Rubber Match – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you going out to the stadium to watch Game 7 of the World Series? It’s a heated affair, and the teams in the game have a long history of competing against each other. In this case, you can say you’re going to watch a “rubber match” between the two baseball titans.

A rubber match is an idiom describing a hotly contested game where one of the teams won’t make it through to the next tournament round.

This post gives you everything you need to know about the meaning and origin of the term “rubber match” and how you can use this idiom in conversation.

Rubber Match Meaning

The meaning of “rubber match” refers to a tight, competitive game between two teams or athletes. If you’re going to sit down with friends to watch Game 7 of the Stanley Cup, then you’re likely watching a “rubber match” with the promise of plenty of action.

A rubber match can also refer to an elimination match in a payoffs situation. The losing team gets eliminated from the competition. This meaning is closer to the original meaning of the phrase. However, today, many people use it to describe a tense matchup between any rival sports teams.

You can also use “rubber match” in professional settings where it’s a winner-take-all situation or “zero-sum-game” with the outcome. For example, a sales team could have two of its top players locked in a battle for the top spot on the sales board this month.

Rubber Match Example Usage

“Game Seven of the World Series is always a real rubber match between the teams.”

“These players are so competitive; it’s turning into a real rubber match out there.”

“These teams have such a rivalry that they always have a rubber match when they meet up.”

“I’ve got a feeling tonight’s game is going to be a real rubber match.”

“Theo and Richard are locked in a battle for the top salesperson for the month. It’s a real rubber match between them.”

Rubber Match Origin

If you’re watching the NBA this season, you’ll probably hear the term “rubber match” thrown around a lot by the commentators. “Rubber match” is an old saying dating back to the 1600s. In this era, the chosen sport of the elite was lawn bowls, and skill at the game in high reward in society.

A rubber match refers to the act of two lawn bowls rubbing against each other in competitive action to reach the jack. If the balls did rub together, it eliminated the other team. You can think of “rubber” and “elimination” as interchangeable synonyms in this regard.

Over the centuries, the phrase evolved into use in gambling and card games and eventually reached professional sports in the 70s.

Phrases Similar to Rubber Match

  • A tight game.
  • A close match.
  • Neck-and-neck.
  • Too close to call.

Phrases Opposite to Rubber Match

  • A whitewash.
  • A steamrolling.
  • A smashing.
  • A walkover.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Rubber match.

Ways People May Say Rubber Match Incorrectly

Some people may use the phrase incorrectly. You might confuse the term with the “rubber check,” insinuating it has something to do with a fraudulent action or event. Rubber match would also not be the phrase suitable for describing a non-competitive event.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Rubber Match

You can use the term “rubber match” in social and professional settings. When you’re using it with friends, you could be talking about a tie-breaker game between two teams in the world series. It could refer to two employees battling it out for the top position on the monthly sales leaderboard in professional settings.

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