play the game


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play the game

To conform, adhere to, or agree with that which is established or generally accepted, such as rules, beliefs, modes of behavior, etc. You might have some wild ideas for the future, but you'll never get anywhere in this business if you don't start playing the game! We all tend to have revolutionary ideals in our youth, but we usually play the game as we grow older.
See also: game, play
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

play the game

Behave according to accepted customs, obey the rules. For example, Not every foreign company can be counted on to play the game. The game here alludes to a sport with a set of rules. [Late 1800s] Also see play games.
See also: game, play
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

play the game

COMMON If you play the game, you do things in the accepted way or in the way that people who are senior to you in an organization expect you to, in order to keep your job or to succeed. To do well in politics, you have to play the game. The two official opposition parties must also play the game by the President's rules. Compare with be not playing the game.
See also: game, play
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

play the game

behave in a fair or honourable way; abide by the rules or conventions.
1993 Andy McNab Bravo Two Zero Shorncliffe was a nightmare, but I learned to play the game. I had to—there was nothing else for me.
See also: game, play
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

play the ˈgame

behave in a fair and honest way: That’s the third time this week you’ve left me to finish all your work. You’re not playing the game, Luke.
See also: game, play
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

play the game

Informal
To behave according to the accepted customs or standards.
See also: game, play
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

play the game, to

To behave fairly and honorably; also, to go along with a particular set of rules. The first meaning of this term was already being applied in Chaucer’s time, but it did not come into wide use until the late nineteenth century. Rudyard Kipling, that quintessential Victorian, used it (The Maltese Cat, 1898), “Play the game, don’t talk.” This usage, however, is obsolescent, at least in America. Another version of the term appears in the poem “Alumnus Football” by the American sportswriter Grantland Rice (1880–1954), which itself gave rise to a slightly different cliché: “For when the One Great Scorer comes to write against your name, He marks—not that you won or lost—but how you played the game.” In contrast, the very similar to play games, or playing games, means to act evasively or deceitfully, as in: “Her ex-husband is playing games about child-support payment.”
See also: play, to
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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References in periodicals archive ?
Jordan is widely considered the greatest basketball player to ever play the game. ESPN even named Jordan the greatest athlete of the last century over the likes of baseball legend Babe Ruth.
As a coach, you can pass along the right way to play the game and to identify the major league players that you would like your kids to emulate.
To United's credit, once the Norwegian's told them that they were likely to be unable to play the game in Oslo they put it on their official website late yesterday afternoon to prevent their own fans from making travel arrangements.
The reason for the extinction will become perfectly clear to everyone as they play the game.
Associate Chief Nurse Kevin Parker said: "Members of the public who do not need to be at Royal Stoke should not attempt to enter A&E or any other part of the hospital building to play the game. The A&E department is incredibly busy this summer.
And Dacourt said: "Foe was a warrior on the field and the best way to pay homage to him was to play the game in the right spirit.
I enjoyed playing soccer, but I didn't think I'd play the game when I got to college.
The biggest change I've seen has been in the people who play the game. They are bigger and more athletic, especially the guys up front - the offensive and defensive lines.
THE Scottish Premier League claim a decision to play the game between Motherwell and Celtic on March 5 would have cost both clubs "several tens of thousands of pounds."
Ask her if she likes to solve problems, if she likes the idea of getting "lost in a fantasy world," or if she just wants to play the games that her friends play.