"Sauteed defense"?

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Mike Bresnahan, "Thunder's fourth-quarter fly-by beats Heat in NBA Finals opener", LA Times 6/12/2012:

Whatever that was in the first half certainly wasn't the Oklahoma City Thunder, the general awkwardness and sauteed defense looking fully unlike the cadre that zapped Dallas, the Lakers and San Antonio — keepers of 10 of the last 13 NBA championships — in consecutive playoff series.

I need some help here: what's going on with that "sauteed defense"? Sauteeing is not a sports metaphor that I'm familiar with, and it's not clear why being "browned while preserving its texture, moisture and flavor" evokes any particular style of basketball play.

Maybe it's because "Ingredients are usually cut into pieces or thinly sliced to facilitate fast cooking"? But web search for "thinly sliced defense" and "coarsely chopped defense" also come up empty.


  1. rpsms said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 11:03 am

    It may be significant that they were playing the Miami Heat?

    "Out of the frying pan, into the fire" looks pretty common, and I even came across this quote: "A season in the frying pan prepared the HEAT for the fryer, so to speak, and the process produced the result." (from: http://www.nba.com/heat/news/heat_83__bulls_80_game_5_recap_110527.html ). That is a perfect storm of HEAT, a potential saute reference, and an eggcorn.

  2. Roy Sablosky said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 11:15 am

    Why don't you write to Bresnahan and ask him what he meant?

  3. Cara said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 11:17 am

    Since this is basketball, the first association that came to mind was the fact that "sautee" is the past participle of the French sauter, to jump, but I doubt this is what they had in mind.

  4. kelly said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 11:36 am

    seems like Heat is the key… i take it to mean "quickly finished/cooked" in this context, but it's a stretch.

  5. KevinM said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 11:52 am

    Could it be a defense employed against the Fried Liver Attack?

  6. Sili said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 11:58 am

    Why don't you write to Bresnahan and ask him what he meant?

    Where's the fun in that?

  7. Brian said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 12:01 pm

    probably meant something like soggy or soft, in contrast to, say, crisp. What he probably wanted to say was flaccid, but turned to a weak cooking metaphor instead.

  8. Liz said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 12:09 pm

    More erudite than fried? I suspect that as a sports writer one gets tired of the same old descriptors.

    Never sauteed a goose before though.

  9. David Walker said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 12:33 pm

    When I saw that the game was to be played between Heat and Thunder, I knew something cosmic was happening.

  10. Robert Coren said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 12:52 pm

    @David Walker: There are getting to be a lot of teams (if I were in a prescriptive mood, I would say "too many teams") in various sports that are named after phenomena rather than persons or creatures. It's still mildly interesting that the NBA finals are being played between two teams that are named after weather phenomena.

    Of course, this only happened because the Seattle SuperSonics didn't follow an old NBA tradition: when they moved away from the locale to which their name was specific, they didn't keep the now-inappropriate name (unlike, e.g., the Minneapolis -> Los Angeles Lakers and the New Orleans -> Utah Jazz).

  11. Gene Callahan said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 12:55 pm

    I read it as Brian did. Not a very good metaphor, but I think that's what he meant.

  12. James said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 12:57 pm

    Huh, is this the first major (NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL) US finals played between two teams with mass nouns for names?

  13. Jon Weinberg said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 1:13 pm

    Another usage suggests that a "cooked" defense, even in sports other than basketball and without regard to the name of the opposing team, is one that is outplayed and fails to do its job.
    Without pressure on quarterback, Jaguars defense is cooked

  14. djw said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 1:13 pm

    I'd sort of assume they saute better in LA than I do in Texas, but my "saute" typically doesn't "preserve its texture"; usually, by the time the onions turn clear, they're also somewhat flaccid—which sounds as if it could describe this first-half defense.

