The Idiom Connection Sports Idioms





Sports Idioms










Sports Idioms

across the board

- applying to everybody or everything (in horse racing this is a bet where an equal amount of money is placed on a horse to finish in any top winning position)

The workers received an across-the-board wage increase and most of them are happy.

arrow in one's quiver

- one of a number of resources or strategies that one can follow

The man's ability with languages was another arrow in his quiver and helped him in his business life.

at this stage of the game

- at this point or time during an activity

At this stage of the game, I do not think that we should spend more money on the project.

back the wrong horse

- to make the wrong choice, to support the wrong thing (from horse racing)

We backed the wrong horse in the school election and we were very surprised at the winner.

ball is in (someone's) court

- it is up to this person to make the next move (from tennis or a similar game)

We made an offer to buy the business and now the ball is in the owner's court to accept our offer or not.

ballpark estimate/figure

-a guess that is in a certain area or range, an approximate guess

We had a ballpark estimate about how much it would cost to buy the business.

bat a thousand

- to be successful in everything that you do

The salesman was batting a thousand during his sales trip to Europe.

beat the gun

- to do something before the ending signal of a game etc.

We were able to beat the gun and make our application to get the free basketball tickets.

behind the eight ball

- at a disadvantage (the black ball is number eight in the game of pool and is the last ball that you try to put in a pocket - if you are behind it then you are at a disadvantage)

Our friend was behind the eight ball when he discovered that he was the last person to register for his classes.

beyond one's depth

- in water that is too deep, doing something that is too difficult for one's ability

The manager's were beyond their depth when they chose to pick a fight with the union.

blow-by-blow account/description

- a description or account that provides much detail (originally from the sport of boxing)

I gave my friend a blow-by-blow account of the fight last night.

blow the whistle on (someone)

- to reveal information about someone (from sports where the referee blows a whistle when someone does something wrong)

The secretary blew the whistle on her boss after he wasted much money in his department.

bounce (something) off (someone)

- to test someone's reaction to an idea (when a ball is thrown against a wall it bounces back to the thrower)

I bounced my idea for a new restaurant off my friend.

call the shots

- to control something, to make the rules (from calling the shots in billiards or pool)

My friend has been calling the shots in his company for several years now.

carry the ball

- to be in charge of something, to be responsible for something (from carrying the ball in American football)

The director let his assistant carry the ball on the assignment for the new sale's contract.

choose sides

- to choose from a group of people or players to be on opposing sides of a debate/fight/game

We had to choose sides before we played the game.

clear a hurdle

- to overcome an obstacle (from a hurdle in a track and field race)

We finally cleared a major hurdle in our effort to get a business license to sell our products.

come in a close second

- to almost be chosen first for something (in a race a runner may miss coming in first by a very small amount)

The politician came in a close second in the election.

come out of left field

- to be completely unexpected, to be a surprise (from the game of baseball)

My friend's idea about going to Spain came out of left field.

cover all of one's bases

- to thoroughly prepare for or deal with a situation (this is from the game of baseball where you must cover or protect the bases)

The man covered all of his bases before going to the job interview and performed very well.

(be) cricket

- to play fair, to use gentlemanly conduct (usually used in the negative)

The way that the government treated the union leader was not cricket.

dive in headfirst

- to do something impulsively without thinking about the consequences

The man likes to dive in headfirst with anything that he does.

dive right into (something)

- to begin to do something without hesitating (some swimmers like to dive right in without checking the temperature of the water)

Many of the students decided to dive right into their studies when university started.

double-header

- two games (usually baseball) that are played one after the other and are played in front of the same crowd

We were tired after watching a double-header last night.

down for the count

- defeated, unconscious (in boxing a boxer who is on the ground must get up before the count of ten or he will lose the boxing match)

The political candidate was down for the count when no major figures supported him.

down to the wire

- at the very last moment, very close to the time when something is due (from the wire at the end of a horse race)

The election went down to the wire but the candidate was re-elected to another term in office.

draw first blood

- to gain the first point or advantage in a contest (often in boxing or fighting with swords)

The heavyweight champion drew first blood in the boxing match but in the end he was defeated by his opponent.

drop the ball

- to make an error or mistake, to handle things badly

The government dropped the ball with its decision to expand the airport runway without consulting the local residents.

fighting chance

- a good possibility of success if you try hard

I did not have a fighting chance to get my job application finished on time.

first out of the gate

- at the very beginning, from the very beginning (the starting gate is the set of doors that open so that the horses can begin a race)

My favorite horse was the first out of the gate when the race began.
The businessman was the first out of the gate in the effort to collect money for the new concert hall.

first past the post

- the first person to reach the finish line and win a race (used in a horse race)

The young horse was first past the post and won a large amount of money in the race.

first-string

- the best group of players on a team

Our team will use their first-string players for the game today.

full-court-press

- a total effort or offensive, an all-out effort to put pressure on someone, a basketball tactic in which the defenders put pressure on the opposing team over the entire court and try to disrupt the other team

The company used a full-court-press in order to pressure the manager to resign.

game plan

- strategy (from the game of football)

I do not know if my boss has a game plan for the meeting.

get off to a flying start

- to have a very successful beginning

The meeting got off to a flying start when our manager announced that we had won a large contract.

get one's feet wet

- to experience something for the first time, to get a little first-time experience with something

Before getting my feet wet, I spent many months studying the plans for the new project.
I just started my piano lessons - I have just begun to get my feet wet.

get the ball rolling

- to begin something

We plan to start immediately and get the ball rolling on our project.

