The nuance of sport
By Eli Thomas
Athletics and specifically sports discussion has its own nomenclature, which can often be difficult to digest. For example, a player kneeling in the end zone can be a rather innocuous play as part of a football game, or a reason Mike Pence might leave the same game. As much as some may treat sports with a religious fervor, a “Hail Mary” is simply a play where all the receivers run down the football field vertically with hopes of catching a long pass before time expires.
Football has its own set of languages that can often be perplexing. A variety of plays begin in “shotgun”; an offensive position where the quarterback begins roughly five feet behind the center, who then tosses the ball to the quarterback. The shotgun formation allows the quarterback more time and distances them from the opposing defensive ends. Another term, the “naked bootleg,” simply refers to a quarterback taking the ball at the initiation of the play and running across either side of the formation without a blocker.
“Grand slam” and “grand salami” refer to the same event that occurs in a baseball game: the clearing of all three bases when the batter hits a homerun. A grand slam garners four runs. The term “grand salami” was popularized by the late Dave Niehaus, legendary Mariners radio broadcaster. It should be noted that baseball and cricket use the terminology of “runs” when referring to the scoring metric; the term is derived from cricket, wherein a run is scored when a player runs the length of the pitch (European sports typically use the term “pitch” to describe what Americans would often call a field).
The term “diamond” to describe a baseball field refers to the shape of the field. Slugging percentage, (not a hockey term) refers to the average number of bases a player reaches per at bat. Slugging percentage demonstrates a player’s prowess at hitting extra-base hits. A player “stealing” a base refers to a runner who has previously reached base running to the following base (typically following the pitcher beginning their motion to the plate).
Two of the most ubiquitous sports gestures, the high five and fistbump, orginated through interesting backstories. The high five began with baseball’s first openly gay player Glenn Burke, who, following his teammate Dusty Baker’s 30th home run, raised his hand in praise. A confused Baker slapped Burke’s hand in what would become the first high five. Burke, who was later ostracized from the sport for reasons related to homophobia, demonstrates the fallacy that sports are insulated from social issues. The fist bump or “dap” is demonstrated by historian LaMont Hamilton in his article “Five on the Black Hand Side” to have originated in the Vietnam era among black soldiers as permutation of the outlawed black power salute. The fist bump, a seemingly obvious gesture, once again reached the limelight when America’s Pulse host E. D. Lewis hypothesized that Obama and Michelle’s 2008 fist bump was a “terrorist fist jab” — Lewis thankfully lost her job.
When reading a score, the team ahead will always come first. For example, if the Mariners won a game (which is hard to come by), the score would come out as 10-0 with the Mariners scoring 10 runs and their opponent scoring zero.
There are so many nuances within every sport, but hopefully this information makes it just a little bit easier to read sports-related articles.