Thursday, June 25, 2009

Which Sport has the Best Athletes?

I am not answering that question in this post. I will however narrow the field.

I can often be heard defending baseball players as highly skilled, intelligent, disciplined and, indeed, athletic. At other times, you may hear me lament the fact that pitchers cannot run from the bullpen to the mound and outfielders, when stranded on base, cannot run to the bench for their glove before returning to defense. Instead, it must be delivered to them while they stroll toward the wall. I contribute both of these examples to laziness, not to a lack of athleticism.

Yesterday I heard this real news report about Manny Ramirez who is preparing for the end of his suspension by playing a few minor league games. An ESPN reported said "Manny got 3 at-bats last night, he's going to try to last 5 innings tonight and hopefully get 3 more at-bats. If all goes well, he wants to try to play 7 innings tomorrow."

Are you kidding me? He plays left field. In a full game, a left fielder might, if really active, burn 20 calories. I think almost any 50-year old accountant could step away from his desk in mid-tax season and play a nine inning baseball game. He may not play well but he would be fit enough to last. Manny is a 38 year old professional athlete and he has to work up to nine innings?

You may now officially strike baseball players from the list of sports worth considering in your answer to the question posed by the title of this post.


  1. i'd say any athlete that participates in long endurance stage races. cycling stage races, like the tour de france, giro d'italia, et al, being at the bottom of that list, moving up to running stage races, like marathon des sable, and finishing up with raid gauloises type events.

    those stage adventure races require athletes to not only be in top physical condition, dig into the depths of their physical resources, but also maintain enough mental focus to solve puzzles, problems and navigate.

  2. Anonymous6/25/2009

    Your Manny observation fits nicely with an earlier post claiming that basebal has the biggest babies. Of course, you can act like a baby and still be a great athlete. Take NFL wide receivers for example. RF

  3. Jeff Ryer6/25/2009

    Horseshoe players, by far.

  4. Anonymous6/25/2009

    Even in you are good in a long endurance race, doesn't mean you can come close to hitting a 95 mph pitched baseball with any consistency or throw and catch. Even a golfer may be considered a great athlete if not everyone can do it to that level. The definition of athlete is essentially "good at sport". JD

  5. if you play a sport you are not necessarily an "athlete". The term "athlete" should be, like anonymous-JD said, "good at sport", "universal". Consider:

    Racecar drivers

    Athletes? No. Sportsmen. Consider:

    Bo Jackson
    LeBron James
    Michael Jordan

    Athletes? Yes. Because they have proven themselves as masters of multiple sports. Lebron had an equal choice between a basketball and football career, Bo Jackson lived out an amazing two-pro-sport career, and Mike J mastered the court, held his own in the MLB and is a hell of a golfer too. These are just a few examples.

    There are tons of these "true athletes" in the majors right now. We hear very little of their extra talents, tho (Did you know Tom Brady was drafted by the Expos in 95?). I think the true question is which sport harbors the most of these true universal athletes?