07 July 2005

hat trick or triple crown?

A few weeks ago I posted about the lexicon of pro sports, especially with respect to terms crossing from one sport to another. Coverage of Roger Federer's recent win at Wimbledon (his third straight victory in that tournament) illustrates two such crossovers:

From the Toronto Sun: Triple Crown Federer

First, I was surprised to see both outfits using some sort of metaphorical crossover. Curious, I checked around some more, and could not find another example (for the same event, the Wimbledon final) in a brief but geographically dispersed sample:

From AP via Yahoo: Federer makes it three in a row at Wimbledon. The story mentions "three straight" and "three consecutive," but no tricks or crowns.
NY Times: Federer (Yawn) Wins at Wimbledon Again (uh, unpatriotic my ass ... see if they suggest yawning when Roddick gets three in a row)
LA Times: Federer Shows He's Unmatched
Boston Globe: Federer ably protects his Wimbledon turf
Globe and Mail: Federer wins third straight Wimbledon title

Second, I'm struck at the usages. "Hat trick" seems to be widely known enough that it can apply in any setting, sports or otherwise, to refer to three-at-once. You could have a hat trick of exams, or of hamburgers, or of Survivor challenges. Regardless, it seems to refer to three of the same thing. In this light, its usage by CBC to refer to a third consecutive title in the same tournament is highly compliant with this sense of the phrase (especially in light of the "team hat trick").

In contrast (and maybe I'm thinking too much about it here) the phrase "triple crown" does not seem appropriate. Every usage I've seen so far suggests its use refers to a collocation of three different things - three different horse races, or three different tournaments. Not the same tournament three times. So I guess I need to file this away as an expansion of the phrase's possible reference, or as a reminder not to take anything in any Toronto and/or Sun paper too seriously.

I'm kind of leaning to the latter, imagining a situation in which either a writer, editor, or layout guy is aware of the threeness of the feat, and that it's Wimbledon, and English, so royal, and crown-worthy, so let's call it a Triple Crown. (Even though there's no crown involved - I think they win a plate).

But to be fair, I think the "three-of-same" vs. "three-of-different" contrast for hat trick vs triple crown is not so clear. In the post I link to above, I mention how "hat trick" has been used to refer to a collocation of three different tournament championships. Another such example is the "Gordie Howe hat trick", an event in which a player is credited with a goal, an assist, and a fight in the same hockey game. And I doubt Howe was the first player to acquire such a distinction.


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