首页  | 专栏作家

Get the ball rolling? 动起手来

中国日报网 2019-01-18 12:27


Reader question:

Please explain “get the ball rolling”, as in this sentence: “Any ideas, guys, to get the ball rolling?” What ball?

My comments:

The proverbial ball, the metaphorical ball, the idiomatic ball.

Here, the speaker asks participants for suggestions on how to get started. Maybe he or she is talking about a debate or some other activity being planned.


To do anything, one has to get started, somewhere, right?

Right. Hence, the need to get the ball rolling.

Clearly, this expression originates from the game of sports, specifically ball games, such as soccer, basketball or ping pong.

In soccer for example, at the beginning of each match, we see players from two sides stationed on each side of the center line, one on the left, the other on the right. Then the referee blows the whistle signaling the game can now begin. One player is seen kicking the ball in the direction of the opponent side of the field and the game, officially, begins.

Same thing in basketball, volleyball, ping pong, tennis or any other ball game. Once the ball starts rolling, the game begins in earnest. Or conversely, once the game begins, the ball starts rolling.

Hence and therefore the colloquialism, the idiom, the metaphor, “let’s get the ball rolling”, meaning “let’s get going.”

Once the ball starts rolling, of course, things happen. In the sports field, the fun begins, of course. Proverbially, if the ball were a snowball and once it starts rolling, it gets bigger and bigger. Or if the ball were a boulder on top of a hill and if that boulder starts rolling, it will gather speed as it rolls down the slope.

In other words, once the ball starts rolling, it will have consequences, good or bad.

So, back to our example, the speaker asks for ideas to get the ball rolling, that is, to get the conversation or project up and running.

Then, later on, the speaker perhaps will ask for ideas to KEEP the ball rolling.

That is, to keep the conversation or activity going, to keep it moving forward and progressing and not grinding to a halt or full stop.

When the ball stops rolling altogether, it is, to use another sports expression, game over.

All right, here are media examples of “getting the ball rolling”:

1. The Winchester Rescue Mission is seeking to expand its outreach and provide a homeless shelter for women, but the mission’s director, Brandan Thomas, told the Rotary Club of Winchester on Thursday afternoon that community help is needed.

The Winchester Rescue Mission has 32 beds at its men-only shelter at 435 N. Cameron St. It provides breakfast and dinner daily, laundry services and shower facilities.

While meals are provided to anyone in need — man, woman or child — the shelter only allows men to spend the night. Thomas told the crowd of about 100 gathered at the Rotary’s shelter in Jim Barnett Park that when the Winchester Rescue Mission turns people away, it is not unusual for other homeless shelters in the area to already be full.

“We need a women’s shelter,” Thomas said. “We are turning away on average one to seven women a week.”

Thomas told The Star that it would likely cost about $500,000 “just to get the ball rolling” on the women’s shelter and that the Winchester Rescue Mission is currently working on a fundraising plan.

From the start of his speech, Thomas acknowledged that there are many who are wary of helping homeless people, due to the belief that homeless people are “lazy bums who need to get a job.” But despite the prevalence of this stereotype, Thomas’ own experience in interacting with homeless individuals has shown that the situation is not as easy as it seems and that there are several things going on in the lives of those who are homeless beneath the surface.

“Seventy percent of the individuals who live at the Winchester Rescue Mission right now have some kind of diagnosed mental illness,” Thomas said. “It’s not just an issue of ‘why don’t you get a job?’ It’s an issue of they don’t know how to go about getting a job. They don’t have the same skillsets that you and I have.”

The face of homelessness, Thomas said, has changed in recent years.

“When I first started working in the homeless ministry, there were usually men who were ... in their 40s, 50s and 60s who at one time had a career and a skill, but drugs and alcohol got in the way and these men lost their jobs, their families and ended up in a local rescue mission,” he said.

The idea used to be to just get these homeless men clean and sober so they could return to the type of job they once had.

Now, however, many of the homeless people in the area are men and women from their 20s to their 40s, who had ended up with some kind of addiction or other issue as a teen. Since these issues began at such an early age, Thomas said these people never developed the skillsets needed to land a job or to survive on their own. Because of this, the Winchester Rescue Mission is not sending people on their way if they are not ready.

“Because they don’t have a skill, they are not able to maintain any kind of normalcy like you and I can do,” he told the Rotary club members. “We are in trouble, because they just go back to the thing that they knew, which oftentimes might be addiction. It might be lifestyles that we would consider questionable. Whatever it is, they get back to that because they weren’t given the proper skills to be successful.”

- Rescue Mission seeks help with a shelter for homeless women, WinchesterStar.com, July 13, 2017.

