Many sports terms and expressions have become part of standard American speech. Here are examples, a few of which are so common that even the native speaker has to be reminded that the origin derives from a game or competition.
Catch it –to get into trouble and receive punishment; to understand
"We're going to catch it if she comes back to the office early."
Play ball–to cooperate with someone
"As soon as both sides sign the contract, then we can play ball."
The way the ball bounces–fate, inevitability, destiny; randomness
"It's just the way the ball bounces, whether your application is accepted or not."
Sporting chance–a reasonably good possibility
"We thought we had a sporting chance when the other company withdrew its bid."
Whole new ball game–a new set of circumstances
"We found our way around Washington, D.C., without getting lost, but New York City is a whole new ball game."
Ballpark figure–an estimate
"At this time all we need is a ballpark figure. Exactness comes later."
Have the ball in someone's court–to have to make a response or take action
"We've made our proposal, so the ball's in their court now."
Bench–to withdraw someone; to stop someone from participating
"The director of the play benched the lead actress because she was always late for rehearsals."
On the ball–knowledgeable; competent; attentive
"If we were on the ball, the bills would have been paid on time."
Be a hit–to please someone; be a success
"The award ceremony was a hit, attracting an overflow crowd."
Step up to the plate–to act; take, accept responsibility
"Mary needs to step up to the plate and decide which proposal will best serve the interests of the company."
Strike out–to fail
"John struck out with his book proposal; he received a rejection letter from the publisher today."
Throw a curve–to fool, surprise; to bring up the unexpected
"The boss threw us a curve ball when he announced that each employee would have to bring his own food to the company picnic."
Off base–unrealistic; inexact; wrong
His cost estimate was way off base, far higher than warranted by current prices for labor and materials.
Out of left field–irrelevant; unexpected
His silly proposals for solving the problem came out of left field.
Full court press–intense pressure, effort
"The committee put on a full court press to collect the necessary funds."
Slam dunk–tremendous success; outstanding accomplishment
"The show was a slam dunk for the artist, who sold every painting he exhibited."
Pull one's punches–to hold back in one's criticism
"My English teacher doesn't pull any punches when it comes to discipline. She maintains an orderly classroom."
Throw in the towel–to quit; to give up
"When they found out he was receiving bribes, the Senator knew it was time to throw in the towel."
Against the ropes–about to fail, be defeated; at the point of exhaustion
"Already having been turned down twice for a loan, John was against the ropes when he asked a third bank to finance the car he had agreed to buy."
Bowl over–to surprise or overwhelm
"When I heard the news that I got the new job, it bowled me over."
American football idioms
End run–to avoid the usual procedures and authorities.
"He made an end run around his boss and got money for the project directly from the president of the company."
Huddle–to gather together to consult
"The board of directors huddled to discuss an anticipated protest by workers."
Horse racing idioms
Horse around–to waste time; to be careless
"During the meeting the boss shouted, 'Stop horsing around and get to work.'"
Down to the wire–to complete something at the last minute
"The student went down to the wire, turning in her essay just as the class bell rang."