Readers: Sports clichés that must go
From the Page 2 mailbag

Earlier this week, Page 2 listed its choices for the 10 sports clichés that simply must go. We knew our readers would be able to come up with other annoying axioms, so we opened it up for discussion in this week's List.

We received more than 3,530 letters on the topic, and here's how you ranked the top 10 most annoying sports clichés ever uttered. These are the cream of the crop, folks. Be sure to vote in the poll at right to crown the most annoying cliché of them all.

1. "We're taking it one game at a time" (549 letters)
Enough already. Just once I'd like to hear, say, Tony La Russa admit, "Actually, we've decided to take it 16.2 games at a time and divide the season into 10 neat little chunks."
Deion Sanders
Even when Deion was juggling two sports, he still took it one game at a time.
Jesse Grauman
Washington, D.C.

OK, I'll let this go in football -- maybe -- but in the others, it's ridiculous. No one believes that the Yankees are taking the Devil Rays seriously and ignoring the upcoming Red Sox series, or that the Mavericks are focused on the Nuggets -- not the weekend swing with the Lakers and Kings. It's a boring, lazy and falsified comment.
David Pitkins
Ocala, Fla.

Oh, please! Suuure ... just like Shawn Kemp is taking one doughnut at a time and Vince Carter is straining one knee at a time ... and Rasheed Wallace is earning one technical at a time ...
Dennis Ku

So versatile and so overused!

After a blowout loss -- "We weren't on our game tonight, but we just have to take it one day at a time and put this behind us." Riding a winning streak -- "We can't get too excited about this, it is still early in the season and we are just going to take it one day at a time." Tournaments -- "I felt really good out there today, my low irons were working and my putter was on fire, but I need to take it one day at a time, there are still three more days of golf to be played." QB goes down, "He'll be out for four weeks, right now, we're just taking one at a time."
Richard Scott
Hoboken, N.J.

2. "He gave 110 percent" (368 letters)
On the stupidity scale of 1-10 ... it gets an 11.
Joe Brady
Highland, N.Y.

It reminds me of grade school when the teacher curved the test. Are some people in the sport really doing that bad, that we have to make them look 10 percent better?
Tiger Woods
OK, so maybe there is one curve breaker in the class.
Matt LaRussa
South Pasadena, Calif.

First off, it's bad math. There is mathematically no way one can ever give more than a 100 percent effort, and -- truth be told -- very few players or people in any profession give 100 percent.

Second of all, it's tired ... 110 percent is usually used with regard to the overachieving player when he has a great game. "Player X really stepped up (another cliché) and gave 110 percent (cliché) when the game was on the line (cliché)."

Roughly translated, free of clichés, the above should read:

Player X has limited skills, which is why he's normally a scrubby bench-warmer-backup, but the guy ahead of him on the depth chart is suffering from a torn hangnail, so we had to give him the start. He did, and actually shocked the hell out of us by succeeding, and now we're so gleeful we've disengaged the brain.
Avondale, Ariz.

This cliché is so overused, that I honestly think there is a huge segment of young sports fans who believe that when using percentages, 110 refers to the total amount possible. In fact, I recently heard an athlete refer to his team's 120 percent effort, likely because he didn't believe 110 percent quite encapsulated his team's superlative drive.
Brad Skafish

3. "She came to play" and variants (222 letters)
("We played our game" and "He made the plays")

I would think that everyone who showed up to compete at a scheduled game or event, as a member of the team, wearing a uniform, with their helmet/glove/whatever, did, in fact, come to play the game. As opposed to showing up in order to buy a set of snow tires, or spend the afternoon baking a broccoli soufflé. Sheer stupidity.
John Counts
Hayward, Calif.

"We need to make plays." Hmm, and what else ... score runs, limit turnovers ... So glad that four years of free education helped you think of that!!
Ken Sylvia
Newark, Del.

When asked about their objectives, a player answers, "We just got to play our game." How ambiguous of a statement is that?? This is slang-talk for "I don't know, I have no plan, I'm just going to wing it." What a complete waste.
Fargo, N.D.

"Play our game" ... you ever think one week the Bengals might finally say, "Hey, let's try being the Niners today."
Jeff Hawkins
Sherman Oaks, Calif.

For the love of God, please levy a hefty fine on anyone using these mind-numbing clichés again! These are games ... players play games ... players who show up to play games automatically have come to play games. Announcers may as well state a whole raft of other obvious things, "All of these players are breathing right now, Jim." "Yup, these guys sure are moving around on the field!" "Did you see that one guy run after that other guy?!? He's moving his limbs today."

Please, please, please make it stop.
Craig Liebendorfer

4. "Play within ourselves" (158 letters)
Is there anything more ghastly that "We have to learn to play within ourselves." What kind of Zen-modified introspective nonsense like this has a place on the field or the court? Does it mean "we won't try to do anything we're not capable of," like the Knicks trying to win 30 games this year?

