"It’s hard to beat a team three times in one season” is a sports adage that appears to have started in basketball, but is used in some other sports as well. Scholastic teams often face each other twice—one home game and one away game. If two teams are successful, they might face each other a third time in the playoffs. If the teams are evenly matched, it’s difficult for one team to sweep all three games.
“It’s a tough grind to beat a team three times in a row” was cited in print in 1928 and “It is a tough proposition to beat a team three times in a single season” was cited in 1934. “The adage of the basketball world is that it is mighty hard to beat a team three times in one season” was cited in print in 1945. The saying has also been used in NFL football, where division teams play each other twice and possibly a third time in the playoffs.
2 April 1928, Appleton (WI) Post-Crescent, “Coated, Fox Five Reach Agreement On Title Battle,” pg. 12, col. 6:
The Fox five will enter the game handicapped by the loss of one of its strongest players, Son Tornow, which will give the Coateds the edge especially as the Foxmen have beaten their rivals twice already and it’s a tough grind to beat a team three times in a row.
3 January 1934, Logansport (IN) Pharos-Tribune, “Free Throws,” pg. 2, col. 6:
It is a tough proposition to beat a team three times in a single season.
21 February 1945, Portsmouth (NH) Herald, “Teams Rate Traip Favorite In Kittery School Tourney,” pg. 6, col. 4:
Traip will face the winner of the Eliot-Kennebunk game and may be in for a tough night as it has beaten each club twice this season and the adage of the basketball world is that it is mighty hard to beat a team three times in one season.
15 March 1949, Charleston (WV) Daily Mail, “Warming Up” by Dick Hudson, pg. 10, col. 2:
Kingwood again proved what most coaches already know— that it’s tough to beat a team three times in one season.
24 February 1951, Register-Republic (Rockford, IL), “Like Pretzels? Peterman Does” by Mark A. Peterman (Veteran Basketball Coach), pg. B3, col. 1:
At Rock Island—It’s a very hard job to beat a team three times in one year and because of… (illegible ending—ed.)
5 March 1951, Portsmouth (NH) Herald, “Sports City” by Bob Kennedy, pg. 6, col. 1:
His ball club gave Portsmouth a terrific battle and did its best to prove the theory “you can’t beat a team three times in one season.”
Google News Archive
5 March 1954, The Times-News (Hendersonville, NC), “Pack, Duke opponents in ACC play” by William A. Shires, pg. 8, col. 1:
State Coach Everett N. Case, speaking from last night’s opening round experience, said “it’s mighty hard to beat a team three times in a row.”
Case, himself, in 30 years of cage coaching, has never been beaten three times by one team in a single season.
25 May 1954, Rockford (IL) Morning Star, “Valley Showdown Scheduled Today” by Bill Walsh, pg. B1, col. 1:
However, Wild was not too optimistic Monday night as he commented, “It’s hard to beat a team three times.”
Google News Archive
17 February 1971, Evening Herald, (Rock Hill, SC), “‘Cats face Cavs tomorrow” by Buddy McCarter, pg. 4, col. 1:
Any seasoned coach will tell you that it’s hard to beat a team three times in one season.
Tales from the 2004-05 Fighting Illini
By Brett Dawson
Champaign, IL: Sports Publishing LLC
There’s an adage in basketball that states that it’s never easy to beat a team three times in a season.
Washington (DC) Times
Bustin’ cliches and facing teams three times in a year
By Patrick Stevens
May 14, 2012, 09:01PM
BALTIMORE --- Some things get repeated so often in sports (and in life) that they’re assumed to be true.
Take something heard during conference basketball tournaments for a long time: It’s hard to beat a team three times in a year.
It probably isn’t if you’re immensely talented and your opponent is not. But when the respective rosters are more evenly matched? Maybe there’s merit to it.
New York City • Sports/Games • (0) Comments • Tuesday, September 04, 2012 • Permalink
A lot of adage gives off phrases that are becoming popular now a days and used by many people. Language is really wonderful.