get to first base with (someone or something)

- to make an advance with someone or in some undertaking (this comes from first base in baseball)

I wanted to talk about changing my work hours but I was not able to get to first base with my boss.

go a few rounds with (someone)

- to fight with someone

My friend went a few rounds with his boss yesterday. They had a big argument.

go to bat for (someone)

- to support or help someone (in baseball you sometimes substitute one batter for another)

The teacher went to bat for the student when she was having problems with the school administration.

go to the mat for (someone or something)

- to argue strongly on behalf of someone or something

The coach will always go to the mat for his players when they are having problems.

golf widow

- a wife who is left alone much of the time because her husband is playing golf

The woman is a golf widow. Her husband is always playing golf.

grand slam home run

- a home run in baseball when there are three players on the bases (the bases are loaded) and therefore four runs are scored

My favorite player got a grand slam home run last night.

hand the torch/baton to (someone)

- to hand over a particular duty or responsibility to someone (from the baton or torch that is passed from one runner to the next runner in a relay race)

The president of the company handed the torch to his son when he decided to retire.

hard to call

- hard to decide or determine something (referees in sports sometimes have to make difficult decisions)

The game was hard to call and nobody knew who was going to win.

have had a good innings

- to have enjoyed a long period of positive action or opportunity (from cricket where an innings is the time that a team spends batting and a good innings is when they score many runs)

The team had a very good innings and won the match easily.

have the inside track

- to have an advantage (if you have the inside track while running in a race you have an advantage)

I had the inside track when I applied for the job at the bank.

have two/three strikes against you

- to have several things against you, to be in a situation where success in unlikely (in baseball a batter is finished after three strikes)

The man's absence from work and being late are serious problems. He now has two strikes against him. Any more problems and he will be fired.

hit a home run

- to hit a baseball so far that the batter can run around all of the bases and score a run, to reach a big goal

My favorite baseball player hit a home run last night.
We hit a home run when we won the big contract.

hit (someone) below the belt

- to not follow the rules, to do something that is not fair (hitting low in boxing is not fair)

The man was hitting below the belt when he began to criticize his friend unfairly.

hit the bull's-eye

- to achieve your goal perfectly

We hit the bull's-eye when we got the big sales contract.

hole in one

- a shot in golf that finishes in the hole with one shot

The boy was very lucky and got a hole in one in his first season of golf.

home free

- to be sure of attaining one's goal (in baseball a player who is sure to get to home base and score is considered to be home free)

The traffic was terrible but we were home free after we left the city.
The runner was home free and we knew that we would win the game.

in deep water

- in a serious situation, in trouble (a swimmer could be in trouble when he or she is in deep water)

The boy is in deep water because of his problems at school.

in full swing

- at the peak of activity, moving fast and efficiently

The baseball season was in full swing when we purchased our season's tickets.

in (someone's) corner

- on someone's side, supporting someone (in a boxing match each boxer has his own corner)

The young man gained confidence when he learned that many people were in his corner.

in the ballpark

- in a particular area or range (from a baseball field)

The offer for our house was not in the ballpark of an acceptable offer so we did not sell it.

in the bullpen

- in a special area where a baseball pitcher prepares to pitch in a game

The new pitcher practiced in the bullpen while he waited to enter the game.

in the homestretch

- the last part of something (the homestretch is the section of a racetrack that is near the finish line)

The project to build the new bridge is now in the homestretch.

in the running

- a candidate for something (from horse racing when two horses have a chance of winning a race)

The man is in the running for a job on the city school board.

in the same league as (someone or something)

- at the same level as someone or something

Our soccer team is not in the same league at the opposition team.

jockey for position

- to try to put yourself in a better position than others (as a jockey would do in a horse race)

The salesmen began to jockey for position when they learned that the sales manager was leaving the company.

jump off the deep end

- to take immediate and drastic action

It is time for me to jump off the deep end and quit my job and go back to school.

jump the gun

- to start something before the starting signal or before you actually should start (as in a race)

My friend jumped the gun and applied for the new job before applications were being accepted.

keep one's eye on the ball

- to remain alert, to keep one's attention focused on the ball or on the matter at hand

We tried to keep our eye on the ball during the meeting.

keep the ball rolling

- to maintain the momentum of an activity

Our supervisor worked hard to keep the ball rolling so we could finish our project.

kick off (something) or kick (something) off

- to begin something, to start something, to kick the ball and start the game in American football

The hospital kicked off the campaign to raise money with a large fund raising event at a restaurant.

know the score

- to know the facts about something

The new secretary does not really know the score about how the company operates.

left at the gate

- to be abandoned (a horse that does not leave the starting gate during a race is said to be left at the gate)

Everyone at my office went to lunch without me. I was left at the gate.

level playing field

- a situation where everyone has an equal chance of success

We were able to achieve a level playing field with the other schools with our new coaching staff.

like the cut of (someone's) jib

- to like someone (a jib is a type of sail that is found on some sailboats)

I like to work with the new accountant. I like the cut of his jib.

make it to first base

- to successfully take the first step with someone or when doing something (in baseball the first step around the bases to score is to get to first base)

I could not make it to first base in my attempt to have my boss change my work schedule.

make the cut

- to meet or reach a required standard (from golf where a player must do equal or better than a certain score to continue)

The young player did not make the cut and was not able to join the team.

meet one's match

- to encounter one's equal

The boxer met his match when he was offered the fight with the other boxer.

miss the cut

- to fail to meet or reach a required standard (from golf where a player must do equal or better than a certain score to continue)

