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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Sports are Hard

Are you kidding me?  How can a pro mess that up?  We've all heard ourselves yell something like this at our television as we watch world-class athletes mess up something they usually make look easy.  Well, the answer to those questions is simple:  Sports are hard.

I have compiled a list of run of the mill athletic activities that fans take for granted every day.  This is not a list of the most difficult things in sports.  I think we all acknowledge that we could not perform hand stands and flips on a balance beam.  We acknowledge that we could not dunk from the foul line.  And, nothing from hockey appears on this list because everything those guys do looks extremely hard.

The list below only includes actions that we watch the pros do effortlessly everyday.  The actions that make us incorrectly scream, "Come on, I could do that!" when a pro fails.

Catching a Football in Full Pads.  Baseball may be America's pastime, but football is America's passion.  Few things get a football fan more incesnced than watching a wide receiver drop a pass that hits his hands.  But, those of you who are weekend warriors in any sort of rec league know that doing anything while running at full speed is much harder than it looks.  Add a set of shoulder pads that restrict your movement and put a 4 pound helmet on your head, and now you've got a real challenge.  Sure, if you are paid $3 million a year to play football for a living then you ought to be able to do this, but let's not lose sight of just how difficult this usually routine act really is.

Sinking a Five Foot Putt.  At the beginning of April, the best golfers in the entire world gathered at Augusta National to play the Masters tournament.  When Brandt Snedecker five-putted from inside five feet on the 14th hole on day three of the tournament, the nation let out a collective gasp.  Men gathered at the 19th hole of their favorite golf course put down their beers and declared to anyone within earshot that they would never commit such an atrocity.  Well, I'm gonna call B.S. on that.  Making five-foot putts is a lot harder than the pros make it look.  I know a lot of you who are reading this are pretty automatic at that range, but that is because you are good at putting.  It's not because human being are born with an innate ability to sink short putts.  Weekend duffers don't play with gimmies because they make short putts 100% of the time.  Gimmies exist because short putts get missed on a regular basis, and no one enjoys paying for 18 holes worth of missed putts.

Making a Contested Layup on a Fast Break.  It sure looks easy from your seat on the Lazy-Boy.  All you have to do is kiss the ball off the glass, and you get two points.  But, the first part of "layup" is "lay."  That implies you can get off the floor enough to place the basketball against the backboard.  That eliminate all the ladies I know and most of the men over 35.  But, even if leaping that high is part of your athletic repertoire, doing that under game conditions is a totally different scenario.  In order to be in position to make a layup in a game, you either had to dribble at full speed or catch a pass on a dead sprint.  Neither of those is particularly easy.  Then you have to finish off the drive by having enough body control to decelerate in the air and gently place the ball against the backboard.  Easy for John Wall?  Yes.  Easy for you?  Not so much.

Pitting in NASCAR.  Nothing gets a race fan more riled up than when their favorite driver makes a crucial error in the pits.  Speeding.  Overshooting the stall.  Banging into an exiting car.  How hard can getting gas really be?  Well, very hard.  First of all, there is a speed limit on pit road.  Drivers need to adhere to that even though they do not have speedometers in their cars.  Pit road speed limits vary from track to track, but 50 mph is a pretty good average.  Imagine driving at that speed and then making a hard left into a space that is just a bit longer than a regular parallel parking space.  After the service is complete, the driver then has to pull back out into traffic without the aid of side mirrors.  I don't know about you, but I'd have a pretty dinged up ride if I tried to do that even once, let alone 5 times in one race.

Laying down a bunt.  My grandfather was a patient man, but one thing that always made him angry was watching a major league ballplayer fail to lay down a bunt.  But, my grandfather was invited 1948 to go to spring training with the New York Giants.  Yeah, the same Giants that had Johnny Mize and Bobby Thomson on the roster.  PopPop chose the Navy instead, so he was allowed to gripe about bunting.  The rest of us need to relax a bit.  Very few people reading this post have ever squared up to face a pitch coming in at 90 plus miles per hour.  That has got to be a little intimidating.  But, let's leave the fear factor out of it for a moment.  Laying down a successful bunt means more than just getting wood on the ball.  A bunter is basically asked to catch a cylindrical missile on a round piece of hardwood and get that missile to drop softly onto the grass near home plate.  Read that sentence again, and think about that the next time you boo someone for failing at that task.

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