April 08, 2008

#01-095: Sports Idioms - Part II: Football

one football player is crouched behind another; the first is reaching between the legs of the second, about to receive the ball being "hiked" by him
A quarterback is about to receive the ball.

Note: This column and three others (#01-094, #01-096, and #01-097) were written as the Olympic Torch toured the world in 2008. It seemed fitting to look at some sports-inspired idioms at that time.

Get Ready: Have you ever watched a game of American football? What can you say about it?

Continuing from Lesson #01-094, let's discuss some idioms from football that don't use the word "ball."

Read the conversation. Then do the Practice and, after checking your Answers in the first comment below, read the Explanations.

Andy and Gabriela are discussing the new project:

Andy: Hey, Gabby, how's the new project going?

Gabriela: Great! The kick-off was a huge success, and we're pretty sure the whole thing's going to score a touchdown.

Andy: That's good to hear. How's Tony doing?

Gabriela: Oh, haven't you heard? He's been sidelined. He's out with a bad back.

Andy: That's too bad. Do you have enough staff to hold the line?

Gabriela: No problem. Bob stepped in as quarterback, and the rest of the team has huddled up and is running interference.

Andy: Excellent!

Gabriela: You know, a couple of members of another team have tried to be Monday morning quarterbacks, but we tackled that problem right away.

Andy: Good thinking.

Gabriela: Yeah, no one's going to do an end run around our guys!

Watch for more sports idioms in the next lessons.


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_football

Practice: Match the term to its definition below. After checking your Answers in the first comment, read the Explanations below.

  1. end run
  2. hold the line
  3. huddle
  4. kick-off
  5. Monday morning quarterback
  6. quarterback
  7. run interference
  8. score a touchdown
  9. sidelined
  10. tackle

  1. the beginning of something
  2. to take on a task, often solving a problem
  3. to achieve a goal
  4. someone who "second-guesses" others after they've acted
  5. to keep something from being disrupted or broken
  6. to gather with a small group to make a plan
  7. to prevent someone or something from being distracted or stopped
  8. the team leader, who directs the team member
  9. to be forced to stop participating
  10. to do something unexpected

Answers are in the first comment below.

Explanations of the Answers: After you check your Answers in the first comment below, read on for more information on these idioms.

  • end run: At the beginning of a play, the two teams line up facing each other. The quarterback (see below) will usually throw the ball over both lines, to one of his teammates who has run out to catch it. Sometimes, however, he takes the ball himself and runs around the end of the lines and toward the goal. This unexpected move is called an "end run." So to "do an end run around something" means to do the unexpected, to avoid direct conflict, etc. "Alex was supposed to clear everything with HR, but he did an end run around procedure and made all the decisions himself."
  • to hold the line: A team's line of players tries to keep the quarterback from being tackled before he can pass the ball. The job of these players is to "hold the line" against the other team. In business, you could hear a department manager say, "We need to hold the line on costs or we will go over budget this quarter."
  • huddle: Before a play, the team gathers in a tight circle to receive instructions or make a plan. This is called "a huddle." It can also be a verb, sometimes with "together" or "up." So a manager could say, "Susan, huddle up with the accounting department and set your budget for next year."
  • kick-off: A football game begins when one team kicks the ball toward the other. So the "kick-off" is the beginning of the game, and can be used for any other enterprise. Without the hyphen, it can also be a phrasal verb: "The kick-off of the new ad campaign will be tomorrow" or "We will kick off the new ad campaign tomorrow."
  • Monday morning quarterback: Assume that a game is played on a Sunday afternoon. You can imagine, then, what a "Monday morning quarterback" does: He "second-guesses" others after they've acted. If someone says, "I knew the sales team was on the wrong track; no wonder they failed," a suitable response might be, "Oh, sure, it's easy to be a Monday morning quarterback. Why didn't you make your suggestions before they failed?"
  • quarterback: The quarterback determines the plays and directs the other players. He is like the captain. We can use this label, then, for any kind of manager or team leader. It can also be a verb: "Chris, I want you to quarterback the new ad campaign."
  • run interference: When a football player catches the ball and runs down the field with it, other members of the team may run near him and protect him from the other team's players trying to stop him. They are said to be "running interference" for him, keeping him from being stopped or distracted from his goal. So a manager might say, "Janice, we want you to take care of our PR problem. Paul, you run interference for her with the press."
  • score a touchdown: In football, this is the goal: to cross the line at the end of the field and score a "touchdown." So we use this to describe success in any endeavor: "Our new ad campaign has really scored a touchdown."
  • sidelined: The lines painted on the sides of a football field are called "the sidelines." The coaches, media, and team members who are not currently playing all wait "on the sidelines." Sometimes, a player is forced to stop playing, by an injury or other problem. We say, then, that he has been "sidelined." In business, we might say, "The launch of the new product has been sidelined until we can raise more capital for manufacturing."
  • tackle: The players on the opposing team try to stop the man with the ball by knocking him down. We say that the other players "tackle him." "To tackle" means to attack, or deal with, or simply do a task. So you might hear, "We are going to need someone to tackle the problem."

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for April 8, 2008, as China prepared for the Beijing Olympics.

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. j; 2. e; 3. f; 4. a; 5. d; 6. h; 7. g; 8. c; 9. i; 10. b