One Thing We All Hate Is a Cliche

To paraphrase, sports writing exists to keep the cliches in circulation

I don’t remember who said that–it was a sportswriter, in fact–but he is right.

The problem is that when I try to explain cliches to my sports journalism students, I struggle.

A cliche is like the Justice Potter Stewart’s definition of obscenity: “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.”

So instead, I have developed the following list of sports cliches. Some were found in online lists. But some were found off student assignments. (That’s why they’re in alphabetical order and not in chronological order. No need to cliche-shame anyone.)

So if your article includes one or more of these, rewrite it. Make up your own turn of the phrase that can become a cliche once everyone adopts it. But don’t use these. Give your readers something fresh, not something stale.

110 percent

a lot to learn
and [name] is no exception
at first glance
at the end of the day

backs against the wall
become the best they can be
become the man he is today
blazing (when used with “speed”)
blink of an eye
bodes well

brings to the table
brought their A-game

came to play
capped off a comeback
carried the load
cautiously optimistic
choice words
Christmas came early
closely watched
control their own destiny
cooler heads prevailed

the determination in their eyes
did not shy away from
double down

electrified the crowd
emerged victorious
(athlete) era

familiar face
fat lady singing references (tacky and offensive anyway)
find their rhythm
(like a) finely tuned machine
a force to be reckoned with
found their stride
from start to finish

generate offense
going forward
grizzled/seasoned veteran (how does one grizzle?)
gut wrenching (seems like the gut is always getting wrenched)

had their eyes opened
hardware (for championships)
has a knack for
he has my back
high ceiling, high motor
high hopes
hope filled the air
hotly contested

icing on the cake
in large part
in their rear-view mirror

left a bitter taste in their mouth
like to have that one back
locked and loaded

made a statement (unless someone is speaking)
mass of contradictions
much to smile about

(this was) no exception
no laughing matter
not your father’s [whatever]

offensive barrage
on a high note
on thin ice
one game at a time

play ball
plenty of blame to go around
plenty to be happy about
points on the board

ran out of time
reality check
rests on his shoulders
run through a brick wall

scraped together
sealed the deal
shore up
showdown (especially following Top 10)
silence the doubters
slammed the door
started out of the gate
step up
stout (defense, usually)

tipping point
trials and tribulations
turned a blind eye

unlikely hero
upside (usually modified by “tremendous”)

with a grain of salt
the world we live in