Stop me if you’ve heard this before: “We just gotta take it one game at a time, play our game, and have a do-or-die attitude the next time we play…”
You probably wanted to yell “HALT!” about a quarter second after “We,” because EVERYBODY has heard these types of statements. Clichés like these are standard fare at every sporting event, fed to us by coaches and players who seem almost programmed to mindlessly sputter out canned nonsense like this in post-game interviews.
Very often, they’ll be talking about the mental aspects of the sport, things that supposedly offer insight into the team’s mindset…but in fact, are just babble. Here are six of the most overused phrases used to describe the mental game in sports:
Of all clichés, this one is probably the most useless—and ridiculous. Why? Because by definition, IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO PLAY A SPORT ANY OTHER WAY. Have you ever heard of a team playing two games at a time? No. I eagerly await the day when a sarcastic coach steps to the microphone and says, "we are focusing on four games at a time," or when a golfer mouths off and says, "Maybe I didn’t shoot so well because I was focused on playing six holes at a time."
OK, dude, let’s settle down here. No one is actually going to DIE if your team loses. Some of the players may feel like they want to die, but at no point will a squad of blackshirts pull up outside your house if you get swept in the NLCS. This cliché is not only grandiose, it’s counterproductive, because it places undue and unnecessary pressure on athletes.
This one refers to those times when a player from an opposing team runs his mouth during the week leading up to a game, and it supposedly gets your team fired up to go out and kick butt. Why? Because coaches post clips of the chatterbox’s remarks in the locker room. Stories like these are overplayed, but there is evidence that this motivational technique actually works because it channels a team's focus. By drawing attention to the real possibility of losing, locker room material can help athletes feel more driven to do what it takes to win.
While emotional momentum can seem to affect performance in a game, no one will be longboarding on it. The “wave” is just a hackneyed way that announcers say a team is playing with confidence and belief.
Lots of fans cringe when they hear this, and with good reason: With all of the war, strife and starvation going on in the world, it would seem petty for the Creator to use divine intervention to determine the outcome of the Bears-Packers game. I like to think that when athletes thank God, they’re actually just professing their faith and gratitude. They’re not saying that the Holy Spirit guided their buzzer-beating shot into the hoop; they’re just showing appreciation for the gifts of opportunity and ability with which they’ve been so richly blessed. Otherwise, I’m gonna throw up.
Every time I hear someone use this phrase as a way of saying they’re “buying into the system,” I wonder: Do people even realize that this quote refers to the mass suicide at the Jonestown massacre? Yeah, great, Randy Moss is learning to play by Bill Belichick’s team rules. That’s totally just like 900 people killing themselves and their children in the Guyanese jungle. Although the phrase gets the point across, it’s in exceptionally poor taste.