After several successful tournaments the golfer missed the cut and could not enter the next tournament.

move the goalposts

- to unfairly change the conditions or rules of something that you are doing

Although we followed the rules when applying for the license, the government officials moved the goalposts and our application was rejected.

neck and neck

- exactly even (in a horse race the horses sometimes run neck and neck)

The two candidates were neck and neck in the election until the last ballots were counted.
The two horses were running neck and neck in the race.

nip and tuck

- very close in a race or competition, almost even

The two horses were running nip and tuck for most of the race but finally the younger horse won the race.

no holds barred

- with no restraints (from wrestling)

There were no holds barred during the debate between the two politicians.

not in the same league

- not at the same level or quality as someone or something, much inferior to someone

Our soccer team was not in the same league as the Brazilian team who we met at the tournament.

odds are against (someone)

- there is little chance that someone will succeed

The odds were against the boy from joining the team but he tried very hard anyway.

off and running

- making a good start, progressing well (horses are off and running when they start a race)

The two candidates were off and running in the race to become mayor of the city.

off base

- wrong, mistaken (bases are used in baseball)

The government was off base with its estimate about how much the stadium would cost.

off to a running start

- starting something with a good fast beginning

Everyone was off to a running start when the campaign to collect money for the new hospital began.

on a par with (someone)

- equal in importance or quality to something or someone (par is the usual number of strokes that are needed to go around a golf course)

The scandal involving steroids in sports was on a par with other major sports scandals.

on an even keel

- calm and not likely to change suddenly, in a steady and well-balanced situation (the keel is the bottom of a boat or ship and when the boat is on an even keel it is balanced)

The new department was running on an even keel soon after it opened.

on deck

- waiting to take one's turn (especially as a batter in baseball)

The player was on deck and waiting for his turn at bat.

on side

- supporting or part of the same team as someone else

We got the city on side in our bid to host the local basketball championships.

on the ropes

- in a desperate situation or near defeat (from boxing where a boxer is forced back against the ropes)

The man is on the ropes and is in danger of losing his job.
The boxer was on the ropes and it seemed impossible for him to win the match.

on your marks

- used to tell runners in a race to get into the correct starting position

The race began when the judge yelled, "on your marks, get set, go."

out for the count

- defeated, unconscious (in boxing a boxer who is on the ground must get up before the count of ten or he will lose the boxing match)

The boxer was out for the count after the other boxer hit him.

out in left field

- offbeat, unusual (as in the back and left side of a baseball field)

Our teacher's ideas are usually out in left field.

out of bounds

- outside the boundaries of a playing area

The ball was out of bounds and the boy had to go over the fence to get it.

out of one's league

- not equal to or at the same level as someone else (a league is a group of sports teams that compete against each other)

The artist was out of his league when he went to Paris and tried to sell art.

out of the running

- eliminated from a contest, no longer being considered for something

The woman was out of the running for the director's job although she wanted it very much.

paddle one's own canoe

- to do something alone, to be independent

The company director had to paddle his own canoe when the other members of the company resigned their positions.

par for the course

- what is normal or expected in a given situation (par is the usual number of strokes needed to go around a golf course)

A bad attitude at work is par for the course for our supervisor. That is why nobody likes him.

pass the torch/baton to (someone)

- to hand over a particular duty or responsibility to someone (a baton or torch is passed from one runner to the next in a relay race)

The head of the soccer association passed the torch to his assistant after spending many years in the sport.

pinch-hit for (someone)

- to substitute for someone

The best batter on the baseball team was asked to pinch-hit for the injured player.

pitch an idea

- to make a proposal or suggestion about something (just as a baseball pitcher will pitch a ball in a baseball game)

I will pitch my idea about a new project tomorrow.

pitch (someone) a curve

- to pitch a curve in baseball, to confuse someone by doing something unexpected

My boss pitched me a curve when he changed the date of the meeting.

play ball with (someone)

- to cooperate with someone

The young man refused to play ball with the police and he was taken to the police station for questioning.

play by the rules

- to follow the generally accepted rules of something

The team members refused to play by the rules so they were asked to leave the tournament.

play-by-play (description)

- a detailed description of a sports event as it is taking place (often on the radio or television)

We listened to a play-by-play description of the game.

play fair

- to avoid cheating, to play by the rules of something

The boxer was a good person and always played fair when he was in the boxing ring.

play hardball with (someone)

- to behave in an extremely determined way to get what you want (hardball and softball are from the game of baseball)

The owners of the football club decided to play hardball when they began negotiating with the star player.

pull one's punches

- to hold back in one's criticism, for a boxer to hit with light punches

The manager was pulling his punches when he began to criticize his workers.

pump iron

- to exercise with weights

My friend has been pumping iron for more than two years now.

punch above one's weight

- to fight at a level that is above what would be expected of you

The boxer will be punching above his weight if he agrees to the match with the stronger boxer.
The small country punches above its weight in most international conferences.

put in one's oar

- to interfere with something, to add one's opinion or comments to something

We were doing very well until our supervisor put in his oar. We would have done better without him.

rally around (someone or something)

- to join together to support someone or something

The city rallied around the basketball team when they went to the national championships.

reach first base with (someone or something)

- to make an advance with someone or in some undertaking (this comes from first base in baseball)

I did not reach first base with my boss about changing my work schedule.

rest on one's oars

- to relax one's efforts

The negotiating team members decided to rest on their oars and wait until their partners had a chance to consider the offer.

