A new football season is upon us. There is no good football dictionary
available; if I have time to go to the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio,
perhaps I'll do it.
Christine Ammer's SOUTHPAWS & SUNDAY PUNCHES, AND OTHER SPORTING
EXPRESSIONS leaves a lot to be desired.
The following list is interesting, especially for "team of destiny" and
"coffin corner kick." It's from the Scholastic Magazine, October 19-24,
1942, pg. 35, cols. 1-3, Sports, "Idiom's Delight" by Herman L. Masin:
(...) Here are a few of the more famous catch phrases and how they
_A Punt, a Pass, and a Prayer_. A minneapolis sportswriter coined this
slogan many years ago after watching Michigan beat a much stronger Minnesota
eleven by the clever use of kicks and passes. Nowadays the phrase is used to
describe a team that plays for the breaks.
_The Galloping Ghost_. Red Grange, of Illinois, the trickiest open
field runner of all time, was thus dubbed after the 1924 Michigan game. He
handled the ball only five times and scored five touchdowns on runs of 95,
67, 45, and 15 yards!
_The Four Horsemen_. Grantland Rice, the famous sportswriter, is
responsible for this term. He used it in a news story describing Notre
Dame's 1924 backfield of Harry Stuhldreher, Jim Crowley, Elmer Layden, and
Don Miller. This backfield was smoother than an actress' hair-do.
_A Team That Won't Be Beat Can't Be Beat_. Johnny Poe coined this
famous phrase in a locker room pep talk while coaching Princeton in 1896.
Twenty years later Poe was killed in France while fighting with the British
Army in World War I.
_Coffin Corner Kick_. This term was first applied to the slanting punts
of the University of Pennsylvania's George Brooke which rolled out of bounds
close to the angle formed by the sideline and the goal-line. The phrase
later was revived by LeRoy N. Wills, a lawyer whose hobby was teaching boys
to control their kicks and to punt diagonally for the deep corner. (When it
was rumored that Jimmy Hoffa was buried mob-style at Giants Stadium in New
Jersey, some headlines mentioned that he was in the "coffin corner"--ed.)
_The Team of Destiny_. Princeton's resourceful 1922 team originally
earned this title. It made its own luck and forced the breaks in beating
many stronger foes. (Many teams have claimed that "destiny" is on their
side. I think Joe Namath's 1969 Jets were "destiny's darlings"--ed.)
_Win One for the Old Gipper_. If you saw the movie, "Knute Rockne--All
American," two years ago, you know the origin of this phrase. When George
Gipp, Notre Dame's greatest halfback, lay dying from pneumonia at the close
of the 1920 season, he called Coach Rockne to his bedside and said: "If a
Notre Dame team is ever behind at the half of a critical game and you want to
rouse them, get the gang together in the locker room and tell 'em to win one
for the old Gipper. I'll be with them in spirit." (For a better version,
see the movie AIRPLANE! and "Win one for the old zipper!"--ed.)