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Saturday, July 24, 2021

Explained: Sport’s terminology used during the US presidential election

Here's how sport's lingo and lore sidled neatly into political commentary.

Written by Shivani Naik , Edited by Explained Desk | Mumbai |
Updated: November 9, 2020 7:19:10 pm
Something about Trump's golf (or maybe a lot) seemed to get Biden's goat throughout the presidential TV debates.

Donald Trump, the US President who on Saturday lost office, had once used the verb ‘win’ 12 times during a 20-line speech. Promising to “win so much” at myriad things, he added that even if his audience at Albany in New York asked him to stop winning out of a happiness overdose, he would still keep delivering them wins for his country because there was no such thing as “too much winning.”

The self-declared sports nut and assorted promoter, would know after more than dabbling with sport, that winning tended to end, though defiance was in the air on Election Day afternoon when he said, “You know, winning is easy. Losing is never easy. Not for me it’s not.”

Joe Biden, a nifty pass receiver at football in his school days at Wilmington, Delaware, according to, hadn’t made it easy at all. But while the world awaits Trump’s next play, sport continued lending its vast glossary to all manners of counting situations that panned out on TV news networks during America’s groundhog Election night.

Here’s how sport’s lingo and lore sidled neatly into political commentary.

FULL COURT PRESS (basketball)

While Georgia gave the Democrats a look-in for the first time since 1992, it had come on the back of what the CNN called “a full court press to get this done.” While the Black community had organised under minority leader Stacey Abrams, who was fighting voter suppression and the Atlanta Hawks NBA team lent its premises to the Primaries, the Democrats had fielded former President and heavyweight Barack Obama on the Monday right before election in traditionally Republic Georgia to charm several thousand votes their way. CNN described it as, “Going all in on the steal in the final play when Biden’s most powerful surrogate, Obama, spent Monday there. They turned out their main people in Georgia like never before to get their first headway since Clinton in 1992.” It was the end-to-end defensive hounding or basketball’s full-press.

BIG PLAY (American football)

While votes got counted in batches – election day paper ballots and the mail-ins by post, Biden chomped into a lead in home state Pennsylvania that at one point saw the Democrat count trailing by 6 lakh votes. “Biden just picked up a bunch of votes and this could be a big play,” CNN’s studio data crunchers would declare as suburbs around Philadelphia started spouting support in votes by the bunchful. Allegheny county was decisive in delivering Penn state’s 20 electoral college votes to Biden. It was football’s ‘rushing big plays’ where you gain substantial yardage in offense to decide the fate of the game. A surge in the suburbs did it for the home hero.

In his memoir, ‘Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics’, Biden who stuttered a tad as a schoolboy at Scranton, had spoken of how football offset all other school troubles. “Sports were as natural to me as speaking was unnatural. And sports turned out to be my ticket to acceptance — and more. I wasn’t easily intimidated in a game, so even when I stuttered, I was always the kid who said, ‘Give me the ball.” 📣 Express Explained is now on Telegram

CRYING TOWELS (baseball)

Over at Fox News, anchor Laura Ingraham, was unpacking the disappointment the pro-Trump network was grappling with, while attempting to tattoo down Trump’s legacy onto sore skin. “It will only become more significant. The love and support his supporters feel for him is only going to grow stronger,” she declared before reeling off his achievements as President.

This was around Fox jumping the gun calling Arizona for the Docrats which infuriated White House. But Ingraham would prep her viewers to move onto the Georgian Senate battles in January and taking the imminent Trump result on the chin by saying, “We don’t have time to bury our heads in crying towels.”

Crying towels are typically an indication of towels used by bowlers in baseball who are forever ready with an excuse for a rubbish pitch – sweaty hands, not being an inch taller, umpire’s eyesight etc. Basically everything except your own rubbish pitching.


Something about Trump’s golf (or maybe a lot) seemed to get Biden’s goat throughout the presidential TV debates. In his first and last, the incoming President would launch into Trump prioritising negotiating the sandy hazards on his golf courses over the very real hazard of the Coronavirus. “His ineptitude is why businesses have gone under, why schools are closed, why so many people have lost their lives. Those other concerns are real. That’s why he should have been, instead of in a sand trap at his golf course, been negotiating with Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the Democrats and Republicans about what to do about the acts they were passing for billions of dollars to make sure people could deal with the virus,” Biden would roar.

As luck would have it, Trump was around some bunker in West Virginia playing golf and not hunkering down to accept the inevitable when networks called the election in favour of Big Joe. Trump ticket representatives and lawyers would reiterate that he wasn’t intending to give up “till the final whistle was blown,” sport’s despondent end with a 50 pc likelihood.
Alas no such thing rung out on the golf course when the BIG bogey came for Trump.

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