right off the bat

- at the very beginning, immediately (similar to a ball leaving a baseball or cricket bat)

When we arrived at the resort, we were told right off the bat that we would have to pay extra to use the pool and the training room.

roll with the punches

- to adapt to difficult circumstances (from boxing where a boxer moves away or rolls from a punch to lessen its impact)

The woman can roll with the punches and handle her problems at work very well.

root for (someone or something)

- to cheer and encourage someone or something

I have been rooting for our hometown team since I was a child.

run interference

- to intervene on behalf of someone in order to protect him or her from something (from American football)

The company ran interference on their top salesman to protect him from the scandal.

run with (something)

- to implement something (to take a ball in a football game and run with it)

My boss took my idea and ran with it.

safe bet

- a certainty (a horse that is expected to win a race)

It was a safe bet that we would win the large contract if we bid for it.

saved by the bell

- rescued from a bad situation at the last minute (there is a bell at the end of each round in a boxing match)

We were saved by the bell when the meeting ended before we had to deliver our unprepared presentation.

score points with (someone)

- to gain the favor of someone

The salesman always worked extra hours in order to score points with his boss.

send (someone) to the showers

- to send a player off the field and out of a game

The referee sent the player to the showers after he refused to stop arguing.

set the pace

- to establish the speed or pace of something

The fastest runner set the pace for the other runners during the marathon.

sink or swim

- to fail or succeed by one's own efforts

My cousin will have to sink or swim when he begins his new job.

slam dunk

- a sure thing, a dramatic forceful dunk shot in basketball

It is a slam dunk that I will pass my examination.

smooth sailing

- something is going well and is having no problems

After we left the city it was smooth sailing on the highway until we got to our destination.

sporting chance

- some possibility of success

The tennis player did not have a sporting chance to win the tournament but still she tried very hard to win.

sport of kings

- horse racing

Horse racing has been the sport of kings for many years.

steal a base

- to sneak from one base to another in baseball

The baseball player won an award for stealing the most bases in one year.

step up to the plate

- to accept a challenge, to prepare to do a task, to move near homeplate in baseball in order to prepare to hit the ball when it is thrown/pitched

My friend stepped up to the plate and helped us complete the project.
The batter stepped up to the plate and waited for the pitch.

sticky wicket

- an awkward situation (from the game of cricket where rain makes it difficult to bat or play on the field)

The rain made a sticky wicket out of the field and neither side was able to play well.

strike out

- to fail

The criminal struck out in his attempt to lessen the punishment that he had received from the judge.

tackle a problem

- to attack a problem with much effort (from American football where one player tackles another player)

All of the members of the sales team gathered to tackle the problem of decreasing sales.

take one's eye off the ball

- to fail to keep one's attention focused on the ball or on the matter at hand

The player took his eye off the ball for a second and the other team scored a goal.

take the chequered flag

- to finish first in a race (from the flag that is used in car racing when the winner finishes the race)

The Brazilian driver took the chequered flag three times this year.

take the wind out of one's sails

- to become discouraged and lose one's enthusiasm

It took the wind out of my sails when I was told that I was not doing a good job.

team player

- someone who works well with others to achieve some goal

The man is a team player and works well with the other members of the staff.

test the water

- to check to see if one's plan will be successful before proceeding with the plan (some swimmers like to test the water temperature before jumping in)

The company plans to test the water before they introduce their new product.

That's the way the ball bounces.

- that's life, there is nothing you can do about something

"That's the way the ball bounces," the man said when he told his friend about the job that he had lost.

throw in the towel/sponge

- to quit, to admit defeat, to stop fighting (in a boxing match a towel is thrown into the ring to admit defeat)

The candidate threw in the towel early in the evening of the election when it became impossible for her to win.

throw one's hat into the ring

- to be willing or to decide to enter a contest or take up a challenge

The young woman decided to throw her hat into the ring in the election for school president.

throw (someone) a curve (ball)

- to pitch a curve ball in baseball, to surprise someone by doing something unexpected

My friend threw me a curve when he changed the dates of our plan to go on a holiday together.

thrust and parry

- to compete actively with someone, to enter into verbal combat with someone (this idiom comes from the sport of fencing)

It was thrust and parry for the two candidates during the debate.

toe the line

- to accept the authority or policies of a particular group (competitors in a race line up with their toes on the starting line)

The worker refused to toe the line and was fired from his job.

too close to call

- so evenly balanced that it is not possible to predict the outcome (in a contest or race or election)

The game was too close to call until the last few minutes of the game.
The election was too close to call until the end.

touch base with (someone)

- to briefly meet or make contact with someone

I touched base with my uncle before he left on his trip to Mexico.

two strikes against (someone)

- to do two things that are wrong or bad and have only one more thing to do to cause you serious trouble ( from baseball where a batter is finished after three strikes)

The young boy already had two strikes against him when he went to hear the judge's decision about his crime.

up to par

- at an expected level or quality, at the usual level or quality (par in golf is the usual number of strokes needed to go around a golf course)

The product was not up to par and was sent back to the factory for improvement.

warm the bench

- to sit on a bench and not play during a game

The young player spent most of the game warming the bench.

whole new ball game

- a new set of circumstances, a completely new situation (from a new game of baseball)

The election became a whole new ball game when the main candidate quit because of a scandal.

wild card

- an extra team chosen to enter a competition without taking part in the regular qualifying method

Our team was able to enter the competition because we were the wild card winner.

win by a neck

- to succeed by a small amount (in horse racing a horse may win by the length of its head only)

The race was very close but finally the young horse was able to win the race by a neck.

win by a nose

- to win by a very small amount (this is the narrowest margin that a horse can win in a horse race)

There was a dispute about who won the horse race but the judges declared that one of the horses had won the race by a nose.

