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March 1, 2018

Last night Fernando Llorent scored a hat-trick in Tottenham Hotspur’s 6-1 FA Cup win over Rochdale; and this event got me thinking about the phrase hat-trick. Where does it come from? The term in fact originates from cricket, not football, and refers to the bowling feat of taking three wickets with consecutive balls (which I’d think would be a rarer feat than scoring three goals in football). The phrase dates back to a specific cricket match in 1858, when a bowler named HH Stephenson took three consecutive wickets for an All-England team against the Yorkshire side Hallam, in Sheffield. The organisers of the match held a collection to reward his achievement and bought him a nice new hat with the proceeds (I owe this information to the website Mental Floss, by the way).

Anyway the term jumped the sports barrier to be used in other sports such as football and hockey, where it means scoring three goals in a single match. Llorente’s hat-trick was special because it was a perfect hat-trick – that is, one goal with the right foot, one with the left foot and one with the head. I can’t help wondering, if you scored one goal with your knee, one with your nose and one with your arse, would that count as a perfect hat-trick too?

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  1. Simon Carter permalink

    Cricketers originally played in impressive top hats so the award of a new one was appropriate. This fashion choice led to a rule change as a player would sometimes remove his hat to “catch” the ball in it. In order to discourage this ungentlemanly tactic a five run penalty was imposed. This is why when protective headwear was introduced the spare helmet was kept in a specially dug covered space behind the wicket as the ball accidentally hitting it would mean the same penalty. After a few years it was decided the risk was so slight that the spare helmets could just be left on the ground.

  2. Mark Brafield permalink

    Thank you for this very helpful explanation Brandon. Something related which has always annoyed me in football matches is when a player scores two goals and the commentator says that he is ‘on a hat-trick’. Presumably, this means that he has the potential to score a hat-trick. But then logically, you are just as much ‘on a hat-trick’ if you have just scored one goal or, as my son pointed out to me, are simply on the pitch at all with more than a few minutes left. It would take a rather better mathematician than me to explain whether the probability of scoring a hat-trick (as opposed to a hat- trick first) are greater if you have scored two goals already than if you have scored one or even none.

    • Likely, the complete sentence is ‘on the verge of a hat-trick’ and that you can only be if you have already scored two. This also alludes to form of the player and the ‘closeness’ to something pretty rare and exciting about to happen. Just because you are on the pitch or have scored one goal does not highlight this. Perhaps if you are Ronaldo or Messi…

  3. Simon Carter permalink

    That’s a good point. Wonder if there is any connection between the award of a hat for 3 goals or wickets and that of a cap for an international appearance?

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