I just heard the ESPN call of Clint Dempsey's lightning strike against Ghana for the first time - I was in a room of people screaming in a library for the original call - and it's interesting.
Ian Darke: Great start here...can Clint Dempsey score here? [...] the U.S. ahead! Incredibly! Within seconds! Now that... is dreamland. Clint Dempsey becomes the first American to score at three World Cups.
Taylor Twellman: ...and the biggest question was whether or not the United States would come out and punch Ghana right in the face, and they've done so. Great combination play from Dempsey and Jones.
Bolding mine. Dr. Nsenga Burton, who's a sports fan and one of the smartest cultural critics I've ever read, was surprised by the call, and especially by the bolded passage. [much of this post comes from an exchange we had on Facebook.] I wasn't.
I dunno how color commentators around the world utilize martial arts metaphors, but American ones - like Taylor Twellman - do it all. of. the. time. We speak violence. A clinching goal is a 'knockout punch', an evenly matched series is a 'heavyweight fight', etc. I don't know if Twellman would say the same if Dempsey had skated through Germany or Portugal's back line in the first minute - but I sure wouldn't be surprised.
Whether Twellman knows it or not, he was paraphrasing Mike Tyson - 'everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth' gets cited a lot when a team goes down early. Here's Mike Foss using it in a headline anticipating the USMNT getting punched in the mouth a few weeks ago. [And oh, did they ever get punched in the mouth by Portugal on Sunday - though Twellman didn't employ that phrase then.]
Sports teams 'get up off the mat'. Hell, they 'choke'. The USMNT had to prove it could 'take a punch'. I don't think that these words are necessarily the wrong ones to use. One of the reasons boxing is still around and still viable even though it's crooked as the day is long [and that MMA is surviving with a dearth of superstars] is because it's really compelling to see two adults try to bring each other to an end. It's not surprising that the terminology has worked its way into other contact sports.
Still: I'm usually a critical sports fan, but I rarely pay attention to just how much violence we speak into sports.
I'm going to start.