Posts tagged ‘sports’

January 14, 2011

Spinning my wheels

Today I have been spinning my wheels.  This, unfortunately, does not involve any aerobic exercise or does it imply that I accomplished much of anything.  The opposite is true.  Spinning one’s wheels means to expend effort without accomplishing much, to make futile efforts that amount to nothing much, or wasting ones time and effort.

Spinning my wheels: a lot of effort, little to show for it, pic:

Here is an example”

“Honey, how was your day at the office?”
“okay, not very productive, we were spinning our wheels all day.”

The image that came to my mind immediately is spinning at the gym – where one pedals real fast on those pretend bicycles but doesn’t move an inch.  However, that is not where the expressions comes from – more likely the other

way around, the name of the exercise came from spinning one’s wheel.

The other image is that of car wheels spinning in snow or ice – a more likely origin for the expression.

In any event, I think I am going to my spinning class now, at least then I will have accomplished something.

In case you want to get serious about accomplishing something with regards to bicycling or generally endurance check out this blog.

December 11, 2010

Down to the wire

This race is not quite down to the wire as one horse is clearly leading, pic:

If things come down to the wire then they remain interesting to the very last moment.

Down to the wire means that something has a close, tense finish; until the last moment the outcome remains uncertain.

The expression comes from horse racing and is commonly used for sporting events, e.g races when two competitors are neck to neck and the very last seconds decide about who wins and who comes in second.

The expression can be used in other contexts as well, for example elections can be down to the wire when two opponents have almost the same number of votes and the last votes to be counted will decide over the outcome (or rather over who will insist on a recount).

The reason things come down to the wire and not the rope, ribbon, or rubber band is that in the early days a wire was stretched across the track in horse races to determine which horse came in first.  Since in horse racing – with lots of money involved in betting – one ideally wants one winner, not several, the wire was carefully observed and whichever horses nose touched the wire first was declared winner.

December 10, 2010

I wonder – again

The now infoamous butt drag, pic:

this time for real – about a news story that of the “only in California” type.

Let’s set the stage with a couple of definitions.

Wrestling is a sport in which two opponents struggle hand to hand in order to pin or press each other’s shoulders to the mat or ground.  Wrestling, believe it or not, has styles, rules, moves, and regulations.

One of the moves is called butt drag.  As the name suggests somebody grabs somebody else’s butt and drags it.  Presumably that requires some serious grabbing to obtain leverage  and sometimes the wrestlers try and get a better hold even by using a  finger in the rectum for more leverage which – as unpleasant as it sounds to us non-wrestlers – seems to be a not uncommon variation of the drag albeit not quite by the book either.

You are free to form your own opinion about the desirability of those activities, but if you decide to become a wrestler, it would stand to reason that you should be prepared to for some butt dragging.  If you don’t like to be touched there are alternatives: synchronized swimming comes to mind, pole vaulting, stuff like that.

In a poster case for “Only in California” a 17-year old wrestler in Fresno has been charged with sexual assault by his opponent – for dragging his butt.    The case is going to trial in January.

If this was April 1 I would laugh but it is December and therefore it ain’t a joke.

Some sore looser decided to get revenge and in our litigious society it isn’t enough to walk over and say to the guy  “Yo, homeboy, keep your hand off my ass or else …” It is not enough to go to the trainer and accuse the other of something less life altering, let’s say “unsportsman-like behavior”.

No, it has to be sexual assault, lawyers need to get involved, judges, courts, and likely money will changes hands at some point.   Parents will be pulling their kids out of wrestling practice in droves for fear of litigation and ruining the poor kids’ lives rather than enriching them.  I am starting to wonder what cockamamie claims could possible come up in my son’s martial arts class …

Welcome to California in 2010!

December 5, 2010

Flying start

Cars off to a flying start, pic:

Getting off to a flying start is another way of saying that one had a very successful beginning.  It could be in business, sports, with school/studying or a hobby.

All sorts of things can be off to a flying start, for example people

Maddy was off to a flying start with her new job.

or sports teams:

“Bulls get off to a flying start” (actual head line, the Bulls are a men’s basketball team out of Buffalo)

or events:

“Today’s meeting got off to a flying start when the software team to us that they found and fixed the bug in the system.”


“Despite the bad economic situation Carly’s Cupcake store got off to a flying start.

The expression derives from a racing start in which the contestants are already in full motion when they pass the starting line.

November 13, 2010

In the ballpark

If it is in the ballpark, it is about right. Pic:

If somebody asks you whether their proposal or estimate was “in the ballpark” or you are requested to make a “ballpark” estimate you are not required to do anything with a ball at all – at least not in the literal sense.

The expression “in the ballpark” requires some explanation: means within a certain area or range, close to what is expected plus minus a little bit.  Here are some examples that could give you a better idea how that phrase is used.

Homeowner to contractor: “how much are you going to charge for the kitchen remodel?”

Contractor: “Hard to say, it really depends on a number of things …”

Homeowner: “I understand that, I don’t need an exact number, just give me a ballpark number.”


