Archive for June, 2010

“Going Up to the Plate” to Serve in the Longest Professional Tennis Game Ever Played

June 29, 2010

Thursday, June 24. 2010, ESPN Television, Patrick McEnroe Commentator:

The 5th set at Wimbledon, score 63-62, in the Isner, Mahout tennis match: Isner is “Going Up to the Plate to Serve.”  And paraphrasing Mr. McEnroe: It takes the pressure off.  Mr. Isner finally won the match in the 5th set at 70-68 with a “screaming” shot down the line.

New York Times, Friday, June 25, 2010, “Sports Friday”: Game, Set, and 3 Days Later, Match.” Nicholas Mahut, who lost the longest match recorded in professional tennis stated: “We played the greatest match ever in the greatest place to play tennis.”

Going to the plate is a baseball term for going to bat.

Perhaps Patrick McEnroe is a baseball fan or played baseball as well as being a great tennis player.  Although both players held their serves resulting in a long, long match, the metaphor /idiom, Going up or stepping up to the plate, the latter more commonly used, was a reference to power serves determining the game winner.

Navratilova says she’s cancer-free after coping with life ‘curveball’

June 24, 2010

USA TODAY, Thursday, June 24, 2010: ” Navratilova says she’s cancer-free after coping with life ‘curveball”

Navratilova, the tennis champion and activist, just completed radiation treatment for breast cancer.  “Cancer advocacy was ‘someplace I didn’t plan on doing at this stage, but life threw me that curveball so I hit it’, she adds.”

Curveball is a baseball metaphor here used by a tennis pro.  One doesn’t expect a cancer curveball just as a batter doesn’t always expect one.

Confucius and Idioms

June 24, 2010


Book IV, The Analects, Translated by D.C. Lau: ” It is rare for a man to miss the mark through holding on to essentials.”

Book XI: “Tzu Kung asked, ‘Which is better, Shih or Shang?’  The Master said, ‘Shih overshoots the mark;  Shang falls short.’

‘Does that mean that Shih is in fact better?’  The Master said, ‘There is little to choose between over shooting the mark and falling short.”

The Analects are a collection of  Confucious’ sayings by his pupils shortly after his death in 497 B.C.  They are at least 2600 years old.

The Chinese did indeed use bows and arrows at that time.   Confucious used this metaphor to illustrate his point about not hitting the mark, that there is no difference. Of course, one wants to hit the mark, either in sport or battle. And he says in Book IV that by holding on to essentials it us rare or unusual to miss the mark.

Is a Supreme Court Justice an Umpire?

June 7, 2010

New York Times, Saturday, June 5, 2010: Editorial Page

“Justice Souter’s Counsel”

“Two recent moments have brought to mind Chief Justice John Robert’s simplistic description of a Supreme Court justice as an umpire who confines himself to calling balls and strikes. The first was the reminder in Detroit on Wednesday night  that  umpires are highly fallible, and their calls subjective, even when something (is) as important as Armando Calarraga’s nearly perfect (baseball) game.

The other was former Justice David Souter’s brilliant demolition of the umpire metaphor in his commencement address at Harvard last week.”

America’s Reform Bill: A Congressional Huddle

June 2, 2010

The Economist,  May 29, 2010: Finance and commerce

“Give us a huddle.  America’s reform debate moves from the chamber to the conference room, (Senate and House of Representatives), where some big issues still need resolving.”

American footballers huddle before a play to hear the quarterback call the plays.

Perhaps, rugby players huddle, also, but for a different reason.  Rugby players, I need your definition.