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Monday, November 11, 2002
Updated: November 15, 3:32 PM ET
The List: Sports clichés that must go

Page 2 staff

This week Page 2 posts our list of 10 sports clichés that simply must go. We know our readers are hard-nosed veterans, who can flat out play ... this one is ours to lose.

Darius Miles, Clifford Robinson
Even if Yao Ming played against Darius Miles and the Cavs, a billion people in China wouldn't care.
Check out our top 10 and then see how the readers ranked the clichés that should be banned from locker room postgames and press boxes everywhere. Their comments really helped this list turn the corner.

1. "Shock the world" (recent variant: "Surprise the world")
When the Cavs beat the Lakers last week, Darius Miles said, "We're going to put on a show every night. We're going to surprise the world.''

Shopkeeper in London: "Can you believe what a show the Cavaliers are putting on every night?"

Visitor from Nairobi: "Believe me, I'm surprised, as are most people in Kenya, and, from what I hear, people the world over."

Note to players, broadcasters, and sportswriters: Most of the world isn't aware, and doesn't care.

2. "He's got to step up now" (variant: "Somebody else has to step up now")
We've been keeping track of "step up," or trying to -- its use is so common that we stopped counting at, about, a zillion. Example: "Here's the problem for Florida, Taylor Jacob's not on the field, so somebody else has to step up on this third-down situation." Duh.

Pete Rose
Charlie Hustle had a great work ethic ...
3. "He's got a great work ethic"
An insult to factory workers, farmers, coal miners, small businessmen and millions of others who bust their butts every day just to make ends meet.

Most of the hundreds of athletes to whom a great "work ethic" has been attributed devote almost their entire lives to sports, and if they're pros, they can afford to. We know that most pro athletes have worked very, very hard to get to where they are, and work very, very hard to stay there. But in the end, they're playing a game, and making millions for it.

We understand the appeal of this idea goes back to our Puritan forefathers, but hearing over and over again about the work ethic of overpaid athletes is almost (but not quite) as sickening as hearing about how hard (name your celeb actor/actress here) "works."

4. "You can feel the electricity ... "
This usually means the sportscaster uttering the phrase has been given multiple shocks by his producer, telling him to shut the heck up and let listeners hear the crowd roar. He can feel the electricity.

Vincent Lecavalier
Tampa Bay is unlikely to tinker with its current makeup.
5. "They have to generate some offense"
Yes, we know. Teams have to score to win. But here's a question: Can you "generate some defense"?

6. "Statistics can be misleading"
Real meaning: "It doesn't make sense that this team is winning (or losing). But I can't tell you why." Usually followed by comments about "team chemistry" and "work ethic."

7. "They know how to win" (Variant: "He knows what it takes to win")
This one has always been a puzzler. It means, simply, they've won in the past. The Yankees "know how to win." But this year they lost in the first round of the playoffs. Next year, will someone please say, "They know how to lose"? Also: Is it ever possible for a team to "know how to win," but still be losers, simply because they don't have the talent?

8. "They have to come together as a team"
Usually uttered, sans real analysis, when a team isn't playing well for many different reasons.

Angelina Jolie, Billy Bob Thornton
As Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton showed, great chemistry will get you a vial of blood and a regrettable tattoo.
9. "They've got great team chemistry" (see also: "the intangibles")
Almost always applied to underdogs, post-facto their winning season (example: Anaheim Angels). No evidence whatsoever that, if such a thing exists, it makes much of a difference. Example a: The 23+1+1 Giants had mediocre-to-sucky chemistry, but made it to Game 7 of the World Series Example b: Tinker and Evers hated each other's guts, but turned the best double play in the game. Example c: Billy Bob and Angelina had great chemistry, but we know how that turned out.

10. "You can't say enough about him"
Real meaning: "I've already said as much as I know about him, and repeated it many times over. Now my producer is telling me to shut up."

Also receiving votes:
  • "Giving 110 percent"
  • "They're finally getting the respect they deserve"
  • "Everybody's on the same page"