A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

Recent entries:
Entry forthcoming—B.P. (10/17)
“How do you stop a dog from barking in the back yard?"/"Put it in the front yard.” (10/17)
“What do you call a nightmare about paper?"/"A bad ream.” (10/17)
“I’ve been cutting carbs lately—with a pizza cutter” (10/17)
“Why did the dog cross the road?"/"To get to the barking lot.” (10/17)
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Entry from December 12, 2011
“If you miss the ball, don’t miss the leg” (soccer adage)

"If you missed the ball, don’t miss the leg/man/bone” is a soccer adage popular in West African countries such as Ghana and Nigeria. The saying means that if you strike your leg out for the soccer ball and miss it, at least strike the leg of the opposing player and bring him down. This is a very rough style of play and the term has also been used as a business and political metaphor for winning at all costs.

“If you miss the ball, don’t miss the leg” has been cited in print since at least 1963 and is used in the United States mostly by African immigrants.


Google Books
Tales Out of School
By Nkem Nwankwo
London: Ginn & Co.
1963
Pg. 56:
The advice the spectators gave to their friends on the field was: “If you miss the ball, don’t miss the leg.” The players took this advice. Whenever they couldn’t get hold of the ball they sought for the legs of the Abule players.

Google Books
Petals of Blood
By Ngũgĩ wa Thiongʼo
New York, NY: Dutton
1978, ©1977
Pg. 28:
Joe, Joe, shake them, shake them: if you miss the ball, don’t miss the leg. That was his best moment. His footwork would then be perfect.

Google Books
Once Upon a Village
By Augustus Adebayo
Ibadan: Heinemann Educational Books (Nigeria)
1988
Pg. 62:
His advice to pupils playing was: ‘if you miss the ball, don’t miss the man’. He kept shouting this from the edge of the field. If the ball came your way and your foot missed it, you were to chase the boy with the ball and give him a vicious kick from behind. You ensured that your kick swept his two feet off the ground. This sent him sprawling on the ground. At the sight of this, the headmaster would clap and applaud the pupil.

Google Books
Up and On!:
A Nigerian teacher’s odyssey

By A Babs Fafunwa
Lagos, Nigeria: West African Book Publishers
1990
Pg. 28:
Our football slogan in those days was “If you miss the ball, don’t miss the leg” .

Google Books
Nigeria: This is my country, damn it!:
A selection of the author’s columns in Sunday Punch newspaper

By Tunde Fagbenle
Yaba, Lagos: Alfa Communications
2000
Pg. ?:
But, if they discovered you were better than them, were quick at hacking you down - if you miss the ball don’t miss the leg - or, as we called it, jambody.

Genna in Ghana!
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
If you miss the ball DON’T miss the bone
(...)
We also watched the kids play an intense soccer game. I commented on how brutal the kids were with eachother and Richard told me that they play by the rule “if you miss the ball DON’T miss the bone”. That pretty much sums up why I’m not too keen on playing!

Nigerian Elites Forum
007
15th April 2010
If you missed the ball,don’t miss the leg;Nigerian custom of beating opponent
So many times when we were growing up,we heard “If you missed the ball ,Don’t miss the leg”.
This is one of the reason Nigerian football don’t grow,Instead of “If you missed the ball,try again” ,you are advised to go for the leg.Little wonder the custom of beating up fans when they win, away from home,the loosing home team gives them ,the beating of their life.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CitySports/Games • (0) Comments • Monday, December 12, 2011 • Permalink