They came to play. Well, what else would they have come for, to show off their needlepoint collection? To exchange recipes?
My addiction to professional sports is limited to watching the Boston Celtics in basketball, the Oakland Raiders in football and whoever is playing in the world series.
During the time I’ve fed this addiction, I’ve acquired quite an arsenal of sports clichés, metaphors that describe things that are not. But first, a mini-English lesson:
A metaphor, as my English teacher used to say, “is an impossible comparison.” Calling a man a tiger or a woman a cougar is using a metaphor. If you say they merely act like tigers and cougars, well, you’re using a simile. But that’s a topic for another column.
Unfortunately, too many people think of sports as real life, and the clichés that sportscasters and sportswriters conjure up make the creators seem as if sports were all that mattered. And to some it is.
In an old episode of “Alice,” a sit-com starring Polly Holiday as Flo and Linda Lavin as Alice, their boss, diner-owner Mel, asked an orchestra leader if he would play, “Dropkick me, Jesus, through the goalpost of life.”
Now waaiiitt a minute. I don’t intend to be sacrilegious, merely to identify an actual song with lyrics by Bobby Bare. The amazing thing about the combination of words is that the writer thinks of a goalpost as that which one must acquire, attain, reach, cross, etc. in order to make it through life successfully.
Now how about the drop kick metaphor? A good kicker, like Sebastian Janikowski, ought to be able to split the uprights (another sports cliché), quite easily.
Therefore, the one seeking help obviously is hoping for a huge divine advantage. The first few lines of the song are:
Drop kick me, Jesus, through the goal posts of life
End over end, neither left nor to right
Straight through the heart of them righteous uprights
Drop kick me Jesus through the goal posts of life
My first in-depth discussion of the song was with my venerable teacher, later a colleague at Highlands, John Adams, who asked me if I’d heard about the song. In those days, some 20 years ago, there were fewer TV channels available here, and people didn’t record their programs on Tivo. So the probability of many people having watched the same program, “Alice,” was greater then.
“There is so much implied through such a song title,” the professor of English said. So we talked more about those figures of speech called metaphors. He said “goalposts,” the things that kickers try to punch the pigskin through. “Why do they call goalposts ‘uprights?’ and why is a football a ‘pigskin?’” we wondered.
I mentioned having watched an NFL playoff game in which a player dropped what might have been the game-winning pass. My wife, Bonnie, who would much rather watch Masterpiece Theater than football, walked by during the groaning emanating from the den and announced to my football buddies, “I guess your player couldn’t find the handle.”
Well, footballs don’t come with handles (another metaphor), but what concerned me more was Bonnie’s temerity in venturing into metaphor-land and sounding even more learned than some of the announcers. “Couldn’t find the handle!” My left foot.
Those who live by the sports cliché and the sports metaphor clearly are far removed from what the original terminology of the sports used to be. The football field has become the gridiron. And in other games, notice one can’t call a spade a spade. No, they call it something else. Nobody ever questions calling a baseball field a diamond, simply because it’s shaped that way.
And Norm Ellenberger, former head coach of the UNM Lobos (a hoops team), chose an interesting metaphor in defending against Lobogate charges: “I’m waiting to get my turn to bat.”
Bases loaded is called “three ducks on the pond,” and when the Dallas Mavericks just recently overcame huge leads to defeat the Miami Heat, what was the sports cliché employed? “They can smell blood in the water.”
And, to satisfy any metaphor craving you might have, here are a few more, some of which can apply to any competition, even checkers:
They’re off to the races now.
They’re hitting on all cylinders.
This one’s in the bag.
This is just a walk in the park for them now.
They’re going for the jugular.
They’re really lighting up the scoreboard.
This is a real pressure cooker.
And don’t forget Leslie Nielsen’s mixed metaphor in Naked Gun, when he referred to the top of the ninth, fourth-and-10, and a full-court press. Enjoy these metaphoric clichés, but be sure to give 110 percent.
• • •
You might have noticed the amount of Internet traffic about fireworks in Las Vegas.
So what’s wrong with this picture? At least three things:
• It’s depressing that the city of Las Vegas has limited power regarding fireworks. Somehow, the county has more power than the city.
• Fireworks tents have sprung up around town, despite myriad forest fires in our tinder-dry state, some of the fires being caused by humans.
• People continue to buy the fireworks. Yeah, we know all about people’s rights. But what about the simple notion that starting a fire for any reason becomes everybody’s business?
One would hope there were more people who would — just this once — realize that a few minutes of ear-popping merriment also causes damage. Dogs and other animals go crazy at the sound of these explosives. Horses get spooked. Roofs get ignited by falling fireworks.
I hope the generous rainfall we had Monday night doesn’t let people slip into complacency, with the idea that all our worries are over.
No, that bit of precipitation assuredly is not nearly enough to undo months of drought, the like of which people in this area have not seen in decades.
Art Trujillo is a copy editor at the Optic and a contributing member of the newspaper’s Editorial Board. He may be reached by calling 425-6796 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.