ONE OF THE POPULAR theories about why women have not done well in business and politics is that women did not grow up playing sports and mastering the concept of team play. American enterprise, or so goes the theory, is built on the cornerstone of loyalty, following the leader and team play and there is no room for deviant isolationists. "I've been called a team player," says Gen. David C. Jones, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "I agree with that description. That is the best way to get things done and to have influence within the administration." It happens that Gen. Jones was talking about the Carter administration when he made that statement in 1978, but it also happens that Gen. Jones has managed to hang onto his job in 1981.
Team players know how to communicate with each other and since we are well into the age of communication, this is no small matter. Ronald Reagan is The Great Communicator. He uses charts and dollar bills and textbook definitions. Most men are a little less formal. They often use something called a sports analogy, particularly in communicating with each other. In fact, lots of movers and shakers in this world take some measure of each other in the way they communicate in sports analogies. Somehow knowing the difference between a third down and a line drive makes you just a little more manly, a little more intelligent, a little bit more capable. You're one of the boys.That you don't know the difference between a drop stitch and a knit-purl is no matter. No one else in the league does either.
All of this would not be of much note except for the fact that some of the people in The Great Communicator's administration have been heard making sports analogies. This means that everyone else is going to be doing it -- the White House is, after all, quite the trend setter these days -- and that means that those of us who don't speak in sports analogies are going to have to get with it if we are to have the foggiest notion of what is going on. This is no laughing matter. White House Press Secretary James Brady, discussing the meetings between President Reagan and the legislators who will be acting on his economic package, made the following statement: "This isn't a two-minute drill. It's three yards and a cloud of dust."
Of course, when I hear someone talking of three yards I think of sewing fabric. A two-minute drill is about what it takes to put in a dart and a cloud of dust is what happens when the fabric falls off my lap and onto the floor.
But of course that's not what Brady was talking about at all. He was making a sports analogy. He was saying that the presentation of the economic package was not going to be a spectacular play (two-minute drill), but a slow, grinding process in which the administration would gain a little bit at a time (three yards and a cloud of dust). I, however, had no idea what Brady was talking about until I interviewed my spouse and several associates who, while they don't usually speak in sports and analogies, have been close enough to those who speak the mother tongue that they understood the terms. With their help, I offer a guide on some of the other sports analogies we may be hearing in the future, and what they really mean.
"Let 'em know you're out there." Origin: baseball. Meaning: a pitcher who throws at batters and knocks them down. Something like Stockman is trying to do to the federal government.
"Take it to 'em." Origin: baseball. Meaning: be aggressive, go after them. What Haig did to Stockman.
"Bump and Run." Origin: football. Meaning: when you knock the other guy off balance so he can't get past you. What Haig did to the American ambassador to El Salvador.
"Fearsome Foursome." Origin: football. Meaning: nickname for the Los Angeles Rams front four linemen, syn. with big, intimidating, to be reckoned with. William French Smith, Caspar Weinberger, Donald Regan, Haig.
"Put on waivers." Origin: baseball. Meaning: to get fired, released, axed. Happens in all pro sports and to White House secretaries.
"Taxi Squad." Origin: football. Meaning: to be serving the team while you're waiting for some other player to fall on his face so you can take over. What Henry Kissinger is doing now.
"Blitz." Origin: football. Meaning: to send extra players after the quarterback. Carter got blitzed. Had he been a pitcher, he would have been knocked out of the box.
"Throw a bomb." Origin: football. Meaning: a spectacular, long pass from the quarterback. The baseball equivalent of the bomb is the long ball. Any sport has its spectacular play, the big move, the starmaker.
With Brady as spokesman, clearly anyone who wants to follow what the administration is doing is going to have to learn sports analogies. So let's all open our play books and study the game plan and memorize the patterns. This can't be as arcane as it looks. Next week, when Reagan delivers his economic package to the Hill, he'll be throwing smoke. He'll also be going for the long ball. He'll also be throwing a bomb. And a whole lot of people are rooting that he won't choke in the clutch.