What's Your Best Meaningless Sports Comment?

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

The Super Bowl, as an American ritual, is a sporting event annually foisted upon a large number of people who don’t care about sports at all. Even if you have no idea what an A-11 offense is or why everyone gets so upset at refs all the time, you can maybe get behind the beer and companionship. I personally think beer and companionship are better enjoyed without any football at all, but you can’t have companionship without companions, and this is the time of year that all my companions want to watch “the game.”

Companionship involves talking, and game-day companionship involves talking about sports. What to say? How to pretend to be engaged? As someone from a family of sports non-fans, hailing from a town with a track record of driving away NFL teams, I’ve given this a lot of thought. My dad once had to go to a work function at a basketball game, and a colleague had to coach him on phrases to use. I remember him practicing at home: “Shoot from the key!” Also: “Something about the paint,” he recalled when I called him just now. “Keep the ball in the paint, or some damn thing, I don’t know.”

The best #sportscomment for a non-fan to make is a universally applicable one that contains virtually no information and thus cannot be wrong. John Madden was a master of this form. Behold: “When you have great players, playing great, well that’s great football!” So true.  Also generally true (via either Madden or friends of mine):

“They have to execute in all phases of the game.”

“Ultimately, it’s a team game, played by individuals.”

“These are two great teams, with great players and coaches on both sides of the ball. Still, only one team can win.”

“The best way to gain more yards is to advance the ball down the field from the line of scrimmage.”

“This is where legends are made. They’ll have to remember what got them here.”

“If this team doesn’t put points on the board I don’t see how they can win.”

“They’re going to have to make a play here.”

“They’re either going to run the ball here or they’re going to pass it.”

And here’s an adjustable one:

“That’s the play you gotta make!” (If you detect from the vibe in the room that something good happened.)

“That’s the play you gotta make.” (If the room vibe indicates something bad happened—note shift in emphasis, which changes the same words from a celebration to a rueful what-might-have-been.)

What are your favorite non-falsifiable sports comments? Drop me an email. Because the thing is, when you really think about it, it all comes down to fundamentals. Update: Your entries here.