The Devil’s Guide to Sports – OZY
In his irreverent 1906 masterpiece The Devil’s Dictionary, the 19th-century American writer Ambrose Bierce took aim at all manner of human hypocrisies, sins and shortcomings by penning a lexicon of cynical word definitions for a cynical age.
In the latest installment of The Devil’s Guide, we channel Bierce’s sardonic spirit to explore the peaks and valleys of the wide world of sports.
academy, n. A modern school where football is taught. — Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary
All-Star Game, n. Heavily publicized but immaterial contest between the very best players in the game who have been unable to fake an illness or injury in order to avoid working during their only break of the season.
baseball, n. The only sport where when you’re on offense, the other team controls the ball. — Ken “Hawk” Harrelson
college sports, n. Hugely popular intercollegiate contests driven by stunning displays of amateurism in admissions offices across America.
draft, n. Televised hiring process in which a highly desired job recruit agrees to forgo his other employment options in exchange for a hat and a jersey with his name on it.
end zone, n. The promised land of American football, affording the scorer the opportunity both to raise his team’s score and to lower his own dignity in the subsequent celebration.
fan, n. A person studiously dedicated to preventing the improvement of their favorite things. — The Verge, The New Devil’s Dictionary
football, n. In America, a popular sport in which the ball rarely comes in contact with the feet.
foul, n. When one of your team’s players makes flagrant, illegal contact with one of the players on my team.
golf, n. A sport for white men dressed like Black pimps. — Tiger Woods
Hail Mary, n. Last-gasp effort to snatch an undeserving victory from the jaws of a most just defeat.
hat trick, n. Scoring feat in hockey celebrated with the voluntary relinquishment of a dispensable, but not disposable, fashion accessory.
home run, n. Celebrated baseball moment in which a batter is rewarded for removing a critical piece of equipment from the premises.
knockout, n. The act of separating another man from his senses for a million-dollar purse rather than assault and battery charges.
Monday-morning quarterback, n. Sports aficionado whose tremendous gift for hindsight has made him better suited for the armchair than the playing field.
Moneyball, n. Sexy shorthand for the process whereby common sense is transformed into a competitive advantage.
MVP award, n. The most prestigious accolade given by a league composed of teams and that prizes team play.
NASCAR, n. Outdoor ritual in which grown men in jumpsuits drive around in circles for the pleasure of inebriated car-crash enthusiasts.
Olympics, n. Oversized sports conference where the nations of the world assemble every four years to bankrupt a host city for the purpose of showcasing the working-age men and women who are contributing the least to their nation’s gross domestic product.
press conference, n. The televised transcription of platitudes.
prospect, n. A promising young player who time and fate have not yet had the occasion to break.
slam dunk, n. A basketball maneuver that is like a thunderbolt from the gods, if the gods only took the easiest and the highest percentage shot.
skiing, n. The only sport where you spend an arm and a leg to break an arm and a leg. — Anonymous
soccer, n. American name for the sport of football, a game that is a matter of life and death in some places, and a highly effective sedative in others.
statistics, n. Figures that are like a girl in a bikini. They show a lot, but not everything. — Toby Harrah
touchdown, n. The ultimate act of forced penetration in a nation consumed by sex and violence.
umpire, n. Official in Major League Baseball tasked with writing the first draft of the game’s history with only the aid of his naked eye and unparalleled job security.
veteran, n. A grizzled underperformer whose presence, like that of a stable boy, is justified only by his ability to groom others.