By Patrick Hruby
Special to Page 2

Page 2 presents 10 of the hoariest sports clichés, presented in a conveniently clichéd top 10 format:

1) "Playing within himself"

Usually employed to describe a player who makes the most of limited abilities (or is particularly adept at limiting his liabilities), this curious phrase raises a host of odd metaphysical possibilities. With enough meditation and/or psychedelic drug intake, could an athlete play outside himself? Could he even play without himself altogether? (Note: not to be confused with the grabbing, tugging and adjusting so common to Major League Baseball, and/or David Cone's alleged dugout activities.)

2) "Making plays"

More Clichés
Haven't had your fill of sports clichés yet today? Then check out Jim Caple's piece on the origins of some of the most famous ones.
Er, what else would the athlete in question be making? A patchwork quilt? A mushroom-and-brie omelet? Like the all-too-common "What a beautiful golf shot," "Making plays" offers a heapin' helping of empty verbal calories, belaboring the obvious the way a hammer belabors a nail. Closely related to "Upright runner," "Limping noticeably," "Good call by the official" and "This is a football game."

3) "Good pitching beats good hitting"

Yes. Yes it does. If good pitching didn't beat good hitting, it wouldn't be good pitching in the first place. It would be lousy pitching. By definition. (See also: "Good defense beats good offense," "The ground can't cause a fumble.")

Samuel Peter & Jeremy Williams
Now that's a knock-out punch!

4) "Knock-out punch"

Entirely proper when employed in a boxing context, but seldom limited to pugilism. The "Knock-out punch" is usually applied after a team spends some time "Up against the ropes," although some opponents will "Try to land one early." A bastard stepbrother of golf-to-football cross-overs "Chip shot" and "Teeing off."

5) "It's a physical game"

Funny, we thought the helmets and shoulder pads were just for show. You mean you won't be playing Chutes and Ladders at the 50-yard line? Athletes involved in "Physical games" should bring appropriate ID, because they likely are participating in "A man's game" as well.

6) "We didn't focus"

A recent addition to the ever-growing family of euphemisms for "We played like a steaming pile of canine excrement." Perhaps LASIK eye surgery is in order. "We didn't focus" owns a time-share with "We came out flat" (but looked strangely three-dimensional), "We weren't mentally prepared," "We didn't come ready to play," "We didn't maintain our intensity for 48 minutes/4 quarters," and "They just wanted it more" (no, really?).

7) "He knows what it takes to win"

And so do the rest of us: scoring more points than the opposition. Ahem. Often paired with the "Intangibles" of "A proven winner," "Knowing what it takes to win" feebly attempts to endow a kind of mystical inner wisdom to championship athletes, as if this wisdom alone -- and not talent, performance or the second-highest payroll in baseball -- is what sets them apart. Athletes who "Know what it takes to win" can usually "Take over a game at any time," but understand "When to let the game come to them."

8) "Giving 110 percent"

Peyton Manning
Dr. Manning has been dissecting defenses all season long.

If, by definition, one can give a maximum effort of 100 percent, then giving 110 percent is mathematically impossible. However, if giving over 100 percent is indeed doable, then giving a mere 110 percent seems somewhat halfhearted. Why not 210 percent? Tom Coughlin would expect nothing less. In its free time, "110 percent" hangs out with "Coming out of nowhere" (a black hole, perhaps?), "Playing bigger than your size" (is Earl Boykins on stilts?) and "Being a north-south runner" (pick a direction, for God's sake -- you can't run in two simultaneously).

9) "Putting on a clinic"

When Peyton Manning pitches a tent in the RCA Dome parking lot and hands out flu shots, he'll be "Putting on a clinic." When LeBron James screens Cavs season ticket holders for diphtheria, he'll be "Putting on a clinic." And when Dr. Jerry Buss examines something else besides the young lovelies sitting next to him, he'll be "Putting on a clinic." In the meantime, athletes are simply playing a children's game for gobs of money.

10) "Put points on the scoreboard"

Always a smart play. After all, putting points "In the backseat," "On top of the refrigerator" or "Under the Christmas tree" won't do you much good, unless your special holiday someone is a compulsive gambler.

Patrick Hruby is a sportswriter for the Washington Times.




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