American Football Idioms


carry the ball

- to be in charge of something, to be responsible for something (from carrying the ball in American football)

The director let his assistant carry the ball on the assignment for the new sale's contract.

first-string

- the best group of players on a team

Our team will use their first-string players for the game today.

game plan

- strategy (from the game of football)

I do not know if my boss has a game plan for the meeting.

kick off (something) or kick (something) off

- to begin something, to start something, to kick the ball and start the game in American football

The hospital kicked off the campaign to raise money with a large fund raising event at a restaurant.

move the goalposts

- to unfairly change the conditions or rules of something that you are doing

Although we followed the rules when applying for the license, the government officials moved the goalposts and our application was rejected.

run interference

- to intervene on behalf of someone in order to protect him or her from something (from American football)

The company ran interference on their top salesman to protect him from the scandal.

run with (something)

- to implement something (to take a ball in a football game and run with it)

My boss took my idea and ran with it.

tackle a problem

- to attack a problem with much effort (from American football where one player tackles another player)

All of the members of the sales team gathered to tackle the problem of decreasing sales.

Archery Idioms



arrow in one's quiver

- one of a number of resources or strategies that one can follow

The man's ability with languages was another arrow in his quiver and helped him in his business life.

hit the bull's-eye

- to achieve your goal perfectly

We hit the bull's-eye when we got the big sales contract.

Baseball Idioms


ballpark estimate/figure

-a guess that is in a certain area or range, an approximate guess

We had a ballpark estimate about how much it would cost to buy the business.

bat a thousand

- to be successful in everything that you do

The salesman was batting a thousand during his sales trip to Europe.

come out of left field

- to be completely unexpected, to be a surprise (from the game of baseball)

My friend's idea about going to Spain came out of left field.

cover all of one's bases

- to thoroughly prepare for or deal with a situation (this is from the game of baseball where you must cover or protect the bases)

The man covered all of his bases before going to the job interview and performed very well.

double-header

- two games (usually baseball) that are played one after the other and are played in front of the same crowd

We were tired after watching a double-header last night.

drop the ball

- to make an error or mistake, to handle things badly

The government dropped the ball with its decision to expand the airport runway without consulting the local residents.

get to first base with (someone or something)

- to make an advance with someone or in some undertaking (this comes from first base in baseball)

I wanted to talk about changing my work hours but I was not able to get to first base with my boss.

go to bat for (someone)

- to support or help someone (in baseball you sometimes substitute one batter for another)

The teacher went to bat for the student when she was having problems with the school administration.

grand slam home run

- a home run in baseball when there are three players on the bases (the bases are loaded) and therefore four runs are scored

My favorite player got a grand slam home run last night.

have two/three strikes against you

- to have several things against you, to be in a situation where success in unlikely (in baseball a batter is finished after three strikes)

The man's absence from work and being late are serious problems. He now has two strikes against him. Any more problems and he will be fired.

hit a home run

- to hit a baseball so far that the batter can run around all of the bases and score a run, to reach a big goal

My favorite baseball player hit a home run last night.
We hit a home run when we won the big contract.

home free

- to be sure of attaining one's goal (in baseball a player who is sure to get to home base and score is considered to be home free)

The traffic was terrible but we were home free after we left the city.
The runner was home free and we knew that we would win the game.

in full swing

- at the peak of activity, moving fast and efficiently

The baseball season was in full swing when we purchased our season's tickets.

in the ballpark

- in a particular area or range (from a baseball field)

The offer for our house was not in the ballpark of an acceptable offer so we did not sell it.

in the bullpen

- in a special area where a baseball pitcher prepares to pitch in a game

The new pitcher practiced in the bullpen while he waited to enter the game.

make it to first base

- to successfully take the first step with someone or when doing something (in baseball the first step around the bases to score is to get to first base)

I could not make it to first base in my attempt to have my boss change my work schedule.

off base

- wrong, mistaken (bases are used in baseball)

The government was off base with its estimate about how much the stadium would cost.

out in left field

- offbeat, unusual (as in the back and left side of a baseball field)

Our teacher's ideas are usually out in left field.

pinch-hit for (someone)

- to substitute for someone

The best batter on the baseball team was asked to pinch-hit for the injured player.

pitch an idea

- to make a proposal or suggestion about something (just as a baseball pitcher will pitch a ball in a baseball game)

I will pitch my idea about a new project tomorrow.

pitch (someone) a curve

- to pitch a curve in baseball, to confuse someone by doing something unexpected

My boss pitched me a curve when he changed the date of the meeting.

play ball with (someone)

- to cooperate with someone

The young man refused to play ball with the police and he was taken to the police station for questioning.

play hardball with (someone)

- to behave in an extremely determined way to get what you want (hardball and softball are from the game of baseball)

The owners of the football club decided to play hardball when they began negotiating with the star player.

reach first base with (someone or something)

- to make an advance with someone or in some undertaking (this comes from first base in baseball)

I did not reach first base with my boss about changing my work schedule.

right off the bat

- at the very beginning, immediately (similar to a ball leaving a baseball or cricket bat)

When we arrived at the resort, we were told right off the bat that we would have to pay extra to use the pool and the training room.

steal a base

- to sneak from one base to another in baseball

The baseball player won an award for stealing the most bases in one year.

