Anyone who has written an English essay knows what I’m talking about. Just when you think you’re sprucing up your writing a bit, spicing up the diction, that dreaded correction comes back: “cliché.” As the king of clichés, I would know.
Defined in the dictionary, cliché is “a trite phrase.” Clichéd terms are no longer the witty little quips that they were intended to be. They have now been transformed into merely annoying phrases.
However, in sports, certain clichés are not only tolerable, they are absolutely essential to any type of athletic coverage. At the risk of criticism from people who are well-versed to this type of classification, I will call them mini-analogies.
One example of a bad cliché is: “he is really stepping it up.” While an example of a mini-analogy is “they’re really behind the eight ball.” The first phrase brings nothing to the table, because you have no idea what the subject is stepping up to, while the second phrase alludes to a scenario that people can relate to and better understand.
There are two main culprits of the bad clichés: coaches during post-game interviews and ex-players turned color commentators struggling to come up with something to say. The former will utter things like “we really came together as a team,” — an empty phrases that states the obvious. Commentators manage to be plain obnoxious as they usually say things that do not even state the obvious, but rather mean nothing at all. For example, “No question about it,” or “He’s a team player, a real intangibles guy.” If there’s no question about it, then there’s no need to say anything, and what exactly are these intangibles that you are referring to?
My appreciation for the differences in the two types of sports clichés is like night and day. The post-game coach interview variety should be abolished, while the sparsely used mini-analogy should be incorporated into all types of writing.
The next time I write like an author of the Romantic period, it may go something like this: “As I contemplate my emotions on this dark and dreary cliff, the wallowing clouds sweep over my burdens, driving the depressing spirits of my soul out into the lonely wilderness.” This is the perfect point to insert a sports mini-analogy: “I feel the wind being taken out of my sails.”
Using the right sports analogies shows a type of familiarity not only with American language, but American culture. Sports is such an essential part of everyday society that not knowing what a sports phrase meant would really be leading with your chin, and definitely not be covering all your bases.
Take the plunge, step up to the plate and come through in the clutch. As long as you don’t just take it one game at a time, or fail to execute.