American English edit
To deal with American business persons it is a good idea to understand something about American sports. Many businessmen were athletes in high school and college and have had their way of thinking formed by team sports. It is important to know a little about the most popular sports: football (not soccer), basketball, baseball, golf, and even hockey in some areas.
Sports metaphors and jargon permeate even polite speech. This is because these phrases have become so common in speech that they come to mind outside of sports contexts for many native speakers, to the point where some native speakers may not even consciously realize their use of sports terminology in polite conversation. Below are some common expressions:
- "Run with it" or "Take the ball and run with it"
- "Homerun", "That's a homerun", or "Hit a homerun"
- "Punt", "It's time to punt", "I think we'll have to punt", or "We punted"
- "Hole in one" or "You hit a hole in one"
- "Hail Mary" or "Throw a Hail Mary"
- "Slam dunk" or "It was a slam dunk"
It is expected that conversational partners will understand these. Only those speakers who reflect on the cultural derivation of these expressions will modify their speech for those who do not share similar cultural backgrounds. However, the savvy listener can usually comprehend the meaning of these expressions when heard in context of a discussion.
Getting a literal home run in baseball is a huge success. A figurative home run is also a huge success.
A slam dunk in basketball. It's impossible to miss with a slam dunk, so it makes success a certainty.
A Hail Mary is a desperate and risky maneuver made in American football when there are no other choices. Though the risk is great, so too is the reward. Though unlikely, a successful Hail Mary will often lead to victory from a position others saw as otherwise certain failure.
In golf, a hole in one is achieved with a single swing of the club, leading to completion of a hole with the best score possible. This is a feat that not only involves a great deal of skill in execution, but also luck.
When holding the ball, it's on the player to take it and run with it under their own power, making decisions as the situation develops. In a business context, taking the ball and running with it refers instead to working on a task independently.