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The confusing vocabulary of sports

March 27, 2014
Joyce Schenk , Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

I must confess that I've never been much of a sports fan.

Oh, there were those brief, shining moments in history when Jim Kelly led the Buffalo Bills to the Super Bowl. For a time, I became an avid Bills rooter.

But, other than that fleeting fascination with the sporting world, my interest has been passing, at best.

I realize I'm out of step with many of my fellow Americans who find sports one of life's major fascinations. So, I decided it was time for me to get a glimpse into what others find so interesting in that most popular part of the newspaper, the sports section.

But, as I plowed through the reports on games, stats of various players and pictures of sweaty athletes, I realized that when it comes to the sporting world, the English language undergoes some serious twists and turns.

For instance, in my Sunday newspaper's sports section, a report on basketball was headed "Dayton peels Orange in upset."

One of the details aimed at making the game come alive for fans (who understand such lingo) said, "The Orange forced a turnover on a trap in their own end..."

Say what?

Moving on, I checked out a piece titled "Aztecs savor sweet victory."

The detail that caught my eye was about a player named Xavier Thames. The reporter enthused, "Whether he was dropping 3s, finessing floaters in the lane or leading the Aztecs' suffocating defense..."

Understanding women's basketball was every bit as challenging. I was totally lost when I read about Oklahoma State's victory over FGCU.

The game report read, "Cobb, whose 3-pointer was the Eagles' only points in OT, missed a trey with 10 seconds left that would've put FGCU up two."

Well, I decided, perhaps basketball was not a good choice for my introduction into the wide world of sports.

How about golf?

In a report with the title "Pack catches up to Scott at Bay Hill," I read the informative passage that said "He missed three par putts inside 8 feet and had to settle for a 1-under 71."

In another golfing report, this one about the ladies competition, the piece noted "she tapped in for birdie on the par-5 15th after missing an 8-foot eagle putt..."

So much for the lingo of golf.

Next, I tried a piece on the nation's favorite spectator sport, auto racing.

I came across an informative article that focused on driver Kyle Larson holding off Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch at Fontana, California.

In one paragraph, the sports writer highlighted the end of what was, apparently, a thrilling race: "After Harvick's final attempt to pass him failed, Larson celebrated with a burnout in Victory Lane, but only after detaching his steering wheel and holding it out the window."

Wow, that stunt wouldn't go over on I 90.

After stumbling through the racing news, I glanced at the bold headlines of other sports stories. Each one reflected the sports writer's flair with the language of competition.

"Penguins zap Bolts in OT."

"Bobcats rout Blazers."

"Gators pounce on Pitt."

It took me quite a quite a while to mosey through the unfamiliar world of sports with its colorful and confusing vocabulary. The experienced convinced me that the next time I make the attempt to understand the sporting reports, whether basketball or baseball, golf or racing, I'm bringing along an interpreter.



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