What Are Terms To Describe A “Game Start” In Different Sports?
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What Are Terms To Describe A “Game Start” In Different Sports?

The world of sports is filled with fascinating terms, some more, others less known by common people. But one thing that can be confusing yet intriguing is the technical language and phrases to describe a game start.

If you’re a fan of football, then it should be obvious that a football match starts with a kick-off, but what about hockey, basketball, and other sports? This article has all the answers you need.

Basketball – Tip-Off

Every basketball game starts with a jump ball, where the referee throws the ball up in the air between two players who jump and try to tap the ball into the hands of one of their teammates after the ball reaches its apex. As soon as the ball lands in one of the player’s hands, the game starts, and the team that got possession of the ball gets to attack first.

Russell Westbrook & Carmelo Anthony Tip-Off Ritual

The jump ball is used mainly only at the start of the game (with some rare exceptions), but it wasn’t always like that. Back then, jump balls were used regularly throughout a basketball match – nearly at any stoppage time. And since the jump ball is mainly at the start of a basketball game in modern times, it’s only fitting that we describe the start of a basketball match as Tip-off.

American Football – Kick-Off

Every American football fan is very familiar with how any match starts – a team kicks the ball to the other side of the field from the 35-yard line. Since the game starts with a kick, it’s only fair that the start of an American football match is known as a “kick off.”

As the team’s kicker kicks the ball down the field, his teammates rush down to get themselves in position to stop the opponent’s attack. Meanwhile, the other team catches the ball and rushes down the field, and wherever they’re tackled and lose possession of the ball, they start their offensive possession.

If the ball goes out in the back of the end zone or if the receiving team catches the ball in the end zone, they get the ball on their 20-yard line. Meanwhile, if the ball goes out of bounds, the receiving team get the ball on the 40-yard line.

Football (Soccer) – Kick-Off

Not only do football (or soccer) and American football share the name, but they also use the same word to describe the beginning of a match. The reasoning is straightforward since a football match starts with a player kicking a ball.

'They're not going to shoot directly from kick-off, are they?'

Compared to American football, football starts a bit differently, as the team with the ball doesn’t have to kick the ball to the other side of the pitch. Instead, the game starts when one of the two players starting the match in the centre circle kicks the ball.

Interestingly, the player who first kicked the ball can’t touch it again before his teammate or opponent touches it. It might also be interesting to learn that a team can score a goal from the kick-off; however, that’s rarely attempted.

Hockey – Puck Drop

Most phrases used to describe a sports game start are self-explanatory, and the puck drop – used to describe the start of a hockey game – is no exception.

Devils host 'Puddy' for puck drop on '90s Night

The first act of a puck drop involves the referee putting the puck into play by dropping it between two players who fight to gain possession of the puck, and there’s not much more to it. The puck drop, is, however, sometimes done by a celebrity or an honoured guest as a ceremonial puck drop, which doesn’t officially start the game until the referee does it.

Baseball – First Pitch

Like in hockey, baseball has both a ceremonial first pitch and the actual first pitch, with the former much more common in baseball than in other sports. Often ahead of big games, a celebrity or honoree will throw the first pitch to the catcher.

President Barack Obama throws out the first pitch at Nationals' home opener

Although nothing more than a ceremony, first pitches by politicians are taken seriously, and they’re usually judged by the quality of their first pitch. Whether there’s any truth in that is up to debate.

George W. Bush had a solid first pitch, Obama completely missed it, and Donald J. Trump did his years before he became president and came out short by a couple of meters, so you can make your own conclusion about whether there is any correlation.

Car Racing – Green Flag

Stepping away from the ball sports, we have car racing sports. Although there are many different types of car racing, nearly all have one thing in common – flags with a specific meaning for the drivers.

Green flag drops on 107th Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway | Motorsports on NBC

The flags in car racing were used long before modern technology, where the teams can provide the drivers with all the information through a microphone. But back in the day, all the information was delivered through flags, including the yellow flag (end of caution), a checkered flag which symbolises the end of the race, and the green flag, which symbolises the start of the race.

Golf – Tee Off

Those who are familiar with golf and the basic golf terms won’t struggle to make sense of why the start of a golf game is named “Tee Off”, granted it’s pretty self-explanatory.

Every golf game starts with a golfer hitting the ball, which is put on top of a tee – a small pin on top of which you put the ball. And since the round of golf starts with a golfer hitting the ball off the tee, it makes perfect sense that the start of any golf round is named “Tee Off”.

No Official Name

There are many sports that don’t have an official way to describe the game start. That includes cricket, where the game starts after the game starts after umpire shouts “play”, tennis, which even after all these years, doesn’t have a proper term to describe the start of the game, and the same applies to darts, pool, snooker,

How about esports? Esports have been around for decades, yet we don’t have a proper term to describe when a game starts. Perhaps a “Click-Off” could stick, but for now, esports remain without a phrase to describe a game starting.

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