  15. mollymooly said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 1:24 pm

    I would guess the relevant aspect of sautéing is the gentle shaking of the frying pan and consequent jostling of the food pieces. Thus 'sauteed' = "put into disarray by powerful forces outside their control".

  16. Not My Leg said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 2:25 pm

    @ Robert Coren

    Part of the settlement between the city of Seattle and the teams ownership group was that the relocated team could not keep the same name or use the same colors.

    As for non-plural names (or mass noun names), the NBA seems to have the most of any of the big 4 professional sports in America. I can think of 4 NBA teams (Magic, Heat, Thunder, Jazz) and 3 NHL teams (Avalanche, Wild, Lightning). I can't think of any MLB or NFL teams.

  17. Howard Oakley said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 3:19 pm

    Is this not a twist on the figurative use of cooking terms like 'roasted' and 'grilled' for 'undergoing an unpleasant experience' and the like? I have certainly heard 'flambéed' used in that sense, not in a sporting context.

  18. Robert Coren said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 4:13 pm

    @Not My Leg: Do you count "Major League Soccer"? If so, there's the New England Revolution, at least. In baseball, there's sufficient confusion about the pluralness of "sox" that writers tend to avoid constructions in which they'd have to come up with a singular form.

  19. Andy Averill said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 5:11 pm

    I guess it's possible that a sportswriter would be intimately familiar with the details of various cooking techniques, but more likely he just threw in the first synonym for "demolished" that came into his head. Elegant variation being an occupational hazard.

  20. Mr Punch said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 7:11 pm

    When the National Hockey League came to Miami, it was proposed that the new team be called the Humidity — as in "it's not the heat …."

  21. Jim said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 7:17 pm

    It couldn't be an auto-correction of some sort? Mangled "saturated", for example — "sautrated" is an easy mangle which leads right to "sautee".

  22. Ø said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 7:34 pm

    Some days you zap the bear, some days the bear sautes you. I don't think we have to look too deeply into the differences between sauteing and any other form of cooking. The sportswriter's constant yearning for a bit of novelty is what drives this sort of thing.

  23. Carl said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 9:14 pm

    I believe the following links explain the phenomenon seen in this reporting:



  24. h said,

    June 14, 2012 @ 12:41 am

    Maybe they ment a *sortie* defence?
    I don't know sport or war, so I don't know if that makes sense.

  25. TSTS said,

    June 14, 2012 @ 1:37 pm

    I think they meant "sortied", defined as "to come out from a defensive position to make an attack" when you google it. Past tense of sortie.

  26. AG said,

    June 14, 2012 @ 9:48 pm

    Well there are a bunch of other phrases that involve contact with fire being somehow connected with exhaustion or defeat: "you're toast", "I'm fried", "he's burnt out", "your goose is cooked", etc.

  27. AG said,

    June 14, 2012 @ 9:50 pm

    …oh wait! (sorry, this just came to me the second after I hit "submit comment" on the above) –

    what about the phrase "just a flash in the pan"? Could this be a really weird attempt at elegant variation of that?

  28. Sybil said,

    June 15, 2012 @ 8:38 am

    @h, TSTS: An eggcorn is born?

  29. Azimuth said,

    June 15, 2012 @ 10:39 am

    Maybe I don't know how to sautee. When I put greens in a hot pan, they lose moisture. I took "sauteed" to mean "limp".

  30. Nathan said,

    June 16, 2012 @ 12:55 pm

    @h, TSTS, and Sybil: Non-rhotic English in the LA Times? Not likely.

  31. David Walker said,

    June 18, 2012 @ 2:23 pm

    @Mr. Punch: Yes! All Miami sports teams should be called "The Miami Humidity". Also, any teams in Houston. Although Houston teams could also be called "The Houston Rain".

  32. David Walker said,

    June 18, 2012 @ 2:26 pm

    (Re: weird names for things.) Old joke: If a Dodge Shadow and a Mitsubishi Eclipse have an accident, will anyone see it?

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