The Grammarphobia Blog

The sporting news

Q: I recently saw the following in an online sports report (“sports’ report”? “sport’s report”?): “We’re not trying to pull the wool over Damien Hardwick’s or the Tigers’ eyes.” Is it correct to use two possessives? I would have used only the second one.

A: You have two questions here: one about the possessives in that sports report about the Australian Football League, and one about the phrase “sports report” itself. Let’s address them in that order.

First, the writer quoting Guy McKenna, coach of the Gold Coast Suns, was correct in using two possessives.

McKenna was talking about the eyes of Damien Hardwick, coach of the Richmond Tigers, as well as the eyes of the Richmond players.

The Richmond coach and his 22 players may see things alike, but not through the same eyes. Hence, two apostrophes: one for the coach’s eyes and the other for the Tigers’ eyes.

Did McKenna pull the wool over the eyes of Hardwick and the Tigers? We don’t know, but the Suns did beat the Tigers 85 to 70 on July 16.

(We won’t get into the intricacies of Australian rules football, except to say that it’s a version of football played Down Under.)

As for whose name gets the possessive apostrophe when there are two or more owners, we had postings about this in 2011 and 2008.

When a single thing is jointly owned by two or more people, we wrote, the last-named owner gets the possessive apostrophe (“Mom and Dad’s house is for sale”).

But when things are owned separately, then each owner gets a possessive apostrophe (“Mom’s and Dad’s eyes are failing”).

So McKenna was right (at least grammatically) in saying he wasn’t “trying to pull the wool over Damien Hardwick’s or the Tigers’ eyes.”

Finally, we get to your question about the phrase “sports report.” Does it needs an apostrophe? And if so, where does the apostrophe go?

The plural “sports” isn’t a possessive here, so it doesn’t need an apostrophe. It’s legitimately used as an adjective (technically an attributive noun) in “sports report.”

Here are some other examples: “sports team,” “sports fans,” “sports drink,” “sports car,” “sports pages,” “sports section,” “sports equipment,” “sports medicine,” and so on.

And the word sometimes teams up with others to form the first element in compounds, as in “sportsman” and “sportswear.” Now that’s sporting of it.

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