A simple definition of “cliché” would be “an overused phrase that has become commonplace.” So commonplace, in fact, that clichés fringe at times on being annoying.
In the sports world, clichés are used far too frequently by writers and broadcasters alike. I am guilty of using them in my own work, and so are the best and most revered professionals in the journalism business.
This occurs because coaches, from the professional level to the collegiate level and downward, love them. It’s a simple way to provide the writer or broadcaster a trite and simple answer without explaining the situation in too much detail.
Accept the list below as some of the worst sports clichés, and next time you see them in a newspaper or online, or hear them during a telecast, ask how they could have been said differently. This list is definitely the “best of the best” and the “cream of the crop.” I am not “pulling any punches.”
“We’re taking it one game a time.” No kidding. This is quite possibly the most overused of them all. This is certainly believable, but it’s about as boring as it gets. We understand you’re taking it one game a time. That’s your job as a coach and athlete. Thank you.
“He/she/they gave 110 percent (or higher.)” Now I am not a mathematician nor have I ever played one on TV, but I know enough about math to know that’s physically impossible. If an athlete isn’t giving his/her/their all-out effort every time on the court or field of play, he/she/they shouldn’t be playing, anyway.
“Take it to the next level/step it up.” That is perfectly acceptable when discussing a Triple-A baseball player’s first-ever trip up to the major leagues (see Jay Bruce). But on the same playing field, it’s unnecessary and meaningless. By the way, since when did a single game have levels?
“They just wanted it more.” Really? Did the losing team want it less? The goal of any sports game or match is to win. Each team should want to win that game equally as much. Not only is this cliché dumb, it is B.S. as well. Just tell the truth and say the other team played better, that it was better prepared and/or executed better.
“This is a must-win game.” All games should be and are must-win. The point of sports is to win. Certainly games become more ‘must-win’ situations come playoff time, but again there should be no reason to not view every game as such. Sports become a game of great mindset, and if an athlete isn’t viewing each game with this mindset, he/she has already lost before playing.
There are several more that I won’t get into here. Watch “Bull Durham” for further clarification on why athletes give clichés to sportswriters. Kevin Costner (as Crash Davis) explains it well to young pitcher Tim Robbins, known affectionally as “Nuke,” as seen below.
Crash Davis: It’s time to work on your interviews.
Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh: My interviews? What do I gotta do?
Crash Davis: You’re gonna have to learn your clichés. You’re gonna have to study them, you’re gonna have to know them. They’re your friends. Write this down: “We gotta play it one day at a time.”
Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh: Got to play… it’s pretty boring.
Crash Davis: ‘Course it’s boring, that’s the point. Write it down.
As Dr. Don R. Powell, licensed psychologist and president of the American Institute for Preventive Medicine, best puts it: “We have a love/hate relationship with cliches. Although we complain about them, we are enamored with them. That’s because they always seem to fit.”