Trying to Think of a Sports Cliche
October 19, 2015 9:56 AM   Subscribe

What's the term for the solid team player who isn't a star and isn't the most talented but always reliably gets the job done? Synonyms would be "go-to" (or bastion, stalwart, linchpin, pillar, or bulwark). But the thesauruses I've tried haven't coughed up the word I'm looking for.
posted by Quisp Lover to Writing & Language (38 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Journeyman
posted by Rock Steady at 9:57 AM on October 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


Workhorse
posted by zachlipton at 9:57 AM on October 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


Someone who "anchors" a team?
posted by the sobsister at 9:58 AM on October 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


Emphasis on reliability rather than ploddingness, please :)
posted by Quisp Lover at 10:00 AM on October 19, 2015


Are you thinking of "clutch"?
posted by barchan at 10:00 AM on October 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


Utility Infielder (in baseball) utility player (in other sports, like football). These are players who can execute multiple roles well, but not quite as well as the starters. They're the dependable problem solvers a coach can put in when the team has an injury or other problem that leaves it a player short.
posted by bonehead at 10:04 AM on October 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


Twelfth man (football) or sixth man (basketball)?

List of sports cliches to describe players
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:07 AM on October 19, 2015


'Role-player' is a term I remember from many a basketball broadcast, but it's not used in bonehead's sense of a player who can do many things because they only play one position.
posted by jamjam at 10:07 AM on October 19, 2015


Came in to say "workhorse." In sports terms, it's not because of ploddingness (though such a player would likely not be the fastest on the team, because then he'd likely be more of a star) -- it's because you know that Workhorse Player X is going to be in the right place at the right time to make the play that was assigned to him or her.

I've also heard "fire and forget," but more in a military context -- you know that Fire-and-Forget Player Y is going to do the job you tell him to do without checking.
posted by Etrigan at 10:10 AM on October 19, 2015


Grinder
posted by AndrewInDC at 10:13 AM on October 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


More "go-to".
posted by Quisp Lover at 10:16 AM on October 19, 2015


Are you looking for a specific word that you can't think of, or just any one that fits your definition? Merriam-Webster literally defines "journeyman" as "an experienced reliable worker, athlete, or performer especially as distinguished from one who is brilliant or colorful".
posted by Rock Steady at 10:19 AM on October 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Journeyman these days has more the connotation with efficient, reliable players who fall short of the top tier and so are discarded once the contract is up because they don't justify a superstar salary, and end up on a different town that pays a bit more every two years.

Terms are likely to change from sport to sport, and depends on the position: I've seen "anchor" or "clock/work" being used in soccer for midfielders (anchor for defensive, clock for offensive), and "mainstay" for defenders. For attackers, there's not much in term of reliability unless they do things.
posted by lmfsilva at 10:32 AM on October 19, 2015


You hear some guys called "glue guys" because their actions, while not individually impressive, hold the team together.
posted by kevinbelt at 10:52 AM on October 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Lunchpail? (Pretty much always attributed to white guys that "aren't the most gifted athletically").
posted by Ufez Jones at 10:53 AM on October 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


In baseball, a relief pitcher who can be put out there day after day with consistent effectiveness is said to have a "rubber arm."
posted by mustardayonnaise at 10:53 AM on October 19, 2015


I'm not actually using the metaphor for sports. It applies more widely.
posted by Quisp Lover at 10:56 AM on October 19, 2015


Closer? Power back?
posted by mr. digits at 11:00 AM on October 19, 2015


Backbone.
posted by joelhunt at 11:02 AM on October 19, 2015


"Utility player" was what leapt to mind for me.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 11:04 AM on October 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Fundamentally sound. See: Chuck Knoblauch
posted by blackjack514 at 11:10 AM on October 19, 2015


"Block and Tackle"? From this blog: "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."
posted by stellaluna at 11:56 AM on October 19, 2015


In baseball : 5 Tool Player
posted by travertina at 12:09 PM on October 19, 2015


Yeoman
posted by dmt at 12:48 PM on October 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Horse, or in one case, "Iron Horse."

On preview, "horse" doesn't imply plodding. We're not talking about a real horse. We're talking about someone who gets the job done unflaggingly year in and year out.
posted by JimN2TAW at 1:18 PM on October 19, 2015


Scrappy is really common. I don't think Dustin Pedroia's name ever comes up without that word.

Be careful, though, a lot of these descriptors can have racial connotations.
posted by General Malaise at 1:23 PM on October 19, 2015


Meal ticket?
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 1:45 PM on October 19, 2015


I follow men's gymnastics, and there was a gymnast on the University of Michigan team the last few years who was a really solid and consistent gymnast but not one of the stars. He qualified for the US National Championships every years but finished in the bottom half. During a major competition, a commentator referred to him as the "unsung hero" of the team, because of his steadiness and reliability. I don't know if that's generalizable but I'll toss it into the pot.
posted by not that girl at 1:46 PM on October 19, 2015


In baseball, the sort of player who can play any position reliably and well, is called a "Utility Player." They are highly flexible and can be plugged-in anywhere and perform at a high level.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:06 PM on October 19, 2015


pillar, rock
resource.
go-to-guy.
somebody who has the instituional memory.
the ace in the hole.
the expert
posted by SLC Mom at 2:30 PM on October 19, 2015


Ace?
posted by Bunny Boneyology at 2:30 PM on October 19, 2015


I was gonna say yeoman-- I just heard a football announcer say that the other day.
posted by easter queen at 3:26 PM on October 19, 2015


Bell cow?
posted by jason and the garlic knots at 7:54 PM on October 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Talisman? I feel like what your describing is often the captain of a football (soccer) team - not the most talented player but the one who can make things happen through force of will.

There have also been players described as "the water carrier".
posted by neilb449 at 7:58 PM on October 19, 2015


Nth-ing Ace in the hole
posted by Sassyfras at 7:58 PM on October 19, 2015


Old Faithful.
posted by Liesl at 12:06 AM on October 20, 2015


clincher?
posted by namewithoutwords at 12:45 AM on October 20, 2015


linchpin?
posted by annie o at 9:18 PM on October 23, 2015


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