Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Hardest Things in Sports: Part 1

There is a section in the USA Today newspaper that has always listed the 10 hardest things to do in sports. I will offer the disclaimer that I am neither a world class athelte, nor am I a journalist. But I was intrigued to offer not only what they had to say, and poke some fun while I am at it, but what I think those things might be.

Here they are:
10. Ski the downhill.
What they say: "It's an exercise in balance and control at 80 mph. Blah blah blah... They fight gravitational and centrifugal forces at every stage in the race."
What I say: Yeah it's a cool thing to do, but what is interesting is that the people who have the insance wipeouts are often more remembered, at least in the activity if not in name, then who ever won. In some cases, more so. Can anyone tell me who won the Women's Downhill in Turino? Yeah me neither. But I know Lindsey Jacobellis got recognized for a nasty wipeout breaking bones in her face. God bless her for coming back and finishing the racing inspite of her injuries. I'll raise a glass to that anytime. But a nasty spill that may be remembered as vividly or more so than who won can be done by anyone. If anyone can do it, it ain't all that.

9. Save a penalty kick.
What they say: "...a goal is 24 feet wide and 8 feet high-192 square feet, in which to put a ball that is 9 inches in diameter. The goalie has around .25 seconds to stop a ball often moving in excess of 60 mph."
What I say: A good point there. Soccer is impressive enough to me in so far as no one but the poor fool who has to stand before the 60+ mph shot can use their hands. But don't get it twisted here. Anyone who has watched soccer has seen a goalie dive in complete opposite way the ball is kicked. Pansy. No seriously, anyone who plays will tell you that the goalie takes a guess before the ball is struck. If they guess right, they stop it, if not, they look like an ass. Props for standing there, especially with no pads. But your success is not so much reliant upon sick skills, but an educated guess at best. A world class striker is supposed to beat a world class goalie better than 95% of the time. What that means is goalies are not expected to stop the shot. Get shot on 5 times and stop one, you're the man. But get shot on 5 times and not stop one, better luck next time. Gotta take a pass.

8. Tour de France.
What they say: "...2,500 miles in three weeks... sustained speeds of 30+ mph...15% grades"
What I say: When I was a child, I rode my bike religiously. Not having done in a number of years, I tried to do it on a regular basis in my mid 20's and realized why I was in such great shape as a kid. This required training, and agressive training at that, that is a year round ordeal. I can't think of a great number of sports that require 5-6 hours of training a day, every single day, and then maybe you get to wear the yellow jersey... excuse me le maillot jeune...for an afternoon? And that's assuming Lance doesn't want to do another comeback. Well done lads.

7. Running a marathon.
What they say: "A 26.2 mile race is physically demanding mentally and physically... have to be a well conditioned athlete...blah blah blah."
What I say: It's not as cool as the Tour in my opinion, so I don't really want to give this the props is probably deserves, but it can't be easy. It take am extraordinary amount of training, and is terribly taxing on your knees, shins, ankles, lower back, and so on. The only problem I have with this is that running so much on hard surfaces can do a lot of long term damage to a number of body parts. Of course so does the NFL. Then again, marathoners aren't making NFL cash, and the NFL is no where on the USA Today list. This one is TBD.

6. Landing a quad.
What they say: "During a sucessful quad jump, the skater will be as high as 18 inches in the air and experiences 300 pounds of centrifugal force."
What I say: Cool. What is with these people and centrifugal force? Didn't we talk about that with the skiing too? Seriously, I am certainly impressed. But years back, a tripple was unheard of. When people start working on a quint, they will talk about how a quad was insane. I guess that's probably true of all sports. But this one just doesn't make me go "wow".

5. Returning a serve.
What they say: "... ball moving at 130 mph of 185 feet per second...the returner has about half a second to react."
What I say: Ah yes, some pove for one of my favorite sports. Incidentally, the ball now travels in excess of the 150 mark and is showing no signs of slowing down. 130 has some zip on it though, and make have a multitude of spins and locations. It hardly seems practical to say, but in the next 10 or so years a serve coming across the net in the 170 range doesn't seem impossible. Bravo.

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