The cliché is a time-honored tradition in sports, ranking right up there with the hot dog, the t-shirt gun and the fat drunk fan not wearing a shirt in the dead of winter. Its origins date all the way back to the second time an announcer held a microphone in a player’s face and asked him to comment. These days clichés can be found competing with beating down actual original thoughts any time a sports figure opens his mouth.

The beauty of the cliché is it actually sounds like it means something. Almost. That’s because at one point in time — before the phrase was repeated over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over [INHALE] and over and over and over and over and over — it did. Of course once the listener realizes the meaninglessness of what’s been said, the speaker is on to the next “thought.”

The talented wielder of a cliché can string along a listener forever without actually saying anything. (Bill Belichick’s streak, for example, dates back to the beginning of the century.) And in the era of the soundbite, of the gotcha moment, this is key. Because saying nothing generally won’t get you in trouble.

While we’ll never get rid of all clichés in sports, maybe we can give some young up-and-coming clichés a chance. You know, keep things fresh. But that means retiring some of the old crutch phrases. Here are 10 clichés we’d like to see go the way of the dodo.

1. “Mistakes were made.”

Indeed they were… by the person saying this… who should just say, “I made a mistake.” This cliché makes it sound like it’s nobody’s fault that you screwed up. While the phrase reaches far beyond the sports world, we should just agree to leave it for the politicians. Or, you know, stop doing things that require a sidestepped apology.

AUSTIN, TX - JANUARY 14:  In this handout photo provided by the Oprah Winfrey Network, Oprah Winfrey (not pictured) speaks with Lance Armstrong during an interview regarding the controversy surrounding his cycling career January 14, 2013 in Austin, Texas.  Oprah Winfrey?s exclusive no-holds-barred interview with Lance Armstrong, "Oprah and Lance Armstrong: The Worldwide Exclusive," has expanded to air as a two-night event on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.  The special episode of "Oprah?s Next Chapter" will air Thursday, January 17 from 9-10:30 p.m. ET/PT (as previously announced) and Friday, January 18 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. The interview will be simultaneously streamed LIVE worldwide both nights on

Lance Armstrong (Photo Credit: George Burns/Oprah Winfrey Network via Getty Images)

2. “This is an unfortunate incident.”

Again with removing the speaker from blame, as if that thing you did just kind of happened out there in the world. Hurricanes, earthquakes, sticking that steroid needle in your rear end… they’re all simply acts of God.

3. “My comments were taken out of context.”

I feel like maybe people just don’t quite understand context. You don’t get to go back and change the meaning of what you said after the fact, not that people don’t try. We’ve got it all on video.

4. “It is what it is.”

And, um, what exactly is it? Isn’t that why you’re talking, to tell us what IT is?

5. “They wanted it more than we did.”

If only things worked this way, because I REEALLLY want to win the lottery. I’ve never picked any numbers; I’ve never bought a ticket. But that shouldn’t matter. Talent, preparation and luck are way overrated.

6. “It just wasn’t meant to be.”

Which isn’t to say that determination means nothing. If the outcome is already decided by fate, why exactly do we bother to play the game?

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 15: Kirk Cousins #12 of the Washington Redskins chats with Robert Griffin III after throwing a 4th quarter interception against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on December 15, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Kirk Cousins and Robert Griffin III (R) (Photo Credit: Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

7. “This team is like a family.”

Really? So that would make every game like an episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians. I didn’t realize I could cut my brother for forgetting my birthday or trade my mom for a mom to be named later.

8. “He always gives 110%.”

Except, you know, in math class.

9. “Take it to the next level”

Would this be 101%, or maybe 111% for the guy who always gives 110%? Maybe Mr. 110% is already on the next level. So where would he take it? It’s all so confusing. Regardless, the mere suggestion of this mythical “next level” implies that players dog it the rest of the time.

10. “A win is a win.”

Thanks for the clarification there, Sport-O, Master of the Obvious. I thought it was a doughnut, or maybe an armadillo. [Fun Fact: “A win is a win” isn’t actually a cliché in Redskins Nation. A recent survey reveals that 72% of the team’s fanbase isn’t quite sure what a win even is.]

Check out even more Sports Lists.

Norm Elrod likes sports and other sanctioned forms of craziness.


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