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Leveling the Playing Field
In Business.  
Business always begins with small talk, short conversations about topics of �universal� interest

such as sports. Not being a sports fan myself, I�m dismayed to note most small talk focuses on sports.

�Hi, did ya watch the game on Sunday? The Scorpions ate the Spiders for lunch!�

�Well,� I fumble to reply, �I don�t follow sports.� That puts me at a severe conversational disadvantage. Nothing flows easily after that enthusiasm breaker, especially the inevitable, �Great weather we�re having, isn�t it!?�

Years ago my friend Jim Kelly, ESPN sportscaster and conversationalist extraordinaire, told me to simply read the sports pages every day. That would be fodder to feed sports small talk. I gave it a try, but it just didn�t work.

This quagmire doesn�t stop when the small talk ends and business begins, though. Sports references are weaved throughout business meetings, too.

�Betty, it�s your meeting. Take the ball and run with it.�

�Thanks, Paul. I�ve developed a game plan and I�ll run through it, play-by-play.�

As Betty�s meeting continues into it�s second hour, heated issues lead to arguments. �Let�s call a brief time out for a 7th inning stretch,� Betty suggests. �We�ll regroup in 10 minutes and put the ball back in play.�

Well, isn�t that interesting? When using proper English we never mix metaphors, yet mixing sports terms must have been approved by league officials.

After Betty blows the whistle on the first half, the men and woman retreat to their respective rest rooms. A short time later the players return to their positions and Betty�s meeting continues. �OK, everyone, let�s have a brief chalk talk and rally this team together.�

I agree with Betty. This team needs to be rallied�around language with which we�re all comfortable. That wouldn�t be nearly as colorful, though.

So how about rallying around color? �I feel blue that the sales force is yellow around red hot prospects.�

Or music? �The promotion strikes a chord, and it�s in harmony with the brand. I�ll make a note of it.�

Weather? �We�re forecasting a sunny fourth quarter. The company�s weathered the storm and our hot new products will breeze through channels.�

Driving is universal: �We�ve accelerated the depreciation expense. That�ll shift our financial to a more scenic route.�

 In the advertising business, certain sports terms are stalwarts. Even people outside the industry are familiar with �the pitch.�

When referring to a client�s primary competition it�s not uncommon to refer to the �major players in the field.�

And how many times have you heard this business referred to as �the advertising game�?

Sports are extremely important to a large segment of the population, especially those who paint their faces blue, scream �Mook-ie, Mook-ie, Mook-ie,� and wave huge colorful foam rubber cutouts of their favorite teams� mascots. 

What is it about sports that�s so compelling? Do fans visualize themselves throwing, tackling, jumping, hitting, running, swinging, dribbling, sliding, catching and whatnot? Don�t think so. My 91-year old mother says she �simply enjoys a good baseball game.� I�m just glad she doesn�t enjoy painting her face and yelling obscenities at the ump.

Sports touches everyone, fans and otherwise. And I really don�t mind the mania.  Somehow I understand the metaphorical value, even if I don�t follow the games. I guess I�m just a good sport. I�ll play ball.

What are your favorite sports metaphors? Coach me through �em
by calling 212.696.1200. Are you game?

Mark S. Levit

Advertising agency