Sunday, March 18, 2007

Sports Lessons from Spring Break

Cliche and Sports
In my ongoing crusade to ridicule the overuse of cliches and worn out metaphors, I asked to preserve one common cliche used in sports: "It is what it is." I can't live without "It is what it is." And after reading and re-reading some of Tennyson's poetry, I now feel justified. Check out this line from "Ulysses": "that which we are, we are;" If this cliche is good enough for the poet laureate himself in perhaps his most famous poem, it's good enough for me.

One cliche I've heard far too often lately: "throwing the baby out with the bathwater." I recently saw a movie (I think it was "For Your Consideration", but I don't remember for sure, and at any rate I don't recommend it) where a guy says then all you end up with is a wet and injured baby. I laughed and laughed, as I always do when the absurdity of a well-worn cliche is made literal. We have to come up with something better than throwing the baby out with the bathwater. How about "throw the leaves out with the stems"? Too illegal? How about "spit the seeds out before the watermelon is even cut"? OK, that makes no sense (or means something else). But there are a lot of cases where we throw out something dirty or worthless or bad while keeping something related to it or within it which is good. Can't we show some creativity and come up with our own metaphors without using this overworn cliche?

Sports Movie Recommendation
If you're looking for a great sports movie, look no further than "Beer League." My life's quest is to find a movie that makes me laugh as hard as "Dirty Work" did and does. "Dirty Work" co-writer Frank Sebastiano teams up with "Dirty Work" co-star Artie Lange to create a movie that is 1/1,000th as funny as "Dirty Work," but believe it or not, that's intended to be a compliment. The movie will make you laugh. Watch it.

UCLA basketball

The Bruins play tremendous defense, but they have the uncanny ability to force opponents into great defensive performances of their own. Believe it or not, that is somehow true and not intended to disparage the Bruins' offensive abilities. UCLA turns the games into such intense, close-played defensive games that they somehow bring the best defense out of their opponents.

And here's another sports cliche I don't like. After a low scoring defensive game some pseudo wit of a commentator will say something like "they've set the game of basketball back X years" or "offensive football was set back a few decades" or some such snide cliche. This type of commentary is stupid. First, it assumes that sports are always on the path of "progress" toward more open offense, which is not necessarily the case (check out NBA stats from the 1960s) and when it is true need not be considered progress (how does this cliche jive with the nostalgia so many commentators have for bygone eras?). Second, it assumes that the only entertainment we could take from sports would be in high scoring affairs where defenses suck and everybody just makes incredibly offensive plays. But that's not the case: if you care who wins, a great defensive game is often more fun to watch than a great offensive game. Why? Because every basket just matters so much more. Third, this cliche implicitly assumes a team's primary goal is to entertain us (which of course it is on a certain existential level), when in fact the team's primary goal of winning a game is at best indifferent to the goals of entertaining pundits.

But here UCLA is, in the Sweet 16.


  1. UCLA's pro ball equivalent is probably the San Antonio Spurs -- always yawned about as playing a boring style of basketball that emphasizes defense and team play, and it's an old, worn cliche.

  2. Anonymous11:17 PM

    I kinda have to disagree with that though - with the exception of baseball, most sports are more interesting when the score leans towards the higher end of what's usually expected.

    An 89 - 87 Maryland/UNC game is more interesting than a 49 - 48 Ohio State /Wisco snoozefest. A 38 - 20 Bears win over the Giants is more watchable than a scoreless at halftime 10 - 0 Bears victory over the Jets. A 7 - 4 hockey game is more watchable than a 2 - 0 hockey game.

    The only exception to this is baseball, because I can't imagine anyone would ever leave the stands while a no-hitter is in progress.