Started re-watching The West Wing recently, and came across the phrase "leave it all out on the field":

Everyone's walking around here like we're finished. We have 365 more days… For both of us, sir, this is our last game. Let's leave it all out on the field.

365 Days (Season 6, Episode 12)

It stood out to me because it's a complete reversal of phrase I was used to — "leave nothing out on the pitch". Since then, I've seen both versions crop up in UK media coverage:

Coverage of Ireland's win over Italy in the European Championships:

Ireland had been determined to leave nothing on the pitch, and they did not.

The Guardian

And then preview of the next game a few days later:

“We’re going to leave it all out on the pitch and hopefully get that bit of luck to help us over the line.”

Daily Star (quoting Shane Long)

So how did we end up with two sporting metaphors meaning the same thing phrased as exact opposites? Is there originally a US-UK distinction in usage? And which one came first?

1 Answer 1


They mean different things. "Leave nothing out on the pitch", means give everything you have to the game. Never come off the field feeling you could have played harder. "Leave it out on the pitch" means you are rivals in the game, but friends off the field. In rugby you still see at the final whistle the home team running to the side of the pitch to form a tunnel to applaud off the away team, who 30 seconds before they were practically fighting against.

  • Yeah I see where you're coming from, and I would have interpreted it that way out of context, but don't think that's the meaning of "Leave it out on the pitch" in the two quotes in my question (Shane Long / Leo McGarry) — they both seem to be talking about giving something their all, rather than animosity against anyone. Jul 17, 2017 at 17:23

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