2. After moving into my flat a few years ago, I was keen to meet the neighbours and make new friends. I sensed a lack of neighbourly spirit, however. The nature of the street – Victorian terraced houses, many converted into multiple flats – precludes natural neighbourliness. There are no common areas, and no play areas for children or even gardens where you can casually talk to others. But I think we should be friendly to our neighbours. We are all interconnected in our immediate environment, and we should look after and extend goodwill to one another. Benefits such as safety, sharing knowledge about reliable tradespeople, or support when sick, are some advantages of a shared community.

In the first few years, I befriended my two immediate neighbours, who live in the same converted house. But after a while I was ready to meet others – so I began a social group for the road. One cold Saturday afternoon I knocked on my neighbours’ doors to find out if they would like to be part of it. As I started to meet them, I realised the extent of loneliness on a typical city street. I found that many people had been residents for a long time – one for more than 40 years. Most did not know many of their neighbours, and some knew nobody.

When a neighbour opened the door, I smiled, introduced myself and stated my intention to start a street social group. The sole aim, I explained, was to allow residents to get to know each other in a pleasant environment a few times a year. Would they be interested? A few asked me what we would talk about at these gatherings. Just social talk, I said – a chance to get to know each other. One wanted to talk about rubbish collections, and another asked if there would be any discussion of philosophy.

I met families with young children, single people, unemployed people, young people sharing the same house, older people, retired people – all of varying ages, financial circumstances and cultural backgrounds. One was a young Syrian refugee. Another was an Iraqi refugee working as an Uber driver, who asked me if there was any money involved. He was astounded when I said no. And it was true; I was not asking anything from my neighbours. Instead, I was giving something to them.

The initial reaction was positive. Most people told me it was a great idea and thanked me for my efforts. Only three households wanted no part of it. Going by the comments, I was convinced that our social events would be successful and well attended. All that was required was an enthusiastic Aussie like me to get the ball rolling.

Excitedly, I planned the first event, in our local pub, and sent out the email invitations. Arriving early, I placed a colourful notice on all the tables I’d booked. I waited. And waited. Only about seven people came along, and three of those were late and two left early. It was disappointing, of course, but a start. Since that first party, I’ve organised five more, and initially numbers were low. Maybe the neighbours did not want to meet each other after all, I began to think. I was losing heart and learning a bigger lesson about British life: many people don’t feel comfortable telling you that they don’t want to do something. Just because someone had said they thought my party idea was great, and to count them in, it didn’t necessarily mean that they would come.

But then: success at last! More than 20 neighbours came to the 2017 Christmas party. It was a wonderful event. On this special night, neighbours came together and met one another for the first time, over a glass of mulled wine. I organised another Christmas party this year and 25 people came along for drinks. At times, I’ve thought that city dwellers, especially Londoners, just don’t want to meet their neighbours; they prefer the anonymity that a capital can provide. However, I feel that many are lonely and would like to meet the people around them, but are cautious.

Additionally, I have been inviting a couple of people from my email list to come to my flat for wine and cheese or an afternoon tea at the weekend. These small gatherings have been more successful. Maybe this is more attractive to residents – less “threatening”.

Convening a social network for the street has been a lot of work. I admit I have become despondent at times over the low turnouts. One man, however, urged me to continue. I’m glad I took his advice, because now I’m slowly making headway. My wish for a shared sense of community is slowly taking hold. But it may just take longer than I thought.

- My neighbours were strangers to each other. Could I bring them together? By Margaret Murphy, December 19, 2018.

3. The Los Angeles Lakers were firing on all cylinders in their win against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, but there were stretches during the game where the offense stalled, something that has been a recurring issue this season.

When that happens, Lonzo Ball reiterated the importance of staying active when LeBron James has the ball in his hands (via Spectrum SportsNet):

“I would say cut. A lot of guys, we give the ball to LeBron, everybody’s eyes is on him. We’ve got to move, continue to occupy the defense and hopefully either get ourselves open or open up some space for him.”

This isn’t the first time Ball has had to address this issue this season. After Ball made his preseason debut with the Lakers in October, he reminded his teammates that they can’t just watch LeBron James go to work on offense, regardless of how impressive he might be:

“When you play with LeBron you have to make sure to keep playing because he’s easy to just watch with some of the stuff he does. He had a monster first half and he’s the best player in the world, that’s what he does, but we have to keep focusing and keep doing our job.”

Luckily, the Lakers seem to be figuring that out. On Friday against the Pelicans, all five starters, including finished in double figures. Coincidentally, James had 14 assists.

It’s been a slow process, but they’re finally starting to get the ball rolling. Hopefully by the time the postseason rolls around they will have figured each other out.

- Lonzo Ball stresses Lakers need to move when LeBron James has the ball, USAToday.com, December 22, 2018.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)


Right up Mark’s alley? 烂熟于心


Life got in the way? 生活所迫


Paycheck to paycheck? 月光


Straight face? 不露声色


Not quite up to scratch? 不达标


Fall flat on his face? 一败涂地