step up to the plate

- to accept a challenge, to prepare to do a task, to move near homeplate in baseball in order to prepare to hit the ball when it is thrown/pitched

My friend stepped up to the plate and helped us complete the project.
The batter stepped up to the plate and waited for the pitch.

strike out

- to fail

The criminal struck out in his attempt to lessen the punishment that he had received from the judge.

take one's eye off the ball

- to fail to keep one's attention focused on the ball or on the matter at hand

The player took his eye off the ball for a second and the other team scored a goal.

throw (someone) a curve (ball)

- to pitch a curve ball in baseball, to surprise someone by doing something unexpected

My friend threw me a curve when he changed the dates of our plan to go on a holiday together.

touch base with (someone)

- to briefly meet or make contact with someone

I touched base with my uncle before he left on his trip to Mexico.

two strikes against (someone)

- to do two things that are wrong or bad and have only one more thing to do to cause you serious trouble ( from baseball where a batter is finished after three strikes)

The young boy already had two strikes against him when he went to hear the judge's decision about his crime.

whole new ball game

- a new set of circumstances, a completely new situation (from a new game of baseball)

The election became a whole new ball game when the main candidate quit because of a scandal.

Basketball Idioms


full-court-press

- a total effort or offensive, an all-out effort to put pressure on someone, a basketball tactic in which the defenders put pressure on the opposing team over the entire court and try to disrupt the other team

The company used a full-court-press in order to pressure the manager to resign.

slam dunk

- a sure thing, a dramatic forceful dunk shot in basketball

It is a slam dunk that I will pass my examination.

Billiards/Pool Idioms



behind the eight ball

- at a disadvantage (the black ball is number eight in the game of pool and is the last ball that you try to put in a pocket - if you are behind it then you are at a disadvantage)

Our friend was behind the eight ball when he discovered that he was the last person to register for his classes.

call the shots

- to control something, to make the rules (from calling the shots in billiards or pool)

My friend has been calling the shots in his company for several years now.

Boating Idioms


like the cut of (someone's) jib

- to like someone (a jib is a type of sail that is found on some sailboats)

I like to work with the new accountant. I like the cut of his jib.

on an even keel

- calm and not likely to change suddenly, in a steady and well-balanced situation (the keel is the bottom of a boat or ship and when the boat is on an even keel it is balanced)

The new department was running on an even keel soon after it opened.

paddle one's own canoe

- to do something alone, to be independent

The company director had to paddle his own canoe when the other members of the company resigned their positions.

put in one's oar

- to interfere with something, to add one's opinion or comments to something

We were doing very well until our supervisor put in his oar. We would have done better without him.

rest on one's oars

- to relax one's efforts

The negotiating team members decided to rest on their oars and wait until their partners had a chance to consider the offer.

smooth sailing

- something is going well and is having no problems

After we left the city it was smooth sailing on the highway until we got to our destination.

take the wind out of one's sails

- to become discouraged and lose one's enthusiasm

It took the wind out of my sails when I was told that I was not doing a good job.

Boxing Idioms


blow-by-blow account/description

- a description or account that provides much detail (originally from the sport of boxing)

I gave my friend a blow-by-blow account of the fight last night.

down for the count

- defeated, unconscious (in boxing a boxer who is on the ground must get up before the count of ten or he will lose the boxing match)

The political candidate was down for the count when no major figures supported him.

draw first blood

- to gain the first point or advantage in a contest (often in boxing or fighting with swords)

The heavyweight champion drew first blood in the boxing match but in the end he was defeated by his opponent.

go a few rounds with (someone)

- to fight with someone

My friend went a few rounds with his boss yesterday. They had a big argument.

go to the mat for (someone or something)

- to argue strongly on behalf of someone or something

The coach will always go to the mat for his players when they are having problems.

hit (someone) below the belt

- to not follow the rules, to do something that is not fair (hitting low in boxing is not fair)

The man was hitting below the belt when he began to criticize his friend unfairly.

in (someone's) corner

- on someone's side, supporting someone (in a boxing match each boxer has his own corner)

The young man gained confidence when he learned that many people were in his corner.

on the ropes

- in a desperate situation or near defeat (from boxing where a boxer is forced back against the ropes)

The man is on the ropes and is in danger of losing his job.
The boxer was on the ropes and it seemed impossible for him to win the match.

out for the count

- defeated, unconscious (in boxing a boxer who is on the ground must get up before the count of ten or he will lose the boxing match)

The boxer was out for the count after the other boxer hit him.

pull one's punches

- to hold back in one's criticism, for a boxer to hit with light punches

The manager was pulling his punches when he began to criticize his workers.

punch above one's weight

- to fight at a level that is above what would be expected of you

The boxer will be punching above his weight if he agrees to the match with the stronger boxer.
The small country punches above its weight in most international conferences.

roll with the punches

- to adapt to difficult circumstances (from boxing where a boxer moves away or rolls from a punch to lessen its impact)

The woman can roll with the punches and handle her problems at work very well.

saved by the bell

- rescued from a bad situation at the last minute (there is a bell at the end of each round in a boxing match)

We were saved by the bell when the meeting ended before we had to deliver our unprepared presentation.

throw in the towel/sponge

- to quit, to admit defeat, to stop fighting (in a boxing match a towel is thrown into the ring to admit defeat)

The candidate threw in the towel early in the evening of the election when it became impossible for her to win.

throw one's hat into the ring

- to be willing or to decide to enter a contest or take up a challenge

The young woman decided to throw her hat into the ring in the election for school president.

