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Taking their eye off the ball? 视线离开了目标

中国日报网 2018-12-14 15:45


Reader question:

Please explain “took their eye off the ball” in this passage:

This tells us how firms operate, their motives and principles, their reporting lines, who they are accountable to, and how they manage profit, remuneration and, in the case of many financial firms, other people’s money. When times were good, too many people took their eye off the ball and now we see the consequences.

My comments:

In other words, financial firms are now in trouble (“now we see the consequences”) because for some time (“when times were good”) they have lost focus on what’s important and failed to stick to principles on a daily, consistent basis.

Or as the speaker points out, “too many people took their eye off the ball.”

This is likening running a financial firm to playing a ball game.

Playing a ball game, be it ping pong or basketball or volleyball or soccer or whatever, the most crucial thing to do is to literally always keep one’s eye on the ball.

The ball, of course, is constantly moving. Take your eye off the ball and you’ll lose track of it. Obviously, that won’t do.

Or if you are momentarily distracted by, for instance, noisy crowds, you’re apt to mishit the ball or miss the ball entirely.

Or you may be distracted by your own thoughts. For example, when you lead by a comfortable margin, you may get ahead of yourself and see in your mind’s eye how good you’ll look on the victory podium.

Or when you trail by a large margin, you may get distracted by fear of losing, of losing and of disappointing your family, friends and other supporters.

All of these distractions may cause you to lose concentration temporarily and take your eye off the ball. If you don’t wake up and re-focus on the ball, indeed you may end up losing the game.

Metaphorically speaking, the ball symbolizes the target, the goal, the end result or generally speaking what’s most important in life or any endeavor.

In our above example, a financial firm’s “motives and principles, their reporting lines, who they are accountable to, and how they manage profit, remuneration and, in the case of many financial firms, other people’s money” are all important things to maintain focus on, like a constantly moving ball in a ball game. Lose focus on any of those important points, let alone all of them, will spell disaster in the long run.

That’s why it’s always important to keep one’s eye on the ball or, to use a similar expression, on the prize.

All right. Here are media examples of people who take their eye (always singular) off the ball in a metaphorical sense:

1. When Forrest Gump was in the Army hospital lounge recovering from his wound to the buttocks, he was hit in the head with a ping-pong ball. That fortuitous event started what would become a stellar career as a ping-pong champion.

The secret to the game’s success was revealed to Forrest by another convalescing soldier. The soldier’s simple advice was, “Never, ever … take your eye off the ball.

Seems like that is the key to success in almost every endeavor you take in life.

If you’re in sales, keep your eye on the sales ball.

If you’re in manufacturing, keep your eye on the manufacturing ball.

If you’re in customer service, keep your eye on the customer service ball.

If you’re a student, keep your eye on your schooling.

If you’re married, keep your eye on your marriage.

If you’re a parent, keep your eye on your parenting.

“Never, ever … take your eye off the ball.”

- Never, Ever … Take Your Eye Off the Ball, SpeakingGump.com, May 31, 2011.


2. President Obama reiterated his economic message in his weekly address Saturday, calling on Congress to focus on opportunities for the middle class.

“If we don’t make the investments necessary to make America a magnet for good jobs – in education, and manufacturing, and research, and our transportation and information networks – we might as well hit the ‘pause’ button while the rest of the world forges ahead in a global economy,” Obama said.

He echoed the same themes from his speech earlier this week in Illinois, again waving off recent scandals and criticizing Republicans for an agenda he called unproductive.

“Over the past couple of years in particular, Washington has taken its eye off the ball,” Obama said. “An endless parade of distractions, political posturing and phony scandals shift focus from what needs to be done.”

Obama’s speech this week was billed as a major economic address, though the specific policy ideas Obama outlined were generally proposals he has already endorsed.

Obama said Saturday he is happy to work with Republicans on practical solutions, but accused the GOP of being unwilling to cooperate with him.

“I know there are members of both parties who understand what’s at stake, and I’m open to ideas from across the political spectrum, as long as they meet the test of strengthening the prospects of hard-working families,” Obama said.

- ‘Washington has taken its eye off the ball,’ Obama says, TheHill.com, July 27, 2013.


3. Jose Mourinho’s men lost 2-1 to Valencia on Wednesday and although they still qualified from Champions League H, it was another disappointing result.

It was a seventh defeat of the season, in all competitions, and again it left question marks over United’s credentials to lift silverware this term.

Those punters eyeing the bet365 odds should be aware of the very busy schedule facing the Red Devils over the coming weeks, starting with a crunch clash this Sunday.

Mourinho’s side head to near rivals Liverpool this weekend for a crucial fixture at the top end of the Premier League table.

There have been some suggestions that United took their eye off the ball in midweek, with the big game at Anfield on the horizon, but that’s something that’s been rejected by Mata.

The Spanish star insisted to MUTV: ‘It’s a very busy month and we have very important games coming, especially on Sunday. But I don’t think it’s an excuse because as a football player, you focus on the game that you are playing and try to give your best in every single game.’

The former Chelsea man is well aware how crucial it is for the squad to stay at an intense level through a crucial period of the season.

Mata added: ‘I know it’s difficult, but we have to keep going and especially with what we have coming on Sunday, we need to be ready for that.’

Following the game with Liverpool, are back in action six days later when they travel to Wales to face Cardiff City, before hosting Huddersfield at Old Trafford on Boxing Day. Mourinho’s men, who currently sit sixth in the table, are then at home to Bournemouth on December 30 before traveling to Newcastle for the first match of 2019.

- Mata feels Utd have to remain intense, ClubBall.com, December 13, 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)


Team to beat? 最优秀的团队


Looming large? 赫然耸现


In your face? 咄咄逼人


Cut and dried? 已成定局


Body of work? 作品主体


Ring a bell? 耳熟

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