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
blazing (when used with “speed”)
blink of an eye
bodes well
brought their A-game

capped off a comeback
cautiously optimistic
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
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)
high ceiling, high motor
high hopes
hope filled the air
hotly contested

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

like to have that one back

mass of contradictions
much to smile about

not your father’s [whatever]

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

play ball
plenty of blame to go around

ran out of time
reality check

sealed the deal
shore up
slammed the door
started out of the gate
step up

tipping point
turned a blind eye

unlikely hero
upside (usually modified by “tremendous”)