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What Are the Bases in Dating? (And Other Sports Metaphors Explained)

Crystal Jackson
What Are the Bases in Dating?
Sports metaphors have made their way into everyday conversation, and you don’t have to be a sports enthusiast to use them. In fact, if you’ve ever referred to dating as a game and people as players, you’ve already used two of the most common sports-related analogies.

But you may still be wondering exactly what are “bases” in dating or what a “full-court press” has to do with relationships. In this article, we go through 10 sports expressions that are just par for the course (a golfing term meaning “perfectly normal”) in the romantic game. 

After you’ve learned these metaphors, feel free to try them out on these popular dating apps

1. First Base

One of the most common sports metaphors for dating comes from baseball: "making it to first base.”

Here’s how it works: in the rules of baseball, there are three bases you have to run past (and make contact with) before scoring a point. As the name implies, “first base” is the first of these. Reaching first base in baseball means taking the first step towards scoring a point. 

In dating, an open-mouth kiss with tongue (“making out” or a “French kiss”) is considered to be the first step towards intercourse, which has earned it this sports metaphor. Thus, “first base” refers to kissing with tongue, and is followed by second base, third base, and then “scoring”, which we explain below. 

2. Second Base

Continuing with our baseball metaphor, second base refers to the next step couples take after making out, specifically, above-the-waist touching and especially stimulation of the breast for women. This can be done under or above clothes, and both count as “reaching second base.”

While the bases are pretty well established in these metaphors, the timing is not. You could get to second base on the first date or the tenth. The timing is up to you and your partner. In baseball, there is an exact order of bases to score a home run—but in dating, it’s considered a natural progression but not a requirement. 

3. Third Base

The next move is to third base, which involves manual stimulation below the waist using the mouth, fingers, or toys. You can get here with your clothes on or off. This is yet another progression of relational intimacy. 

At this point, you’ve moved from kissing to touching to sexual contact. This heated stage could lead to a home run—or it could be the end of an intimate encounter. In baseball, the sport dictates that you have to round first, second, and third base to make it home, but in dating, all bets are off (a gambling metaphor meaning the outcome is entirely unpredictable).

You could find yourself going straight from kissing to intercourse, but the first three bases constitute foreplay, and covering these is recommended for most couples. 

4. Scoring

With dating, you’ve likely heard the terms scoring and home run used, with scoring being the more prevalent term. In baseball and in dating, they have a similar meaning. Scoring a home run is a noteworthy accomplishment in a baseball game. In dating lingo, where it is commonly abbreviated to just “scoring” or “a home run,” it refers to consensual sexual intercourse. It may seem crass to use a sports analogy to disclose intimate details of your relationship, but it’s a common way to tell your friends just how far you got without going into explicit detail. 

Whether you score on the first date, the third, or at some later date is up to you and your partner. If you try to score and fail, you might hear it referred to as striking out—a missed opportunity in both dating and baseball. 

In some cultures, including traditional Christian and Muslim groups, getting intimate is reserved exclusively for marriage. If that’s the case for you, there are many Muslim dating sites and Christian dating sites that can help you find a partner with a similar outlook on sex and marriage. 

5. Covering the Bases

This is another popular sports analogy that has made its way into relationship lingo. In baseball, covering the bases means that you’ve made sure there is a player near each base. It’s a defensive strategy, to make sure opposing players can’t slip past too easily.

In dating, “covering your bases” usually means dating or speaking to multiple people, in case one prospect doesn’t work out. This is a common practice on dating apps such as Zoosk or Match, as the instant messaging and video-chat features make it easy to carry on several conversations at once. 

Covering your bases can also be used to say that you’ve come prepared to your date by bringing contraceptives, in case you “get lucky” and make it past all the bases to “score.”

Covering the Bases

6. Full-Court Press

Moving from baseball to basketball, a full-court press is a defensive strategy whereby players strategically exert pressure on the other team. In dating, it means aggressively going after or hitting on somebody, or showing keen interest in the other person. 

This might translate into asking somebody out for a second date before the first one is even finished, bringing flowers or other gifts to a first or second date, or simply showering the person with compliments and attention. 

There’s a fine line between a healthy “full-court press” and being too aggressive, or even manipulative. For some people, this kind of attention shows up as a serious relationship red flag that oughtn’t be ignored. 

7. Playing the Field

Playing the field is one of the most popular dating phrases you’ll hear. You might be surprised to learn that it originated in British horse racing. Here, “Playing the field” means placing bets on every horse except the one favored to win. By betting on as many horses as possible, you’re increasing your chances of winning. 

As it relates to dating, playing the field means dating more than one person without really committing to any one of them. This could be described as casual dating, or might show that someone is averse to commitment. When dating, it’s important to know if the person across from you is interested in an exclusive relationship, or is simply “playing the field.”

8. Benching

Benching is a term with negative connotations in both sports and relationships. In sports, it means that, instead of actively playing the game, you’re stuck sitting on the bench—usually because you’ve messed up or aren’t a strong enough player to get onto the field. 

In dating, being benched means someone is keeping you as an option—but not making you their priority. You’ve been placed on the dating sidelines (another sports analogy with the same meaning), waiting around rather than participating. 

The person you’re dating may maintain minimal contact with you while they shift their effort and attention to other, more desirable prospects. The continued contact is meant to keep you available in case the other options don’t work out.  

9. Drop The Ball

Have you ever dropped the ball in a sport? Then you’ll know it’s not a good thing. It means you’ve fumbled or failed to make a catch, or generally done something that puts your team at risk. 

It’s much the same in dating. Dropping the ball means failing to do what’s expected of you or making some kind of big mistake. It could be something as simple as failing to clearly communicate or forgetting your significant other’s birthday. Or it could be some other kind of major dating disaster that ends up costing you the relationship. 

Whatever the situation, it doesn’t feel good in sports or in life.  

10. Game-Changer

A game-changer in sports refers to a new factor introduced into the game that could significantly change the results. In relationships, game-changers could be any kind of event that creates an unexpected shift or change in the relationship.

A relationship game-changer might be something internal, something that’s happened between you. For example, people often find that finally having intercourse is a game-changer; for some, it signals the end of the relationship, for others, it enables them to move on to a more intimate and emotionally connected stage. 

Game-changers in relationships can also arise from outside circumstances that have a significant impact, such as a job offer or getting pregnant. Even an unexpected medical diagnosis could be life-altering news that impacts the relationship paradigm. The term isn’t considered to be either positive or negative in nature. It merely indicates a powerful change.

Mastering the Dating Game

Sports metaphors are a popular way of speaking about sex and dating (and just about everything else in life, if we’re being honest), without having to disclose private or intimate details. And you don’t have to be an athlete or sports enthusiast to use these expressions.

The next time someone tells you that you’ve been benched, you’ll know it’s time to move on—or to level up your game and go for a “full-court press.” And if someone tells you they made it to first base, you’ll know that they’re kissing and telling. 

Now you know what bases are—and plenty of other metaphors to boot—you won’t have any trouble keeping up in conversations about dating.

Crystal Jackson
Crystal is a former therapist turned writer and dating advice columnist. She is the author of the Heart of Madison romance series, while her non-fiction work has appeared in such well-recognized lifestyle publications as Elephant Journal, Elite Daily, The Urban Howl, and The Good Men Project. When she’s not writing or working on her next book, you can find Crystal traveling, paddle boarding, cycling, or curled up with her nose in a book.