Startups and Their 21 Sports Clichés

Sports cliches at the office

Don’t get angry because I am calling out sports lovers, but the following seems to be true. Early stage companies attract those with an adventurous spirit. And those with an adventurous spirit are often drawn to the drama of sports. My experience is that startups are full of people who like sports and pick up jargon and halftime-speech and bring it to the office.

Sometimes the ‘sportsbabble’ is not just used to replace other words — it’s grabbed to obfuscate what is really intended or needed or simply to speak in tongues that only a few others understand.

Now that we are well into football season (both football and fútbol), watching playoff baseball, and gearing up for long hockey and basketball seasons, this post was a “game-time decision.” Founders in offices everywhere are “digging deep” and “trying to execute their “game plan.” But when enough sports clichés are used, only those who watch Sportscenter really understand what the speaker means.

Unfortunately, these phrases are difficult for non NFL aficionados or those who think March Madness is what happens after a dreary winter in the Midwest. That’s the problem if you use them and “it’s definitely not a slam dunk” that everyone will comprehend what you mean.

Now, I realize that clichés are used as a bit of shorthand and it’s even been estimated that they are spoken in about 50 percent of corporate boardrooms. We have a love/hate relationship with them and complain about them but continue to turn to them “when it’s gut-check time.”

Regardless, below are my top 10 most irritating sports clichés. I am not going to “pull any punches” with this list. I hope that it does not take you out of “your rhythm.”

  1. They want to play hardball
  2. We knocked it out of the park
  3. He made a diving catch
  4. The mustard is off the hotdog
  5. We need to leave it all on the field
  6. The ball is in your court
  7. That was a home run
  8. It’s time to step up to the plate
  9. He answered the bell
  10. We need to call an audible

Clichés are often thrown about to quickly convey a meaning, but when phrases like “we’re down to the last strike” are used, group understanding can be lost. When we tell stories with someone else’s words, we deprive ourselves and our creativity. And that’s the real reason we should speak our own truth.

If you just read the list and are feeling like a “Monday quarterback” feel free to suggest a few others that should be “top picks.” And “keep your head” up even it feels like “your back is against the wall.”

Comments on Hacker News.

About Brian and Aha!

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 roadmap software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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