Five Sports-Related Words and Phrases That Need to Go Away

Outside of church, there is probably no area in life that has more phrases, terminology, idioms, or figures of speech that get overused more than the world of sports. In almost every sporting event, an announcer, coach, or player will say something that we just accept even though it really makes very little sense. We need to stop accepting these things. We will begin the great purge with these five major offenders.

“In his wheelhouse.”

What is a wheelhouse? Why is it a good thing that something be in a wheelhouse? Baseball was the first sport to run with this phrase and we are all dumber for it. Originally, a wheelhouse was a boating term for the part of a boat or ship serving as a shelter for the person at the wheel. It has since become a way to show expertise in an area or something in which someone excels.

Why? Who was the first person to see an athlete performing at the top of their game and think to themselves, “Such and such skill is in his wheelhouse”? I would like to have a few words with that forward thinker.

Maybe I’m weird, but when I hear the word “wheelhouse,” I think of a house full of wheels. A house to store wheels of various sizes and purposes. I’m not sensing any real expertise here. Most people that I know that would have a house full of wheels are not experts at anything.

Or I think of a house that is a literal “wheel house.” Still not getting any expertise from this phrase.

“They ran into a buzzsaw.”

You hear this all the time from commentators when one team is completely overmatched by their opponent. “They ran into a buzzsaw.” First, that sounds unbelievably painful. Second, who is dumb enough to actually run into a buzzsaw? Finally, is this a common enough occurrence that an entire phrase has been built around it? Are there thousands of poor souls out there that have literally run into buzzsaws, thereby giving us this visually striking phrase?

More from REO!

“We went out there and gave 110%.”

No. You didn’t. If we are being as literal as possible, you probably didn’t even give close to 100% either. Even if you are one of those athletes that go “all out”, you are most likely still holding a small amount in reserve because you would collapse in complete exhaustion if you actually gave 100% of your effort each play. Of course, there are the nerds out there that will site baselines, 800% growth in certain markets, and things like that to prove that athletes that say this know exactly what they are talking about.

I guarantee that the athletes that say this are not thinking about those things at all – instead they are trying to pick a number greater than 100 to show how hard they played. I get it and I don’t hold it against them too much, but they could and should find better ways of describing their effort instead of this worn out phrase.

Below, you will see The Effort Chart. It is a comprehensive analysis that has taken years of research, time, and not ironically, effort, to put together. It is self-explanatory.

As you can see from the chart above, there is nowhere else to go after 100%. What you may not notice is the detail included in this chart. Based on the mountains of data we had to sort through to develop it, it is necessary to magnify it nearly 500% to truly appreciate the full extent of our findings. That line below the 100% Effort is not actually a line. It is an invisible barrier that cannot be crossed. It is literally impossible to give effort above 100%. As you can see below, the line is formed by those attempting to expend more than 100% effort.

“There is no “I” in team.”

I get it. I really do. When coaches or players use this worn out phrase, they are making a point about how important teamwork is. I just wish we had smarter ways of making that point. First, it is true that there is no “I” in the word team. Conversely, there are 21 other letters that don’t make an appearance in the word team. It’s not like the word “team” is just full of letters and the “I” got left out because it was being a jerk. There are a lot of words without the letter “I.” In fact, most words don’t have “I” in them. Why are we picking on “I” anyway? “I” is a great letter. I have two “I’s” in my name.

And if we are being really specific here, a team is made up of a bunch of individual players. So, technically, there are a bunch of “I’s” on any given team. “I’s” that are hopefully working together for a common goal. Without those “I’s” there is no team. Stew on that!


I’ve saved the worst for last. Discussions about the greatest athlete of all time are ubiquitous. We’ve had a few of those ourselves at REO. I have no issue with the conversation or even the title, “Greatest of All Time.” But can we promise to each other, swear in the most sacred words we can summon, to never again use the term “G.O.A.T.”? The best at anything should not be associated with goats.

This is a goat.

Another goat.

This is not a goat. It’s a rabbit. And Michael Jordan.

To make matters worse, we used to use the term “goat” to describe someone that blew the game for his team – someone that failed. When did we decide that it was okay to change that? Did I miss the vote on this because I am not okay with it at all. Michael Jordan might be the greatest of all time. Tom Brady might be the greatest of all time. Neither is the G.O.A.T. because that sounds dumb. Let’s stop being dumb.

So there they are. These might not be the worst phrases out there. There are probably many others that I could have written about. I picked these five because they annoy me the most. I would love to hear what some of your least favorite sports-related phrases are. Tell us about them in the comment section below.

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Phill Lytle

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27 thoughts on “Five Sports-Related Words and Phrases That Need to Go Away

  • July 27, 2018 at 11:35 am

    Love it! A good, humorous moment. Observations: athletes by and large aren’t all that academic. And, they tend to parrot what others have said until that becomes the,”go-to” expression or phrase. Unfortunately. I miss some of the great announcers who were creative, clever, clear, and witty, like Jack Buck, Ernie Harwell, and, of course, Vin Scully.

