7 Brilliantly Poetic Phrases Accidentally Invented by Sports
We don't talk about sports very much here at Cracked, because of the webstats that show how soft and doughy our readership is.
You pencil-necked dweebs.
Which is a little unfortunate, because sports are a pretty big deal. One of the bigger deals, as far as deal bigness is measured (calipers?). And sure, on the one hand, it's kind of depressing how much human potential goes into watching, discussing, and dreaming about other people playing games. But on the other hand, come on man. Don't be a dink.
Seriously, what is wrong with your neck?
So, in the interest of casting the sporting world in a light that Cracked's bookish audience might appreciate, I'm going to talk about words instead. Because it turns out that having millions of people all talk about a sport is a great way for creative descriptions of that sport to appear and rise to the top of our active vocabulary. When you look closely at them, there's serious poetry at work in almost every sport. So here then, for your pencil-necking pleasure, are seven of the most insanely creative bits of wordplay and poetic descriptions that appear in the world of sports.
"Hospital pass" is a term that can be used in a few sports, though I believe it's most common in rugby and Aussie rules football. It describes a pass in which the receiver is going to be unavoidably and completely smoked upon receiving the ball. If you're more conversant with American football, the same concept -- without the cool term -- shows up all the time when receivers run crossing routes, make a catch, and get obliterated microseconds later by a very heavy dude running the other way.
"And he's a little shaken up on the play."
"Hospital pass" is a surprisingly subtle term to describe something so decidedly unsubtle (catastrophic maiming). It's so good, in fact, the use of this sense of "hospital" has been repurposed by other sports; for example, in the skiing world, "hospital air" describes massive, suicidally high cliffs that skiers fling themselves off of for some reason.
To mock/attack birds, I guess?
Icing the Kicker
"Icing the kicker" is a term from American (and Canadian) football that describes the extra time outs that are called prior to an opponent attempting a high-pressure field goal. The intent of this is to force the opposing kicker to spend another minute or so standing around thinking about what he has to do.
"I can't just stop here this time. I have to keep moving my foot and kick that ball."
I like this phrase because of the twin meanings implied by "icing." The first one is simply to physically cool the kicker down, possibly to induce cramping in his delicate, baby-soft kicking muscles. During those cold January playoff games, when it's kind of dumb for 60,000 people to all be outside like that, it's hard not to take the "icing" aspect of this phrase literally.
"Please set the game clock to 0:00, because this is bullshit, and I am going home."
The second and primary meaning of the phrase is an extension of the first, implying that some kind of "mental icing" is going on, possibly to induce cramping in his delicate, baby-soft kicking brain and get the kicker to psyche himself out somehow.
"Wait a second. Life is meaningless. We're all shadows screaming into an uncaring void."
"Are ... are you going to kick the ball or just stand there reciting your high school poetry? We don't have a ton of time here."
So, a great, descriptive phrase all around, even if the tactic is basically useless.
"Chin music" is a delightful phrase that arrives to us from the exciting world of baseball. Basically, the phrase is a polite, folksy term for attempted fucking murder, specifically a fastball thrown at a batter's head.
"And with that the Sox bring on Hernandez. He's already got six stolen bases this year when pinch running
in partial-decapitation situations."
That's exaggerating a little; almost no one dies from pitches like this because that would mean something actually happened in a baseball game. The intent of this pitch is mostly psychological: it forces the batter to duck and pee a little, which flusters him for the rest of the at-bat. It can make him hesitate a fraction on the next few pitches or just coax him into stepping back a bit from the plate, leaving more room for the pitcher.
"Your honor, my client maintains that he was just trying to set the deceased up for a low slider."
"OK. When he decapitated the deceased, was he ahead in the count?"
"Well that's just baseball, then. Case dismissed."
A similar technique with similar intent is used in cricket, which, if you're unfamiliar with the sport, is sort of like a baseball game without all the hurry. It's a wonder our language isn't awash with clever phrases invented by people discussing these sports, seeing as there's nothing else to do while watching them.
