Managing Men: The Most Common Sports References Decoded

Alright, I hate to put you all on the spot here, but who can name a current head coach for the NFL? What about a quarterback? Aside from Gisele’s husband. Maybe football isn’t your game. So whose playing in the World Series? Still nothing?

I realize that plenty of women love to watch sports. My amazing grandmother would watch the Detroit Pistons play every day for the rest of her life if that was an option. (They’re a basketball team.) Personally, I think there’s nothing better than a Sunday night spent with Chris Collinsworth and Al Michaels. (They’re the commentators for Sunday Night Football.)

And it’s not just women who get stereotyped when it comes to sports. As much as people assume that women are clueless, they expect “real men” to love any athletic competition that you can come up with. Not into hockey? Not a real man. What about lacrosse? Don’t tell me that you weren’t captain of your high school lacrosse team! I simply won’t stand for it!

The fact is, some people really love sports. Others don’t. Unfortunately for those who have no idea what the Vince Lombardi trophy is, sports aficionados tend to constantly speak in sports analogies. And if you happen to work with someone who has the ESPN app, you’re bound to run in some phrases that sound a little foreign. Let’s go through the basics and hopefully you’ll be able to hit a homerun at your next meeting! P.S. Homeruns are a good thing.

The Downs of Football: Bringing you phrases like “third and long” or “going for it on fourth,” downs are a common way to describe stages of a project or the progression of time. In football, the offense has four downs to move the ball ten or more yards. Once they’ve gone ten yards, they have a new set of four downs in which to move the ball again. This is how the offense moves down the field towards the goal line. If it’s a third down and you still have a long way to go, you need a big play. So if your boss tells you that you’re in a “third and long” situation, it means that you need to come up with something dramatic and impactful. If you’re “going for it on fourth down,” then you’re in a do or die situation that needs all the extra effort you have.

Baseball Pitches: Whether it’s the fastball, curveball or changeup, plenty of people assume that everyone understands pitches and their connotations. Thankfully, the names of the pitches are normally pretty descriptive, so that should help you out. If an account throws you: a fastball – they’re trying to sneak something by you, a curveball – they’re trying to knock you off balance or challenge you, a changeup – the situation isn’t exactly as it seems.

Playing the court: Basketball references, here we go. The most common is “full court press,” which means that the defense is applying pressure, even on the opposite side of the court. In general, it means to increase your intensity. Five men play on a basketball team at one time, so the “sixth man” is the guy waiting on the bench to come in whenever he’s needed. You could also refer to this person as the back-up plan. Basketball is also the only sport where a player can “foul out,” meaning that they’ve committed too many fouls and have to be ejected from the game.

Obviously, these are just a few of the sports references out there, but hopefully they make it a little easier! If you really want to become proficient in sports-speak, I think the best advice I can give you is to tune into ESPN and ask a lot of questions to whoever happens to be around. After all, businesses operate a lot like sports teams. While learning the language, you might even pick up some new moves.

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    • Eileen

      You forget the Hail Mary pass, which is both a football reference AND a religion reference! My favorite!

      But yeah, it’s weird how much more men take you seriously because you can talk about sports shit. It doesn’t make me any better at my job(s), or any smarter, that I can discuss the depressing breakup of the Big East and why Syracuse and Pitt are a-holes who are going to get screwed over when they find out that the ACC doesn’t take you seriously if you aren’t from North or perhaps South Carolina. But you’d never know it from the way men treat me!

    • Elaine

      There are a whole bunch of golf references that find their place in business conversation too! Perhaps a follow up post?

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