Wednesday, December 07, 2011


David from East Bay asked about the sports term alley-oop. It’s used in a couple of sports.

In basketball, it’s a play in which a leaping player catches a pass above the basket and immediately slams the ball in. Some contend that it was developed at Oklahoma Baptist University. Others attribute it to North Carolina State University.

In football, it’s a play in which the receiver runs into the end zone and leaps higher than his defenders to catch a deliberately high pass. This was developed by the San Francisco 49ers in their 1957 season. They used it several times that year, but Joe Popa reminded me that the classic instance of an alley-oop occurred during a game against the Detroit Lions on November 3, 1957. Y.A. Tittle threw a pass to R.C. Owens with only 10 seconds left on the clock and with the Lions 3 points up. The 6’ 3” Owens (who had played basketball in college) soared up and over his defenders and snared the ball.

The phrase was originally French (allez-oop). It may roughly be translated as “up you go,” and it was the cry uttered by a circus acrobat about to leap or about to give a fellow performer a leg up.

I’m not sure whether there was a connection to sports or not, but a very popular syndicated newspaper comic strip was named Alley Oop. It featured a time-traveling cave man.

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