Cricket Idioms


have had a good innings

- to have enjoyed a long period of positive action or opportunity (from cricket where an innings is the time that a team spends batting and a good innings is when they score many runs)

The team had a very good innings and won the match easily.

(be) cricket

- to play fair, to use gentlemanly conduct (usually used in the negative)

The way that the government treated the union leader was not cricket.

sticky wicket

- an awkward situation (from the game of cricket where rain makes it difficult to bat or play on the field)

The rain made a sticky wicket out of the field and neither side was able to play well.

Golf Idioms


golf widow

- a wife who is left alone much of the time because her husband is playing golf

The woman is a golf widow. Her husband is always playing golf.

hole in one

- a shot in golf that finishes in the hole with one shot

The boy was very lucky and got a hole in one in his first season of golf.

make the cut

- to meet or reach a required standard (from golf where a player must do equal or better than a certain score to continue)

The young player did not make the cut and was not able to join the team.

miss the cut

- to fail to meet or reach a required standard (from golf where a player must do equal or better than a certain score to continue)

After several successful tournaments the golfer missed the cut and could not enter the next tournament.

on a par with (someone)

- equal in importance or quality to something or someone (par is the usual number of strokes that are needed to go around a golf course)

The scandal involving steroids in sports was on a par with other major sports scandals.

par for the course

- what is normal or expected in a given situation (par is the usual number of strokes needed to go around a golf course)

A bad attitude at work is par for the course for our supervisor. That is why nobody likes him.

up to par

- at an expected level or quality, at the usual level or quality (par in golf is the usual number of strokes needed to go around a golf course)

The product was not up to par and was sent back to the factory for improvement.

Horse Racing Idioms


across the board

- applying to everybody or everything (in horse racing this is a bet where an equal amount of money is placed on a horse to finish in any top winning position)

The workers received an across the board wage increase and most of them are happy.

back the wrong horse

- to make the wrong choice, to support the wrong thing (from horse racing)

We backed the wrong horse in the school election and we were very surprised at the winner.

down to the wire

- at the very last moment, very close to the time when something is due (from the wire at the end of a horse race)

The election went down to the wire but the candidate was re-elected to another term in office.

first out of the gate

- at the very beginning, from the very beginning (the starting gate is the set of doors that open so that the horses can begin a race)

My favorite horse was the first out of the gate when the race began.
The businessman was the first out of the gate in the effort to collect money for the new concert hall.

first past the post

- the first person to reach the finish line and win a race (used in a horse race)

The young horse was first past the post and won a large amount of money in the race.

in the running

- a candidate for something (from horse racing when two horses have a chance of winning a race)

The man is in the running for a job on the city school board.

jockey for position

- to try to put yourself in a better position than others (as a jockey would do in a horse race)

The salesmen began to jockey for position when they learned that the sales manager was leaving the company.

left at the gate

- to be abandoned (a horse that does not leave the starting gate during a race is said to be left at the gate)

Everyone at my office went to lunch without me. I was left at the gate.

neck and neck

- exactly even (in a horse race the horses sometimes run neck and neck)

The two candidates were neck and neck in the election until the last ballots were counted.
The two horses were running neck and neck in the race.

off and running

- making a good start, progressing well (horses are off and running when they start a race)

The two candidates were off and running in the race to become mayor of the city.

safe bet

- a certainty (a horse that is expected to win a race)

It was a safe bet that we would win the large contract if we bid for it.

set the pace

- to establish the speed or pace of something

The fastest runner set the pace for the other runners during the marathon.

sport of kings

- horse racing

Horse racing has been the sport of kings for many years.

too close to call

- so evenly balanced that it is not possible to predict the outcome (in a contest or race or election)

The game was too close to call until the last few minutes of the game.
The election was too close to call until the end.

win by a neck

- to succeed by a small amount (in horse racing a horse may win by the length of its head only)

The race was very close but finally the young horse was able to win the race by a neck.

win by a nose

- to win by a very small amount (this is the narrowest margin that a horse can win in a horse race)

There was a dispute about who won the horse race but the judges declared that one of the horses had won the race by a nose.

Swimming Idioms


beyond one's depth

- in water that is too deep, doing something that is too difficult for one's ability

The manager's were beyond their depth when they chose to pick a fight with the union.

dive in headfirst

- to do something impulsively without thinking about the consequences

The man likes to dive in headfirst with anything that he does.

dive right into (something)

- to begin to do something without hesitating (some swimmers like to dive right in without checking the temperature of the water)

Many of the students decided to dive right into their studies when university started.

get one's feet wet

- to experience something for the first time, to get a little first-time experience with something

Before getting my feet wet, I spent many months studying the plans for the new project.
I just started my piano lessons - I have just begun to get my feet wet.

in deep water

- in a serious situation, in trouble (a swimmer could be in trouble when he or she is in deep water)

The boy is in deep water because of his problems at school.

jump off the deep end

- to take immediate and drastic action

It is time for me to jump off the deep end and quit my job and go back to school.

sink or swim

- to fail or succeed by one's own efforts

My cousin will have to sink or swim when he begins his new job.

test the water

- to check to see if one's plan will be successful before proceeding with the plan (some swimmers like to test the water temperature before jumping in)

The company plans to test the water before they introduce their new product.

Track and Field Idioms


beat the gun

- to do something before the ending signal of a game etc.

