Hat trick?

Frank Abate abatefr at EARTHLINK.NET
Tue May 21 23:28:06 UTC 2002

Fritz J said:

If I remember correctly, a hat trick in basketball is when a player shooting
free throws *misses* all three (3 for 2).  I have not heard this in a long
time, tho.  But it would be very useful now,  now that Shaq is on the line
so much.

I don't think "hat trick" is used regularly and consistently in basketball
circles.  My guess is that some broadcasters may have used it metaphorically
of missing 3 free throws, but it is not established basketball parlance.

My earliest association with "hat trick" is with ice hockey; only later did
I learn of the cricket connection.  I am guessing that it was picked up from
hockey and applied to soccer in English-language commentary, for the rare
event of one player scoring 3 goals in a game (now less rare in hockey).

The premier sports news show in the US is ESPN's Sportscenter, which runs
several times a day, and covers all sports in a tongue-in-cheek style.  As
with so many sports journalists, the folks who write for Sportscenter play
vigorously with language, and there are many imaginative "crossovers" of
slang taken from one sport and applied in another.  I would suspect some
such origin for the basketball use of "hat trick".

Given the ratings of sports shows, their influence on colloquial usage is
not to be discounted.  (The same is true of advertising copy, in print,
broadcast, and even supermarket coupons.)  While these sources are not often
cited in dictionaries and other such "official" recorders of language, they
do have enormously greater exposure among the general public, compared to
almost any "traditional" print sources that are cited.

Frank Abate

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