  • July 27, 2018 at 2:38 pm

    “We gave 110%” is the Worst Of All Time. You could call it the “W.O.A.T.” But that wouldn’t make much sense. As a professional mathematics teacher, I use this phrase as a teaching point with my students every year. It is quite possibly the dumbest, most un-academic phrase ever uttered by a human.

    My second least favorite sports quote has come around the last 10-12 years. It is not universal in all sports yet, as NBA players are really the only ones that use it much. I think Kevin Garnett was the first I heard say it, but now just about all NBA players do. “I spend a lot of time developing my craft.” That’s dumb. You play a sport. You’re not a mechanic or an arts and crafts teacher. You’re not building anything. You’re playing a game.

    As for your other ones, I actually like the term “GOAT.” It’s merely an acronym. I agree with the other 3.

    • July 27, 2018 at 2:49 pm

      G.O.A.T. sounds dumb.

      The end.

      • July 27, 2018 at 7:54 pm

        So does SCUBA.
        But who wants to say “self-contained underwater breathing apparatus” every time they mention it.

        • July 27, 2018 at 8:40 pm

          Not the same at all. SCUBA is not also the name for a goofy, yelling, fainting animal.

          • July 27, 2018 at 10:03 pm

            Here’s what you said:

            “G.O.A.T. sounds dumb.

            The end.”

            I offered another acronym that also sounds dumb. So the “The end” statement really wasn’t the end simply because it sounds dumb.

            This is the only one of your 5 on which I disagree. I get your argument as to its contradictory meanings as an acronym for greatness and also a synonym for failure. That can be confusing. But the argument isn’t ended for everyone just because you think it sounds dumb.

          • July 27, 2018 at 10:10 pm

            Have you never heard of Scuba Doo?

  • July 27, 2018 at 4:49 pm

    Perhaps my favorite that’s not on your list is “We just have to play within ourselves.” What?? I think that’s supposed to mean that they don’t try to do more than they are able to do, but it doesn’t really make sense. I think it would be especially hard to play within yourself if you’re giving 110%, since you’re giving more than the entirety of yourself.

    • July 27, 2018 at 4:57 pm

      That’s a great one!

  • July 27, 2018 at 6:34 pm

    “They came to play.”
    “They obviously want it more.”

    I get Brian-Reganish in my head when I hear these two phrases. I am imagining an entire team sitting back very casually in the post-game interview saying things like, “I mean, we didn’t really come to play. I guess we could’ve played, but I just preferred sitting there. I also really didn’t want to win as much as the other team. I really didn’t care.”

    I also don’t like “GOAT” but I love goats. So thanks for including them as graphics.

    Additionally, some sports journalists need better questions. But that’s for another day…

  • July 27, 2018 at 9:39 pm

    When I think of “wheelhouse,” I think of “Jesus Take the Wheel.”

    And if you bank at the 1 2/3 bank you can give more than 110%.

    Finally, this is the first sports themed article you guys have written that was worth reading… barely.

    • July 27, 2018 at 9:55 pm

      I’m glad we could barely meet your lofty standards.

      • July 27, 2018 at 10:19 pm

        I wrote an article on how the 85 Bears are the Greatest NFL team of all time! And how the 2016 Cubs could win the World Series (which they did). ;)

  • July 27, 2018 at 10:30 pm

    One thing Mr. Potete and I do agree on is how so many sports cliches are so overused they are worhty of being mocked, which is what I think Phill was going for with the 110% one above. I get it as he does – it’s hyperbole to tell people to give their best. But it’s been said a trillion times in American sports. So Dave and I will often get on a roll making fun of it and similar ones.. LIke during the Super Bowl: “I think it’s going to come down to who wants it the most.” “Yeah, whoever leaves it all out of the field.” “Whoever gives 110%.” “Whoever takes it one game/play at a time.” “Whoever ________”. Its hilarious and I love doing it.

    The “take it one game at a time” is the one that gets on my nerves the most. It totally makes sense. You have to see it that way as a coach/athlete. I just hear it all the time. As Kramer would say, “It’s SO played.” (Pun intended.)

    I agree on 4 of these but I like GOAT. I think part of the appeal is that it a total reverse of how it was used when I was growing up. I’ll say this though: it if gets rejected in mass I’d rejected it too. I’d like to think I’m Mr. Independent but not on this kind of stuff. But we’ve used it on a few REO articles and it still appeals to me. I also have a slight bias because Kayla kept yelling it out at the end of Stranger Things 2. For those who haven’t seen that I won’t ruin it.

  • July 27, 2018 at 10:56 pm

    David, it’s my article and I think it sounds dumb. That’s the end of the conversation for me. You can love the phrase all you want, that is your prerogative. And you can argue with me all you want but I won’t change my mind just because you mention other acronyms that sound sort of dumb as well.

