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Tom Jones' Two Cents

Sports analysis, perspective and more.

Catchy phrases



Last week ESPN said it will no longer use Hank Williams Jr.'s song as its opening theme to Monday Night Football because of Williams' comments comparing President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler. The phrase "Are you ready for some football?'' has become one of the most popular catchphrases in sports -- kind of a sports version of "Where's the beef?'' Here are some of my favorite catchphrases that not only have had an impact in sports but in pop culture, including the song that no longer will be played on ESPN.

hank.jpgAre you ready for some football?
On one hand, it's hard to believe this catchphrase, born from Hank Williams Jr.'s All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight, is 20 years old. Then again, it seems like it has been around forever. That speaks to how deeply it has infiltrated sports' consciousness. Anyone who follows the NFL -- and television ratings numbers suggest that is a good portion of the country -- has done a bad Hank imitation by growling out, "Are you ready for some football?'' The phrase even became spoof material for Chris Farley on Saturday Night Live in 1997. If SNL is joking about it, you know it’s a big part of pop culture. It will be odd that we will never hear it again. Well, on live TV, that is.

Gentlemen, start your engines
This phrase is uttered to start most car races these days, but its origin is the Indianapolis 500. There's a debate as to who coined the phrase, but Wilbur Shaw, president of Indianapolis Motor Speedway from 1946 to 1954, made the saying famous. Then Tony Hulman, the investor who saved the speedway in the late 1950s, said those famous words from 1955 to 1977. Since then, someone from Fulman's family has said it. When women -- led by Janet Guthrie, Sarah Fisher and Danica Patrick -- began racing, the phrase because, "Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines.''

Na na na, na na na
Okay, you're looking at that headline and wondering what it means. This is how we would go about singing the last six notes of the theme for ESPN's SportsCenter. Go to any youth baseball practice or game. Go to any youth-league basketball or football practice or game. Watch a kid make a great catch, shot or tackle, and invariably someone will shout out, "Na na na, na na na.'' Everyone knows what it means: The play was worthy of being on SportsCenter.

buffer.jpgLet's get ready to rumble
Car salesman-turned-model Michael Buffer was 38 years old when he became a boxing-ring announcer on ESPN's Top Rank Boxing in the early 1980s. There, he came up with a catchphrase to get people pumped up for the fight: "Let's get ready to r-r-r-rumblllllllle.'' Soon it became all the rage, not only in boxing but among the general population. In 1992 Buffer acquired a trademark for the phrase, and it has been used in songs, video games, television commercials and more. It is estimated that Buffer has earned nearly $500 million on licensing from the trademark.

Play ball!
They are maybe the most famous two words in sports. As with many famous phrases, there are arguments as to how this one came about. Most historians point to around 1903 as this one’s origin. But who knows for sure? What we do know is our favorite line about "play ball.'' It came from the late Pittsburgh Pirates slugger Willie Stargell, who once said, "When they start the game, they don't yell 'Work ball.' They say 'Play ball.' ''Amen, Willie. Amen.

murray.jpgIt's in the hole!
Every golfer in the world knows where this phrase comes from. Every golfer in the world has probably said these words. And they've said them with the goofy Bill Murray accent. "It's in the hole'' is the final line from Murray’s classic speech in Caddyshack. Murray, playing caddie Carl Spackler, whacks flowers and pretends he is playing in the Masters. He starts his speech by calling it a "Cinderella story.'' The closing line remains the one that still cracks up everyone who knows it, no matter how many times they've heard it.

Get in the hole!
We didn't say you would like all these catchphrases. We just called them famous catchphrases. It's impossible to watch a golf tournament without hearing some yahoo yell "Get in the hole'' even if the golfer is teeing off on a 532-yard par 5. No one knows who said it first, and that's probably good, because most of us would like to bend a 2-iron around his neck. Same goes for the knucklehead who first yelled "You da man!''

defeat.jpgThe thrill of victory and the agony of defeat
These famous words were just a portion of the introduction of ABC's Wide World of Sports, the anthology series that ran from 1961 to 1998. The entire opening, written by TV executive, actor and writer Stanley Ralph Ross, was: "Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport … the thrill of victory … and the agony of defeat … the human drama of athletic competition. … This is ABC's Wide World of Sports.'' The line that stuck out was"the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,'' probably because of the accompanying clip that showed Slovenian ski jumper Vinko Bogataj’s spectacular crash off the end of a ski ramp.

And DOWN the stretch they come
Everyone knows this phrase is from horse racing. It's the call of the track’s public address announcer as the horses come out of the final turn. But do you know who made the phrase famous? The credit goes to Dave Johnson, a former track announcer at the New York Racing Association, who also has called all the Triple Crown races. Johnson's thrilling call, with the emphasis on "down,'' is known by even those who have never followed horse racing. It has bled into other areas, such as baseball pennant races and even political campaigns. About his signature call, Johnson, now approaching 70 years old, once said, "It's gotta be in my obituary.''


[Last modified: Sunday, October 9, 2011 3:13pm]


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