Ten Hardest Things To Do In Sports

- wadE

Unless you frequently stay in hotels, or you have an especially high need for a daily "Reader's Digest" of news, you probably missed USA Today's feature last month on the Ten Hardest Things To Do In Sports.

Their choices were debated by a few people who chose to acknowledge the list as each was revealed over the course of 10 weeks earlier this year. The following is the list.

10. Skiing downhill at 80-90 mph
9. Stopping a soccer penalty kick
8. Riding in the Tour de France
7. Running a marathon
6. Landing a quad in figure skating
5. Returning a 130 mph tennis serve
4. Hitting a golf ball long and straight
3. Pole vaulting at heights of 15-feet plus
2. Driving a race car at megaspeeds around a track and not getting hurt
1. Hitting a baseball thrown at 90+ mph

The inevitable enragement of the masses ensued. On March 6th, the author of the column, Gary Mihoces, participated in a web chat.

To no surprise, Gary and his staff were subjected to all manner of insult from people who felt that their favorite sport wasn't represented; just as people do when you tell them their favorite sport is in fact, not a sport.

You would think since I've touched on a similar topic before and felt the wrath of the masses, that I'd have sympathy for Gary...but I have none. Why? Because as Gary himself admits, there was no criteria for the list. As he mentions more than once in the webchat, "We didn't set criteria when we asked our staff to vote. For example, we didn't establish separate categories for team sports and individual sports, or endurance sports and quick-reaction sports. If we'd have done that, we'd have ended up with more categories than the Grammys. We just asked the 100 or so people in our department to vote on the '10 hardest things in sports.' Then we published the results, and the series obviously has touched a nerve. Maybe it is an unanswerable question, but it's been fun to explore."

He makes a good point, you wouldn't want to break this up into all manner of categories...you want one ultimate list. But you need some constraint.

Number 10: Skiing downhill at 80-90 mph
There are a lot of people who can do this! But, could those same people finish a Giant Slalom course in under 2.5 minutes? That's a much tougher thing to do.

Number 9: Stopping a soccer penalty kick
Well, if my mom is kicking it...I think I'd have a pretty good chance! This one is just plain stupid. As anyone who knows anything about soccer would tell you...it's a guessing game. From that distance, it's not hard, it's luck. Besides, all the pressure is on the kicker, not the goalie.

Number 8: Riding in the Tour de France
To me this is the only thing on the list that makes sense and belongs. That is a very specific act, and it puts a level of quality on the act. It doesn't say "Ride a bike 2000 miles".

Number 7: Running a marathon
Again...how about some constraints on this. People with no legs have "run" marathons. Can't be all that hard! Maybe if we said run a marathon under 4 hours. That'd be damn near impossible for most of the planet.

Number 6: Landing a quad in figure skating
Seriously...who cares?

Number 5: Returning a 130 mph tennis serve
That's bullshit...how about hitting a server 130 mph and hitting it in. That's way harder than returning it.

Number 4: Hitting a golf ball long and straight
Define long... over 300 yards? There are a lot of people who can do that. There is a whole tour just for long hitting people...guys like Wedgy Winchester. Of course these people can't putt and chip to save their life, but damn can they hit the driver! How about changing this to 'Scoring Under Par on a PGA course'?

Number 3: Pole vaulting at heights of 15-feet plus
Ok, this is what bothers me...how can they have "run a marathon" with no quantification, but they have this one with a very specific height threshold? I don't know about this one. I think if pole vaulting became the biggest sport ever, and people started their kids off in middle school in pole vaulting, I think we'd have a lot of pole vaulting over 15 feet. Now, over 20 feet...well, there has only been one person to ever do that...that might be tougher.

Number 2: Driving a race car at megaspeeds around a track and not getting hurt
If you've read my article on what is and isn't a sport, you know my feelings on this one.

Number 1: Hitting a baseball thrown at 90+ mph
It pains me to say this...but no way this is the hardest thing to do in sports. Anyone who can swing a bat can hit a 90 mph fastball. Now can they hit it often? And can they hit it far? That's the question.

So, what have we learned from all of this? We've learned that the USA Today might be the biggest waste of trees in the world. And we've also re-affirmed that thumbing your nose at anyone's favorite sport will bring down the wrath of God on you! Check out this article as proof!

In closing, I think a chat member from Nashville said it best: "USA Today is viewed by millions of people as a source of reliable, well researched information. However, this piece is a disappointment to say the least. Personally, I am surprised your editors allowed your '10 Hardest' series to grace the Sports section front page. I might as well gather up 100 of my closest friends, regardless of their background and intelligence level and see what they think the 10 top decisions concerning Iraq might be and submit it for the front page of the news section next week if this is the quality of article you will now be providing your readers."


- 03/25/2003

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