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The Not-So-Hidden Meanings Behind All-Too-Common Football Clichés


S**** B*** Sunday coverage takes the already cliché-heavy medium of sports commentary to even higher levels of unoriginality. It's the granddaddy of overused one-liners, the most legendary stage for spouting sports platitudes. Newcastle has as little tolerance for bollocks as they have for overblown beer ads — so instead of adding to the chorus of big-game bullshit, they're paying me to analyze the most egregious lines you'll hear from the mouths of players, coaches, and talking heads on Sunday.


1. "We're not just happy to be here. We're here to win the game."

Analysis: The media loves to hype the significance of the underdog, regularly pestering players with questions like, "Aren't you just happy to be at the big game?" And without fail, players respond with some variation of "Absolutely not. We're here to win this game. We're not just happy to be here." (It should be noted that if the underdog loses but somehow manages to return to the big game the following season, team members will invariably remark that, "Last year, we were just happy to be here. This time, we're here to win.")

What They Really Mean: "I've been so over-coached on how to answer questions within the scope of an artificial grand narrative that, after a while, I stop using my brain to form thoughts. Instead, a few synapses fire and I regurgitate some document my team's communications department circulated internally."

2. "The legacy of [X player, Y owner, Z coach] is on the line. [X, Y, Z, and anyone else peripherally related to the game] could have a dynasty on their hands if they win."

Analysis: It's never just a football game; there has to be something bigger at stake to keep the viewers' attention. As if a single big play by a free safety can turn a franchise into a modern-day Ottoman Empire.

What They Really Mean: "I'm an announcer and the TV execs who pay my salary are disappointed with ratings, so they've enlisted me to push the envelope. Because, you know, spontaneous in-game analysis of a fourth-year punter's historical impact will yield an additional million viewers within a matter of minutes."

3. "We have to take care of the football."

Analysis: Really? I thought you'd be better off if you turned the ball over a half dozen times. Thanks for the insight, Coach.


What They Really Mean: "I've spent all week breaking down scouting reports and studying our opponents' every move. What makes this random sideline reporter think I'm going to reveal the specifics of my game plan? Now watch me go for the simple answer and walk away."

4. "We took it one game at a time."

Analysis: Candidly stating that you knew your team would eventually win the title would be perceived as arrogant, hence the feigned modesty of "taking it one game at a time."


What They Really Mean: "If we hadn't won this thing, it would have been a colossal choke job. We knew from the second the season opened that we'd win it all. We have the highest payroll, the best front office and 14 all-league players, so yeah."

5. "We played with a chip on our shoulder."

Analysis: It's no longer socially acceptable to be self-motivated and driven by your own internal desire to push limits. Instead you have to be driven by your haters — whether real or imagined.


What They Really Mean: "I'm trying to get endorsement deals in the off-season, and winning based on talent alone is way less inspiring than doing it in the face of adversity."

6. "We have the best fans in the world."

Analysis: This is invariably uttered by every player, coach, and employee of the winning team. And, to be fair, it often does sound more authentic than most talking points, since it's usually uttered moments after the game's completion (when players are more likely to shed some of the superficial schtick).


What They Really Mean: "For the first time in the season, I'm overcome with genuine emotion — but since I've spent the entirety of my professional life delivering canned post-game quotes, I'm at a loss for words. Screw it, I'll just thank everyone I can think of." Speaking of…

7. "I want to thank Mr. Team Owner."

Analysis: Once you've come down from the high of winning, it's time to get paid. What better way to open new contract negotiations than praising the person who has the power to re-sign an aging defensive tackle?


What They Really Mean: "I want to remain on the team next year and I'm hoping that if I compliment you on the air in front of a billion people, you'll be more inclined to extend my deal."

8. "This is the exact kind of stuff you dream about when you're a kid in the driveway."

Analysis: Sure, kids dream about winning the final game on a last-second touchdown, but you don't have to use this imagery to describe ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING. You did not dream of running out the clock in a boring 27-10 game that was never in doubt. You did not dream of winning the game on a field goal. In fact, if you won the game on a field goal, you probably grew up dreaming about winning an international soccer match.


What They Really Mean: "I just hope no one fact-checks this speech and finds out that I grew up in a luxury apartment building with no driveway to speak of."

9. "We beat a really good team out there today."

Analysis: The moniker of "really good team" is given to any team that happens to lose. Doesn't matter if the game ended in a complete blowout or if there were four overtimes: the loser is always a "really good team" and the winner always has a "tremendous amount of respect for the guys in that locker room."


What They Really Mean: "If my contract expires, I wouldn't mind playing with those guys. No need to burn bridges. Plus, I might run into one of those dudes in our gated community during the off-season."

10. "We left it all out on the field."

Analysis: This is an all-encompassing explanation for either why a team won, or why they lost. It's far more acceptable — even defensible — for losers to say, but if you won, what exactly was it that you left on the field? Certainly nothing tangible, unless you dramatically tossed your gear into the stands because, you know, that's a thing these days.


What They Really Mean: "This is the one catchall I can think of that describes all those "intangible" aspects of team competition. What else am I supposed to say?"


Newcastle is as unimpressed by canned commentary as you are. So buy their beer. It'll make agonizing, overused clichés a tad more bearable.

Andrei Berman is a writer and Associate Content Producer for Studio@Gawker.


This post is a sponsored collaboration between Newcastle and Studio@Gawker.