16 May 2005

a host of shifting sports metaphors

I recently discussed the "get untracked" construction, noting its use by King Clancy and speculating about when the phrase may have been adopted from the baseball subculture by the hockey subculture. I also labeled it as a peripheral construction that marks the discourse of sports media.

A bunch of examples have popped up in the last 24 hours of similar constructions passing in and out of sport, as well as across sports, and I outline them here.

Final Four/Drop the gloves: The winner of Survivor Palau mentioned in one of the final tribal councils that his plan for the game had been to help a select few teammates along to the final four, at which point they would drop the gloves and duke it out. "Drop the gloves" is a hockey-specific phrase that refers to part of the ritual that precedes an on-ice fight. Of course it was not meant literally in Survivor's context, but the example indicates a metaphorical non-sport non-fighting usage for the construction. Meanwhile, "Final four" (apparently of a March Madness origin) seems to be a pervasive way of saying almost-last-man-standing, even in a format (like Survivor) that does not use a 2 by 2 semifinal elimination.

Hat Trick/Triple Crown: The Czech win in the ice hockey world championships has given several players a world championship to add to their Olympic gold and Stanley Cup victories. This story uses both "Triple Crown" and "Hat Trick" to describe this rare collocation.

"Hat Trick" evidently has its origins in cricket, and in its extention to soccer and hockey, it has come to mean an achievement in which a player scores 3 goals in one game. Hockey also has the rare "natural hat trick" (three unanswered goals) and the even rarer "team hat trick", a series of three consecutive championships. Such a string of wins is known elsewhere as a three-peat; I have been able to locate lots of discussions of -peats up to nine-peat. Above that, the search gets side tracked with discussions of "ten peat samples", but I found a seventeen-peat:

Repeat is no problem here; three-peat certainly makes sense; four-peat begins pushing it; seventeen-peat begins to knock on absurdity's door.

As for "triple crown" in hockey, I'm not sure if I've heard it applied this way before, but I know the list of people with those three pieces of hardware is very short. (I also find it absurd that Jagr would be called the 15th player to achieve it while Slegr would be 16th!)

Unlike the newish application of "Triple Crown" to hockey, other uses of it require the wins to occur in the same season. A same-year triple-crown in hockey is logically impossible, given that the IHWC normally coincides with the first several rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs. (and if the scheduling were different, it's still physiologically highly unlikely, given the combined grueling effects of a regular season, 2 international tournaments, and 4 best-of-7 playoff rounds that a player would need to complete a same-year triple crown).

I'm guessing "Triple Crown" started with a combination of wins at the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont. I've also heard it applied (oddly) to golf, in reference to a win in the US Open, British Open, and Canadian Open.

The multiple-winner phrase more familiar in golf is the Grand Slam, a combination of the US Open, Masters, British Open, and (ack, I forget ... PGA championship?). The same phrase applies in tennis, as a combination of wins at the US Open, French Open, Australian Open, and Wimbledon. Both extend the "four-at-once" notion of a baseball grand slam (home run with the bases loaded; so 1 h and 4 rbi), and both require the same-year restriction for their use. [Update July 8 2006: Little did I know that Grand Slam has older roots in bridge. See here for speculation that its trajectory took it from bridge through baseball to golf and tennis.]

A same-year championship in English soccer is a league double: a team needs to win both the Premiership and the FA Cup. Manchester United once won a triple: a double plus a victory in the pan-European Champion's league. We'll see if either usage makes it into another sport.


Post a Comment

<< Home