A "tomato can" is a washed-up boxer, someone used by other fighters as an easy win to help pad their record. Think of the string of weak fighters Rocky fights to maintain his championship in Rocky III, if that helps.
During one of the rare moments when that franchise was still about boxing.
Like all clever metaphors, there are a few possible meanings going on here. The simple fact that cans are kind of squat and nonathletic-looking, like an overly cylindrical man, is one image we're keying on. Or the classic trope of someone using empty cans for target practice. Or, most vividly, the fact that tomato cans are prone to leaking red juice when wailed upon.
A prototypical tomato can.
A give-and-go is a fairly simple play that shows up in all sorts of sports, soccer and basketball being the most noteworthy examples. One player passes a ball to another (the give), then runs past a defender (the go) in anticipation of receiving a return pass.
"OK, no. So you both went there and no one gave. That's a go-and-go, and it's also traveling."
What makes this phrase so delightful is the alliteration and the prosody of it. It's fun just saying it; the words "give-and-go" sound like the play looks, a rapid interchange between two parties.
"No Dale, don't give the ball to the defender then go. That's ... that's something else."
An extended and very similar relative is the Spanish phrase tiki-taka, which sounds like the noises made during an hours-long version of give-and-go where a soccer team makes a never-ending series of rapid short passes to each other while the crowd claps and checks their watches.
It is admittedly impressive to see in action, but eventually one does long for kicka-the-ball-at-the-effing-goalaka.
"Hack-a-Shaq" has everything you could hope for in sports poetry. Rhyming, artfully described violence, and the cruel mockery of a man's failings. For those that don't know: Shaquille O'Neal was (and probably still is) a huge, huge man, famous for his rapping and a brief career in the NBA. In his prime, Shaq was close to undefendable, capable of essentially walking through opposing players to the basket, where he would just kind of drop it in. His one flaw (at the time; he would later develop many others) was his terrible free-throw-shooting ability. Which meant that every time he was fouled, he was likely to score less from a pair of uncontested one-point throws than he was from a contested two-point throw.
These were commonly issued to fans seated behind the backboard.
From these curious attributes, a strategy to defend against Shaq soon appeared, in which opposing teams would foul the holy bejeezus out of him every time he had the ball. "Hack-a-Shaq" was the name of the tactic, three simple words that captured the strategy in a delightful rhyme. A rhyme that was itself paralleled by the rhyme between the mockery this strategy made of the rules of the sport and the mockery it made of the man being hacked.
Don't feel too sorry for him, though. He was still responsible for horrible fouls of his own.
"Slide-rule pass" is a beautiful phrase that comes to us from the beautiful game ...
Like a symphony for all the senses.
It describes what is essentially a perfectly aimed and weighted pass, one that typically travels through a very narrow window between defenders, hitting a teammate on the run. What makes the phrase so sexy is how all of the multiple meanings embedded in "slide-rule" perfectly describe what's happening on the pitch. A slide-rule is a tool our dads used when doing calculations back in dinosaur school, which emphasizes how precisely engineered this type of pass is. Also, the "rule" part implies a laser-straight path, which is typical for slide-rule passes, as opposed to long, looping crosses or lobs. And "slide" perfectly describes the motion of the ball, gliding across the turf, slowing down in just the right place for a teammate to run on to it. Where he'll score a goal or flop to the ground or whatever.
You know. Soccer.
So that's at least three additional layers of imagery in there on top of the simple definition of "pass." That's impressive; poets could work months and years without coming up with a similarly eloquent phrase.
Should have been watching more sports, you quill-necked dweebs.
Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist and doesn't have that thick of a neck himself, if we're all being honest here. His first novel, Severance, is incredible, coming out on Dec. 9, and available for preorder on Amazon or Apex Books. Join him on Facebook or Twitter.
For more from Bucholz, check out 5 TV Moments That Caused Bizarre Real-World Consequences. And then check out 18 Sports That Are Way More Fun to Play in Space.
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