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Fri, Aug 22, 2014

Sports metaphors can be found in everyday use

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The world is run in large part by the government and private business, but the nation’s No. 1 hobby appears to be sports.

So, it’s no small wonder that the language of business and government is steeped in sports metaphors. How many will you hear over the next week or so? Keep count. I kept a list over the last month or so.

The first one I heard was that a player would sign a contract with a certain team because that team had the “inside track.” This is a horse or dog racing term and refers to the advantage that the top position often has. It also refers to NASCAR and the pole position. It didn’t work this time – the player signed elsewhere.

Football references are everywhere. People in both business and government are looking for a “quarterback” for leadership, and they do not want to “fumble the ball” while moving said ball “down the field.” My friend Bill Shacklett says that often.

They have a “game plan” for success, reaching their goal and, naturally, scoring a touchdown.

If something happens during this game plan that either insures success or destroys the plan then that something is called a “game changer.” For instance, if the quarterback breaks his ankle – that’s a definite game changer.

Naturally, if you see success slipping away then you could attempt a desperate “Hail Mary.”

If you’ve been cheated or tricked in your efforts for success, this is a “low blow.” Your early efforts toward your goal can be named for rounds – Round 1 or 2 for instance. Your final action that gained success is the “knockout punch.” These are all boxing terms, of course.

Easy questions are “softballs,” and when you absolutely know the answer or action to be taken it’s a “slam dunk.” If you have no idea what to answer or do, then you are “behind the eight ball.”

If you do everything correctly and in order with no mishaps, then you have “run the table.” This is a billiard term.

A remark that a person is “out of bounds” generally means they made a remark or did something totally unacceptable or at least questionable. This is a golf term or perhaps football, basketball or soccer.

Baseball has been with us since the Civil War, so it is full of terms we use daily.

Strangely it has no “out of bounds.” It has something even better. If a person does the wrong thing virtually every day they could be described as a “foul ball.” I’ll bet there’s a “foul ball” in your family, work place or daily life.

If a person is a foul ball they will often be described as “out in left field.” There is at least one foul ball or someone in left field in every workplace, classroom, family or office and on every team. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

If there’s a big challenge, I hope someone “steps up to the plate” and “knocks it out of the park.” Terrific success is a “home run.” If you do hit a home run, be sure and “touch all the bases” on your way home.

I’ve barely scratched the surface here. There are dozens more.

E-mail me any others you happen to hear this week. Come on. Be a “team player.”
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