block verb – 1e: to interfere usually legitimately with (as an opponent) in various games or sports
tackle verb – 2 a: to seize, take hold of, or grapple with especially with the intention of stopping or subduing b: to seize and throw down or stop (an opposing player with the ball) in football.
Long-time readers of this blog will recognize my affinity with sports analogies and metaphors. So, recently, during the summer lull, I embarked upon a non-scientific study of the frequency of certain sports metaphors in business writing. And one popped up far more often than any other: “blocking and tackling.”
For those unacquainted with American football, blocking and tackling are two of the most basic skills of the game–necessary (but not sufficient) ingredients for winning. Teams that can’t block or tackle are doomed. For executives, blocking and tackling represent work that’s not glamorous but is important.
Here are some examples:
WSJ.com Marketbeat What’ll it take to fix Yahoo isn’t a mystery, and isn’t a magic bullet, Henry Blodget writes at Silicon Alley Insider. “It’s just blocking and tackling. And it will take time.”
Innosight blog Burberry has spent more than $100 million to improve its ability to ensure that the right products get to the right stores at the right time. These challenges of course require a fair amount of blocking and tackling, but there’s also ample room for fresh, innovative thinking.
NeuStar Q2 2008 Earnings conference call (COO Lisa Hook speaking): However, I asked to be on this call as a six month check-in, to assure that I am focused on delivering the basic, blocking and tackling necessary to meet our targets for growth and profitability.
This phrase was a recurring theme in executives’ earnings calls (here, here and here, for example). Of course, given the recent news in the financial markets, perhaps there was better blocking and tackling they could have done.
Other metaphors I looked for that were much rarer: “home run,” “unforced error” (which was popular in political writing), “icing the puck,” “letting off the hook.”
Did I miss any? What favorite sports metaphors do you have?
Welcome to Sports Analogy week