Garage sale customer: “how much do you want for the used lawn mower?”

Seller: “$50”

Customer: “No way, that isn’t even in the ballpark, I was thinking $10.”

Of course, you guessed it, this is another expression borrowed from baseball.

November 7, 2010

Kick in, around, and up


A literal kick, pic:

More useful expressions with the word kick.  The problem is that they there are many and most of them have several meanings.  I’ll focus on the most important ones and will be commenting on slang expression mainly to point out when and how not to use the expressions.

Kick in – literally means kick something into pieces e.g. to gain access “The police kicked in the door to apprehend the suspect.”  Figuratively it means to contribute, pay a share “if we all kick in a few more dollars we can buy Jane the present she really wants.”  It can also mean to become operative, starting to work for example is this context “I was in bad pain but then I took two pain killers and after they kicked in I was doing okay.”
It is also a slang term for to die – but better stay away from that.
Kick around – literally what you expected “the kids kicked the ball around for a few minutes and then went to play on the swings.”  Figuratively it means to ponder, give thought to, discuss an issue “Let’s kick both ideas around for a few more minutes before we decide.”
It can also mean to aimless wondered around a place like in the following example:
“what did you do during the year you took off after college.”
“I just kicked around Europe.”
Kick up – this is an informal expression which means to to cause trouble or discomfort like “my stomach problems are kicking up again.  I really need to see a doctor.”
More expressions with kicking here!
November 5, 2010

In the same league – or not

Surfing in a different league. pic: © Marc Prefontaine |

Another sports expression that can be used in a literal and a figurative sense: being/playing in the same league as someone.

In the literal sense it is pretty obvious: there are different leagues for teams playing at different levels.  In German soccer there is the Bundesliga for the best teams, and the 2. Bundesliga for the ones just below that level, etc. all the way down to the local level.  If teams which are in different leagues play each other, often the outcome is predictable, the team in the higher league wins and the losers will say “our soccer team is not in the same league as the opposition team.”

Figuratively it means having qualities or achievements similar to someone or something else, being on a similar level or of similar quality.  However, the expression is most frequently used in the negative form “not in the same league with somebody/something” meaning that the two things are very different with one being substantially better than the other.


“Wow, you got the latest iPhone.  My old mobile phone is not even in the same league.”


“Do you think I should take surf classes with James or Paul?”

“Paul, definitely.  James is a pretty good surfer – but he is not even in the same league as Paul.”

November 3, 2010

Get the ball rolling

Get the ball rolling, pic: © Nextlimits |

If you get he ball rolling you are about to start or initiate something, or start an undertaking or keep it from failing.  It is, of course, another sport idiom and seems to date back quite a ways into the 17th century.  It originated in one of several team sports where the ball was rolled into the field to start the game or it was important to keep the ball rolling.

The expression is pretty widely used, especially in a business context. Here are some example of how this expression would be used:

Project team leader: “We’ll get the ball rolling on this project right away.”

“Join our movement and get the ball rolling!”

The following headline is also a good example: “Obama wants to get the ball rolling on immigration reform”

November 1, 2010

With baseball being all the rage – another baseball idiom

First base at baseball, pic:

As I write this the San Francisco Giants and the Texas Rangers are playing their 5th World Series game and all of San Francisco and the Bay Area are going crazy over baseball.  I still don’t get baseball, don’t know the rules and have little desire to deal with all the statistics involved – a total give-away  that I am a stranger and will always be.

So today’s idiom is “covering all your bases” 0r “covering your bases”.  It means to thoroughly prepare for all eventualities and cases,  to be very well prepared.  I rather not try and explain the underlying baseball principle but the general idea is that defensive players are assigned to cover a base (one of four positions in the corner of the diamond shaped baseball field).  It is a very bad error to be in the wrong place and not covering the base one is responsible for.

This idiom is widely understood and used and is well suited for business as well as casual conversation.


“We prepared a very thorough report.  I believe covered all the bases.”
“When applying for a new job you should cover all your bases to increase the chances of being hired.”
October 22, 2010

Jumping the gun

Another sports idiom – they all seem to be: to jump the gun. This one traces to track and field events, specifically races where a starter gun is used to indicate the official start of the the race.  In this context jumping the gun literally refers to starting the race before the starter gun has been fired.  In sports you might get disqualified for that.

Don't jump the gun, in a race and in life

Figuratively “jumping the gun” conveys much of the same meaning: it means to start something before it should be started or to draw a premature conclusion before all the facts are known. It does not necessarily imply that the conclusions drawn will turn out to be wrong, just that they weren’t based on reliable facts.  The phrase can be used in a way that implies that the prematurely drawn conclusion might be overly pessimistic.

It is a useful idiom used both in casual conversation and in business.

Usage examples are:

Fire Department official: “We do not want to jump the gun by making a statement about what caused the explosion before the investigation is completed.”

Search and rescue team: “Let’s not jump the gun and assume that the skiers were killed by the avalanche, they could have found shelter before the avalanche was triggered.  In that case we’ll find them.”

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