Every individual sport has it: that catch phrase that players say to themselves in the heat of battle. It’s either to motivate themselves or plead to the sport’s invisible pantheon to deliver them to victory.
In tennis, as so wonderfully laid out today at Deadspin, that phrase is “Come on!” Its proliferation is so deep that Jerry Seinfeld has lost all control over its use. It is pervasive in the sport, borderline reflexive.
But, tennis is not unique in this regard, despite what veteran venerable broadcaster Ted Robinson said to Deadspin.
“I can’t think of any other comparable chant or cheer or charge in any other sport,” said Robinson.
In poker — or really any kind of card-based gambling (and I’m not saying poker’s a sport, but it’s on ESPN, so roll with it) — there’s the phrase “One time!” It’s what players say when they need the cards to fall their way. The problem with gamblers is that they ALWAYS need to cards to fall their way, otherwise they lose money. So that means “One time!” doesn’t really mean that. It means “This and every time!”
Poker, as a community, is aware of the “One time!” problem. It makes fun of their kind that most overuse the phrase. There’s an unwritten rule that a poker player can only use it — as you might guess — once per tournament.
Besides, “Oh, God, let me win!” doesn’t roll off the tongue quite the same. And since so many golfer gamble, maybe it makes sense hackers have their own turn of phrase.
And in golf, there’s “Be right!”
It could be yelled at the golf club or the ball. The golf ball isn’t in the air long enough for a player to shout the mix of obscenities and protestations that they want to shout at it before it finds its next resting place. The instructions have to be curt and to the point. Unfortunately, “Be right!” is awfully vague. It could mean to stop flying, to land short and run up, to have less backspin than the player imparted on it. It also represents pleading to an object whose fate the player decided.
If it’s yelled at the club — e.g., “Be the right club!” — it’s usually a humblebrag of sorts, letting everyone around you know that you hit that ball, that one in the air, dead flush. If it doesn’t land near the pin, either the wind got it or you hit it too well. Either way, it’s not your fault.
Take your pick, but every golfer on the planet says it at least once per round.
Of course, there are variations.
There’s Hal Sutt0n, with his “Be the right club to-day!” from the 2000 Players Championship. He wasn’t speaking to the ball so much as into the ether.
Tiger Woods often repeats “Be right.” Once is a request. The second time, it’s an order.
In the middle of what is arguably his finest hour, even Jack Nicklaus said it — kind of. After hitting what appeared to be a perfect tee shot to the par-3 16th in the 1986 Masters, Nicklaus’ son, Jack II, shouted toward the ball, “Be the right club!”
Nicklaus, fully in the zone and maybe well aware destiny was on his side that Augusta Sunday, simply turned to his boy and gave an acknowledgement the ball never gives.
It was, and he won a sixth green jacket.