Sunday/Monday morning quarterback

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Sat Jul 15 17:53:20 UTC 2006

Back in Aug. 2002, Barry Popik uncovered this early cite for "Monday
morning quarterback", quoting another Barry, Harvard's quarterback
Barry Wood (also author of the OED's 1932 cite):

1931 _New York Times_ 5 Dec. 22/8 The answer to overemphasis was to be
found not on the field, but in the stands, where sit what Wood called
"the Monday morning quarterbacks."
[HNP Doc ID 118429281]

Larry Horn responded:
> I've always wondered about this.  The cite above confirms my
> hypothesis that it was college quarterbacks (whose game would have
> been played on Saturday) that were originally subject to
> second-guessing by the Monday morning QBs.  For one thing, the pro
> game (played on Sunday) was much slower to develop and catch on.  But
> then why not "Sunday morning quarrterbacks" for the revisionists?  Is
> it that the analysis and dissection of the Saturday game wouldn't
> have seen print until the Monday morning papers?  (Clearly the
> second-guessers in the stands didn't actually wait until Sunday, much
> less Monday.)  Or mabye the potential SMQBs were all in church on
> Sunday morning instead?  (These days, with pro football dominant,
> Monday morning is actually the more appropriate time slot, but the
> term was already established decades ago, as this cite indicates.)

To answer Larry's question, second-guessers were actually called
"Sunday morning quarterbacks" (or even "Saturday evening
quarterbacks") before Wood used the "Monday morning" version in Dec.
'31. A few cites:

1930 _Los Angeles Times_ 26 Apr. 9/4 "Huh!" snorted one of the
Sunday-morning quarterbacks. "Wonder what the great managerial idea
was to leave Baccht in until he was hammered for six runs in the sixth
inning, and then with one on and two out lift him for a relief
[HNP Doc ID 378526511]
1930 _Syracuse (N.Y.) Herald Journal_ 16 Oct. 17/1 As they moved
slowly, foot by foot, down the long ramp they listened to the Sunday
morning quarterbacks who were already replaying the game.
[Serial story, "Joan of Arkansas", by Jerry Brondfield, NEA Service]
1931 _Los Angeles Times_ 24 Jan. 8/2 However, that comes under the
head of second guessing, just like Sunday morning quarterbacking.
[HNP Doc ID 386178631]
1931 _Los Angeles Times_ 10 Nov. II12/2 Some of the Saturday night and
Sunday morning quarterbacks have been finding fault with Southern
California strategy in kicking on third down when comparatively close
to the Stanford goal line.
[HNP Doc ID 379483661]

(Note that the earliest cite from 4/26/30 shows that "Sunday morning
quarterback" was already extended to non-football contexts, in this
case baseball.)

"Sunday morning" and "Monday morning" qbs coexisted for a while, but
by the late '30s "Monday morning" was the more common version. One
obvious reason for the staying power of "Monday morning qb" in the
'40s and beyond is that it could be applied to the kibitzers of either
Saturday college games or Sunday pro games.

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list