Recently I rented the movie Go Tigers!, a documentary about Massillon, Ohio and their world-famous high school football team. While Massillon has a population of approximately 33,000 people, the Tigers' games usually draw about 20,000. Yeah, they're pretty popular. For better or worse, the Tigers are really the heart and soul of the town. A good film by the way.

During one scene in the movie, the Tigers are playing one of their big rivals and a kick ties up the score at 7-7. I think it happens just seconds before halftime. As the players walk off the field towards their respective locker rooms one of the announcers remarks

“…it’s 'kiss your sister time'…”
A rather odd phrase I thought.

Not knowing much about the rules of football I was wondering what the phrase might mean exactly. Maybe it just means a tie. Perhaps it’s a tie going into halftime. Maybe it’s just a local saying meaning "Hey, now’s a good time to go get something from the snack bar." Who knows?

I have a friend who is a somewhat of a recovering sports junkie. Whenever the need arises for some arcane AFL trivia or something, I know I can turn to him and be in good hands. Story of the 'immaculate reception'? No problem. Amount the USFL was awarded after besting the NFL in court? Just a phone call away. Explain to me again what the hell the Portland Breakers were supposed to be...

Before asking him however, I ran the phrase past Google and came up with a scant three hits. I found the phrases infrequent use all the more intriguing.

Curiouser and curiouser

In one of the articles I found, the game referred to was a tie. So maybe that was it, just a colorful way of saying "we're all tied up".

I brought up the article, written by Dan Gigler for Pittsburgh's Post Gazette, and typed up an email with my questions.

"... Is this a phrase used when someone scores and the two teams are now tied? Or more specifically, is it only used when the two teams are tied going into halftime?"
Mr. Gigler was very helpful and a fount of knowledge. Said he:
"The quote is frequently attributed to former Michigan State football coach Duffy Daugherty who was something of a Yogi Berra-type. I think its generally only applicable when a game ends in a tie."
(although in the film it was used at a half-time so maybe there’s a bit of play there…)
"I've never quite grasped what it meant either, except that it's something that is generally unfulfilling or ungratifying, but not the end of the world—i.e. in a tie game, you didn't win, and you didn't lose.

If I had to speculate, I suppose what Duffy was getting at was that if someone gave their sister an affectionate peck, you're kissing a woman (a plus), but YUCK!—it's your sister (a negative). I don't have a sister though, so I couldn't say. But I don't think it is tied to any tradition or has any local significance—I'm also speculating that Duffy may have said this after a legendary 10-10 tie in the early 1966 vs. Notre Dame, which is often regarded as the "greatest tie" in college football history, and it just caught on from there.”

So there you go.


BrooksMarlin held me after class to say "Heh, it's the Immaculate reception. You really don't know about football ;-)"
(I had originally cited it as the "immacualte interception, which thanks to Brooks I have since corrected)

Clooney writes: "...I've heard the quote attributed to Alabama's coach Bear Bryant, however. I'm pretty sure they mention it in a book called The Junction Boys, which details his time at Texas A&M. There is also a list of his quotes at this sight, but I can't attest to its accuracy. A few funny things, however:

Phyrkrakr says: "It's just an old quote 'a tie is like kissing your sister'... George Brett further expounded upon it, saying 'if a tie is like kissing your sister, then losing is like kissing your grandmother with her teeth out' "

artman2003 tells me: "well, there'll be no more sister-kissing in the NHL/hockey, with the new rules.:) after OT it's a shootout, no ties."

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