Phil Jackson
Maybe PJ can grasp this Zen-like reflexive.
This phrase is mostly used in basketball, a cousin to its football counterpart "We just tried to take what the defense gave us." An equally comical statement often uttered by a coach who just won by 35 over a cupcake (see Bill Snyder).
Ernest Fagan
San Diego

Umm ... OK, how can you not play within yourself? We talking about some remote control car rally here? Makes no sense.
Mike Cardillo
Fairfield, Conn.

"Play within ourselves." What the heck does that even mean? Not only is it overused, it doesn't even make sense. What's the alternative? Play without ourselves? Play outside of ourselves?
Jeffrey Staggs

5. "Take it to the next level" (130 letters)
Do you get a different colored belt at this next level? Are the players at this level older/taller like happened in pee-wee leagues? Ugh. Possibly the most prevalent and annoying cliché out there. What, you weren't trying to win before, but now you are? Thanks (insert athlete name here), what are you, Randy Moss?

I'd love to see an announcer bludgeon the next athlete who uses that phrase with the microphone.

Does that refer to skyboxes or some sort of seating arrangement? It is meaningless!
Jim Townsend
Rochester, N.Y.

I think it means that someone has been performing at their best ... so, now he's going to perform even better ... but wasn't that just his best? Excuse me, but that is what we call flawed logic, because -- it does not make sense! Please help stop the use of this incredible piece of overused misunderstanding.
Steve Stueve
Reston, Va.

6. "Step it up" (121 letters)
This one definitely has to go. What's worse is that it is not resigned for sports either. People step up in relationships, in the office, at family picnics, heck, one of the Road Rulers step it up at least once a show. By far the most overused cliché ever.
Columbia, Mo.

Step up to what? The bar? Maybe he already did, and that's why his team is in this situation, in the first place.
David Flynn

I've never understood, "he has to step up now." Would we be in this current predicament if he would have stepped up before? Would it count if everybody on the other team just stepped down? Does he specifically have to step up, or will it be OK if somebody else on the team stepped up? Until these questions are answered, I think the phrase should be suspended indefinitely.
Brad S.
Brooklyn, N.Y.

7. "Tremendous upside" (91 letters)
"He has tremendous upside." Translation: "Who knows what this kid is going to do?"
Shawn Kemp
Shawn Kemp's upside has been overshadowed by his tremendous backside.
Charleston, S.C.

Shawn Kemp had a tremendous upside coming out of junior college, these days ... all he has is unlimited backside.
Josh Millman
Springfield, N.J.

"He has tremendous upside." Yeah, yeah, yeah. The guy is pretty lousy now, but we believe he will be good because he is big, fast and strong. When Shaun King was winning in Tampa Bay with little or no talent, no one said, "He's doing well, but eventually he'll be reduced to a third-stringer because of his tremendous downside."
Phil Soto-Ortiz
Fairfield, Conn.

8. "They just wanted it more" (74 letters)
So, mere desire is now (1) measurable, and (2) dictating outcomes. Practice should now be replaced with desire seminars. Have you ever seen a commentator note that the winning team that wanted it less?
K. Doherty

Just because you want something more than the other guy, you're gonna get it now, huh?

If Shaq and I go up for a rebound, and I want that rebound with all of my heart, and Shaq couldn't care less if he got it ...

"They just wanted it more than we did." Translation: "We, as highly paid and highly regarded athletes, decided to take the day off."
Dale Wisniewski
Grafton, Wis.

9. "He's got great work ethic" (50 letters)
Can't top the B.S. here! I can assure you, if we all made millions for playing a game -- we'd all have a great work ethic, too!
Pete Rose
Charlie Hustle had a great work ethic ...
A. Taylor
New York

Yes, they are amazing athletes, and what they do is an incredible testament to how far the human body can be pushed. But at the end of the day, what they do, regardless of how incredible it is or how hard they work, is for entertainment. Countless "real people" work just as hard, if not harder, for much less. A "great work ethic" that allows you to make millions for a game doesn't even compare, and never will.
Liothar Joneson
Durham, N.C.

The "work ethic" cliché is always trotted out when the athlete or team does not appear to "look good on paper" or "did not run well at the combine." Another classic synonym for the "work ethic" cliché is the "blue collar" or "lunch bucket" allusion. Comparing running around a field for three hours to a blue collar job ... what a joke!
Dan Nicholson
Littleton, Colo.

10. "World champions" and variants (47 letters)
Do major U.S.-based sports leagues realize that they do not play teams outside of North America?
Brazil is the only legit world champion.
Andy Etter
Glen Mills, Pa.

U.S. professional sports leagues must stop claiming they hold "world championships!" New England is the NFL champion. Arsenal is the English Premier League champion. Brazil is soccer's world champion because it won a legitimate world competition -- the World Cup. And you wonder why Americans are disliked?
Bob Miller
Hamilton, Ontario

Dishonorable mention

  • "Backs against the wall"
  • "They must generate/execute"
  • "Making a statement/Sending a message"
  • "They just know how to win"
  • "Demonstrates great athleticism"
  • "God was on our side today"
  • "Tremendous piece of hitting"
  • "Overcame adversity"
  • "A must-win ballgame"
  • "No one gave us a chance/No respect"


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