    Finally, this was meant to be a time of joy and frivolity and you have turned it into a time of rancor and strife. Good day, Sir!

    • July 28, 2018 at 9:41 am

      That’s great! But I get great joy and frivolity out of the type of rancor and strife. Something tells me you do too.

      • July 28, 2018 at 11:37 am

        I said good day, Sir!!!

  • July 28, 2018 at 7:15 am

    For guys who write sarcasm, I’m afraid you missed mine. :(

    Of course, I am not a writer, so sorry about that. I hope you’ll cut me a bit of slack.

    • July 28, 2018 at 9:10 am

      I got the sarcasm. I was just playing along.

    • July 28, 2018 at 9:40 am

      I don’t know about Phill, but I not only recognized the sarcasm, I also rejoiced with great rejoicing.

  • July 28, 2018 at 8:47 am

    Brings to the table
    Own it
    Americans who say “sport” instead of “sports”
    Analysts who say “our game”

  • July 28, 2018 at 9:59 am

    Thanks guys. It was not, nor would it ever be, my intention to create a problem. I love your site and the stuff you write. Admittedly, I am a bit biased towards Gowdy’s stuff. :)

    Just a reference that I am sure Gowdy got: a couple of guys in our church renamed the 5/3 Bank to 1 2/3. Sort of an ongoing joke around Northwest. And a few years ago our church allowed a nearby school to use our auditorium for a Christmas play. The church is almost 100% Hispanic. So it was surprising at their Christmas play that during the intermission one of their students sang “Jesus Take the Wheel.” It might have been funnier if I had posted that on Gowdy’s facebook page when he posted the link to this article.

    At any rate, keep bringing your “A” game to this site.

    • July 28, 2018 at 12:44 pm

      Bring your A game!! that was one I should have missed. I appreciate the banter and don’t mind the sarcasm. We appreciate comments on the site like this. It seems the sports articles are way more likely to get 20+ comments. That and the Rapture. LOL.

      Another one I don’t like Is “We played [insert team name or mascot] [insert sport they play].” Like if Jake Bently, QB for THE USC Gamecocks says, “We just need to play Gamecock football.” Which again, is totally understandable. But often it’s framed as “If we play our game/way/best then we will win.” Which can’t be true of both teams say it. In fact, with rare exception, like maybe Alabama football (and even there Clemson and Ohio St. recently have prove it wrong) nobody is dominant enough to say “If we play our best we will win no matter what the other team does”.

      Phill’s right at the onset – church and sports are rife with this stuff. This is why we love Steve Spurrier and Charles Barkley and similar personalities. They rarely give the cliches.

  • August 3, 2018 at 2:05 am

    I enjoyed your article and agree with most of the words and phrases you listed, although I like “in his wheelhouse” because it’s nicely descriptive of a hitter getting a pitch right where he likes it. There’s a circular motion to hitting a baseball that makes a wheelhouse an appropriate metaphor. I don’t get what’s so confusing or irritating about that.

    The one I agree with the most is G.O.A.T. but I’d add that “of all time” itself needs to go and not just with sports. There are numerous articles about the greatest hitters, pitchers, movies, musicians, etc. “of all-time” and it’s always unbelievably irritating to me because they’re inevitably written by someone pretty young with a very limited range of knowledge about the subject they claim expertise in.
    Even if someone knows a whole lot about football, like Gowdy, he probably doesn’t remember that the NFL’s 1922 and 1923 Canton Bulldogs were undefeated (10-0-1 & 11-0-1) unlike the ’85 Bears.

    I’d like to add the word ICONIC to the list. I heard it on sports talk shows a few times last week. I hate it, hate it, hate it. Never use it. Ever. Like “of all time,” the odiousness of that word’s overuse (& misuse) extends way beyond sports, unless you’re talking about Elvis maybe. But even then, he deserves a much better word.

    Thanks for a cool article. I can see you put 110% into it. With a title like that, I was afraid you’d run into a buzzsaw. You’re a tremendous competitor and a team player who takes it one column at a time.

    • August 3, 2018 at 8:31 am

      Thanks for the comment Ken.

      Wheelhouse doesn’t bother me much in baseball – when used in the context you mention. But it gets used in a number sports where it really makes no sense. Quarterbacks are talked about as having wheelhouses – e.i. they are really adept in the short passing game, or they are mobile and scramble a lot. Things like that.

      • August 3, 2018 at 10:36 am

        I agree with Ken over how flippantly we use “of all time” in sports. I wrote about the Greatest NFL team of all time, but limited it to Super Bowl era. And even then, there were nearly 20 years I didn’t watch with my own eyes. I tried to even that out with consistent criteria but one of our elder readers pointed out some things about the 1972 Dolphins that I didn’t know because I wasn’t alive that really did make a good case for them (and weren’t a part of my criteria). Most people haven’t see “of all time” in anything and even if they have, eras are so different. Stats and data can only tell so much. Eye test matters. So I think we should advocate more nuance there, including me.


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