the bases – to deal with a situation thoroughly. In baseball, it means having players near all the bases.

Current example – Something politicians try to do on a host of issues, mostly without success.

Level the playing field – a situation in which everyone has a fair and equal chance of succeeding. In games such as rugby and soccer, one team would have an unfair advantage if the field had a slope. To make it fair, teams customarily switch ends of the playing field at half-time.

Current example – A level playing field is fairly common among teams in the NFL, thanks to the salary cap, but mostly absent in Major League Baseball.

Full-court press – an intense effort to exert pressure. In basketball, a strategy by the defenders to put pressure on the opposing team over the entire court.

Current example – Pressure applied to a coaching staff or organization by fans when they don’t think the organization wins enough.

Ringer – an imposter; a person who misrepresents his or her identity to win. In team sports, an athlete who joins a team under false pretenses to strengthen the team.

Current example – Shoe companies that pay athletes to attend certain prestigious college basketball programs.

To run interference – to handle or solve problems for another person. In football, running interference means to obstruct opponents so the person with the ball can advance.

Current example — In sports, many coaches speak in vague terms to confuse the reporter and the public. In politics, it’s what some PR people do for their boss when they think the fake news media is after them.

Call an audible – to make a change at the last minute. In football, a quarterback may “call an audible” and change the play at the last minute based on how the defense is lining up. The quarterback will call out the play change verbally while his teammates are lined up.

Current example – What officials do in the NFL and Major League Baseball when a call is challenged or under further review, only instead of changing the play, they often change the call.

Wheelhouse – a person’s area of expertise. In baseball, “the wheelhouse” is the swinging range in which a player is most likely to make contact with the ball.

Current example – Fans believe this is an oxymoron for anyone who officiates in sports, because fans don’t think officials and umpires are likely to make a correct call.

Wild goose chase – a search for or pursuit of something unattainable; a useless effort. In equestrian sports, it refers to a method of horse racing in wich the riders follow the lead horse at a set distance, mimicking wild geese flying in formation.

Current example – Trying to pin someone down in one of the many scandals in sports. In politics, trying to get a member of one political party to say something nice about a member of the other party.

Wait till next year – The cry of every sports team that doesn’t win a championship. Need I say more?

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