We were able to beat the gun and make our application to get the free basketball tickets.

clear a hurdle

- to overcome an obstacle (from a hurdle in a track and field race)

We finally cleared a major hurdle in our effort to get a business license to sell our products.

come in a close second

- to almost be chosen first for something (in a race a runner may miss coming in first by a very small amount)

The politician came in a close second in the election.

hand the torch/baton to (someone)

- to hand over a particular duty or responsibility to someone (from the baton or torch that is passed from one runner to the next runner in a relay race)

The president of the company handed the torch to his son when he decided to retire.

have the inside track

- to have an advantage (if you have the inside track while running in a race you have an advantage)

I had the inside track when I applied for the job at the bank.

in the homestretch

- the last part of something (the homestretch is the section of a racetrack that is near the finish line)

The project to build the new bridge is now in the homestretch.

jump the gun

- to start something before the starting signal or before you actually should start (as in a race)

My friend jumped the gun and applied for the new job before applications were being accepted.

off to a running start

- starting something with a good fast beginning

Everyone was off to a running start when the campaign to collect money for the new hospital began.

on your marks

- used to tell runners in a race to get into the correct starting position

The race began when the judge yelled, "on your marks, get set, go."

pass the torch/baton to (someone)

- to hand over a particular duty or responsibility to someone (a baton or torch is passed from one runner to the next in a relay race)

The head of the soccer association passed the torch to his assistant after spending many years in the sport.

toe the line

- to accept the authority or policies of a particular group (competitors in a race line up with their toes on the starting line)

The worker refused to toe the line and was fired from his job.

Idiom Quizzes - Sports

    Choose an idiom to replace the expression in the brackets:

  1. We were unable to (make any progress) in our meeting to hire the replacement coach.

    (a) beat the gun (b) carry the ball (c) get to first base (d) get off to a flying start



  2. The coach already had (several things against him) when it was decided that he should be replaced.

    (a) dropped the ball (b) gone to bat for himself (c) hit the bull's-eye (d) two strikes against him



  3. The man is often in a bad mood so it is (expected) that he is in a bad mood today.

    (a) par for the course (b) down to the wire (c) beyond his depth (d) playing hardball



  4. The presidential candidates were (trying to get into a better position) before the election.

    (a) neck and neck (b) jockeying for position (c) out of the running (d) in the bullpen



  5. The man (prepared thoroughly) by studying many possible questions that could be asked during the job interview.

    (a) covered all of his bases (b) met his match (c) knew the score (d) kept his eye on the ball



  6. The two candidate cities for the Olympics were (exactly even) until the vote.

    (a) out of the running (b) off to a running start (c) off base (d) neck and neck



  7. The president of the company had many ideas that were really (unusual).

    (a) nip and tuck (b) jumping the gun (c) out in left field (d) having the odds against him



  8. Everybody on the team (joined together to support) their coach when he was having problems with the general manager.

    (a) played ball with (b) paddled their own canoe for (c) stole a base for (d) rallied around



  9. I was (rescued from an embarassing situation) and I did not need to go to the meeting which I was not prepared for.

    (a) saved by the bell (b) sent to the showers (c) thrown a curve (d) on a par with everyone



  10. The game started and (immediately) the other team scored two goals.

    (a) on your marks (b) going to the mat (c) right off the bat (d) putting in their oar



  11. The football player was given a great offer and now (it was up to him to decide) to accept it or not.

    (a) the ball was in his court (b) it was a whole new ball game (c) he was behind the eight ball (d) he was passing the torch



  12. I wanted to (briefly meet) with my friend before he started his university courses.

    (a) take the chequered flag (b) touch base (c) have a ballpark estimate (d) be in the ballpark



  13. It was (a certainty) that the coach would be offered another contract after his winning performance this season.

    (a) a safe bet (b) hitting below the belt (c) too close to call (d) drawing first blood



  14. The finance minister seemed to be (defeated) because of the scandal but many expect him to remain in power.

    (a) first past the post (b) having a good innings (c) down for the count (d) resting on his oars



  15. The managers were always (changing the rules) and nobody in the company knew what was expected of them.

    (a) dropping the ball (b) in the employees' corner (c) throwing their hat into the ring (d) moving the goalposts



  16. The two countries were not (in an equal position) regarding their trading relationship and much friction had developed because of this.

    (a) up to par (b) keeping the ball rolling (c) on a level playing field (d) on side



  17. The boxer refused to (follow the generally accepted rules) of boxing and because of this he never had a successful career.

    (a) pump iron (b) play by the rules (c) roll with the punches (d) make the cut



  18. The language ability of my boss is (an important resource) when he has to deal with foreign companies.

    (a) the sport of kings (b) an arrow in his quiver (c) across the board (d) a sporting chance



  19. Although I had been practicing tennis very hard, I (stopped trying) when I realized that I could not join the university team.

    (a) toed the line (b) made the cut (c) backed the wrong horse (d) threw in the towel



  20. The businessman (failed) in his attempt to win the large sales contract.

    (a) called the shots (b) struck out (c) dived right in (d) got the ball rolling



  21. The president of the company always (establishes the speed) of the annual general meeting.

    (a) tests the water (b) tackles a problem (c) has the inside track (d) sets the pace



  22. The young man was (a candidate) for the local city council.

    (a) in the running (b) in the same league (c) hard to call (d) in the homestretch



  23. The boy always tries to (gain the favor of) his teachers.

    (a) blow the whistle on (b) clear a hurdle with (c) score points with (d) come out of left field with



  24. I tried to join the football team but I (failed to meet the required standard) and decided to do something else.

    (a) missed the cut (b) was on the ropes (c) didn't play by the rules (d) could not keep the ball rolling




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