10 Things: Sports jargon

Sports have a weird and wonderful vocabulary of their own. In this edition of 10 Things, we aim to clarify some of the funkiest and most famous phrases in the world of sports. 



CAN OF CORN— This refers to an easy-to-catch ball hit high into the outfield. There are two possible explanations for this phrase. The first is that nineteenth-century grocers would knock down cans from the highest shelves with a hook for an easy catch in their aprons. The other is that corn was the best selling vegetable, stocked on the lower shelves and thus the easiest canned good to ‘catch.’


CATBIRD SEAT­— This is an ideal situation for a batter during which the bases are loaded and there are no strikes nor outs to the batting sides’ name.  A catbird seeks out the highest point in a tree to sing, and the batter can likewise be seen to be on top of the world in these situations.




HAIL MARY— The most iconic play in American Football is when a desperate quarterback throws the ball deep into the end zone in hopes of a game-changing touchdown late in the game. Roger Staubach of the Dallas Cowboys popularized the name in 1975. After a game-winning touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings he said, “I closed my eyes and said a ‘Hail Mary.’”


BUMP AND RUN— A defensive technique used by defensive backs who are trying to slow down receivers at the line of scrimmage. It’s designed to initiate contact with the receiver in order to throw him off of his intended running route. This is also a car-theft technique, where one robber draws a driver from the car so that an accomplice can drive off with it.



TOSSING UP BRICKS—  Shooting the ball in such a manner that it clangs hard off the backboard. It is usually used as an insult to someone who is shooting poorly or has an unpleasant shooting motion. If a basketball player is continuing to miss shots, then he or she can be said to have laid enough bricks to build a house.


THE CHARITY STRIPE— Legendary sportscaster Chick Hearn coined the phrase ‘the charity stripe’ to denote the free-throw line in basketball. When players step up to the free throw line, there is no one from the opposing team actively trying to stop them from scoring. Hence, it is deemed that they are given a charitable opportunity to score the basketball.



BUTTERFLY—  A goaltending technique where the goalie falls to his or her knees with legs splayed out and arms wide, like the wings of its insect namesake. This allows the goalie to maximize coverage of the net, and to stop the puck with any part of the body. It was pioneered by Glenn Hall, who played 14 nerve-wracking NHL seasons before finally putting on a goalie mask.


GORDIE HOWE HAT TRICK— Named after one of the all-time great hockey players, Gordie Howe, who won four Stanley Cup Championships and six Hart Trophies as MVP. Howe was known to be as tough as he was talented—fittingly, this feat involves scoring a goal, notching an assist and getting into a fight, all in the same game.



PARKING THE BUS— This is when a team sets up all of its players in a defensive position in front of goal. Thus it is almost impossible for the opposition to score as the defenders take up so much space that it is as if they were a bus taking up parking spots.


GETTING BOOKED—  When a player receives either a yellow or red card for a particularly bad infraction. The former is a warning that can lead to a sending off, the latter is an immediate sending off. The referee then notes the foul down in his or her notebook, hence the phrase.

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