Rookies and Underdogs: More Sports Metaphors

Even though the 2013 World Series is now history, there are still plenty of sports to enjoy this fall.  The football season is well under way, hockey is in season, and basketball has just begun.   In addition to my recent post on baseball metaphors, I covered football terms several months ago, today I thought I would add a few general metaphors from the world of sports.

Many aspects of American politics are compared to sports, mostly baseball, basketball and football.  The ideas of teamwork, competition and the various moves required in different sports are often used metaphorically to describe elections and other political situations.

1910 Michigan Wolverines football team
1910 Michigan Wolverines football team

team up with

The word team was originally described a group of animals used to pull a plow.  In more modern times, teams apply more commonly to groups in sports.  Politicians may be said to team up with other people or groups to help them get elected or get bills through Congress.

Example: U.S. presidents often team up with business leaders across the country to create jobs in private industry.


The term underdog originally meant the dog that was losing or lost a dogfight, being pinned underneath the winning.  In sports, the underdog is the person or team that is expected to lose the game because of inferior win/loss record.  In politics, an underdog is a person who is not expected to win an election.

Example: In the 2010 Congressional elections, many underdog Conservative candidates won House and Senate seats in a sweeping backlash against Barack Obama’s progressive policies.

Robert Griffin III was voted Offensive Player Rookie of the Year in 2012
Robert Griffin III was voted Rookie of the Year (Offense) in 2012


The word rookie is perhaps derived from the word recruit in a military sense.  More commonly, it is a term in sports used to describe a person in his or her first year of professional play.  In politics, a rookie is a first year Senator, Member of Congress or any other state or federal employee.  The term rookie can also have a negative connotation; it can be used to criticize someone who makes mistakes due to inexperience.

Example: First-year Congressmen and Congresswomen sometimes make rookie mistakes such as not repeating the party lines in television and radio broadcasts.

root for

In sports, to root for a team means to support or cheer for that team to win their games.  In politics, people can also root for the candidates that they hope will win elections.

Example: Many women voters in America rooted for Sarah Palin to win the election with John McCain in 2008 so that she could become the first female vice president.

Belarusian Victoria Azarenka is often a finalist in world tennis championships
Belarusian Victoria Azarenka is often a finalist in world tennis championships


In some sports, players or teams compete for the final places in the playoffs to be able to play for the championship.  These players or teams are known as the finalists.  In American elections, the candidates who win the nominations of their parties and can compete in the state or national elections may also be called finalists.

Example: In the 2012 Republican primaries, many candidates competed to be the finalists to become the nominee of the party, but only Mitt Romney was chosen in the end.

Next time:  Obamacare Metaphors and More!

One thought on “Rookies and Underdogs: More Sports Metaphors

  1. It is becoming increasingly clear from your examples of metaphor in politics that you personally are decidedly right-wing Republican. As a progressive Democrat I am irritated by your propaganda disguised as linguistics discourse. If your examples were more balanced I could tolerate it because I find your definitions to be of interest.

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