"Bob in the Studio" Does Not Compute

>> Sunday

Driving home from dinner today listening to the Score, where the topic at hand was "What is the hardest sport to play at the professional level?" Aside from the incredibly flawed question being offered, which will be addressed later, there was a very odd set of criteria being used. I can't remember their names so the studio host will be "Bob in the Studio."

Bob in the Studio: "Jim on the Carphone, you're on the Score!"
JOTCP: "Yea, I think that golf is the hardest sport to play professionally. You look at some of these players who are eking out wins, the next week, they don't even make the cut."
BITS: But there's no defense in golf! Why not add bowling and darts?

(Say what you will about bowling and darts, but I've gotten a bullseye and a strike. I've never gotten a hole-in-one.)

BITS: "Jeff in Downers Grove, you're on the Score!"
JIDG: "Yea, I think the hardest sport to play professionally has got to be soccer. Few substitutions, only a few goals per game so they're hard to get, and running non-stop for 90 minutes"
BITS: "Answer me this. Can a two-year-old kick a ball?"*
JIDG: "Can a two-year old kick it past one of the best goalkeepers in the world?"**
BITS: "A two-year-old can kick a ball. Running and kicking that's all they do. Let's include long-distance running then. Go run a marathon and come back and tell me then. Soccer's not a sport. Keep it in Europe."*

*= I have friends who don't like soccer, but are pretty cool about it. This is probably the most asinine dumb jock soccer-bashing argument I've ever heard. However, that's beside the point, as you will see later, with the very next caller who calls in.
**= This guy is TOTALLY missing the point of the question.

BITS: "Craig in Aurora! You're on the Score 670!"
CIA: "Yea, I gotta say that boxing is the hardest sport."
BITS: "Boxing, I could see that."*

*= No mention of whether or not a two-year old could throw a punch. At which point Craig in Aurora would no doubt ask if a two-year old could knock out the world champion.

Bob in the Studio ultimately concluded that baseball was the hardest sport to play because "You got this ball of string coming at you at 90 miles an hour and you have to hit it within a half second or so." BITS ultimately has a point, as there's not many things harder in sport than to hit a moving round ball at 90 mph with a round bat being thrown by a man trying to deceive you.

However, BITS is also fatally flawed in his logic because hitting is not the only thing needed to play baseball. Fielding, pitching, and baserunning all go without saying, but BITS treated hitting as if it was the only thing necessary for a baseball team to compete at the highest level, and its inclusion in the sport was enough to qualify baseball as the most difficult.

Another caller said that football was one of the hardest sports to play. Now while I can't claim to have played varsity football (I know that comes as a shock to all of you), I can tell you that football as a sport is very team-based and not individual-based because it is so position-centric. In that manner, the game is similar to baseball, as baserunning, hitting, fielding, and pitching all require very different skill sets. Just think. How many baseball players are there who are great hitters, but really lousy fielders? Likewise, how many great pitchers have a sub-.200 batting average?
Likewise, in football, the center doesn't have the same duties and skill sets as a wide reciever who doesn't have the same traits and job assignments of a linebacker and so-on. In fact, following BITS's logic from both calls, since a two-year old could kick a ball, and one aspect of baseball is enough to make baseball the hardest sport to play at the professional level, wouldn't it stand to reason that the inclusion of kickers and punters on NFL rosters would make football an easy sport (or "not a sport") at the professional level since a two-year old could do it?

Perhaps this is all overanalyzing it since I didn't stick with the show long enough to confirm that it was just barroom discussion, but it really points out how easy it is to have your logic trip up when you enter a discussion with preconcieved notions of subjective topics. Also, you can't identify what sport is the "hardest" because they are all difficult sports at the professional level but for different reasons. The only common thread is that you are also competing against professionals at the same level. But if you're even going to have that debate (go ahead!) then at least pick sports that aren't as position-centric as baseball and football. (Think basketball, hockey, etc. where you could, in theory field a basketball team of all guards, where you couldn't field a football team of all quarterbacks.)

That's my two cents.


Vinnie 7:42 AM  

Wow... I would've punched my radio.

Matt 2:50 PM  

Yeah, what a terrible question. I think it's actually about 10 questions that are along the lines of "what's the hardest single act to complete in pro sports," which I guess would be hitting a baseball, since even the best in the world have since a low success rate. Although, I wonder what the scorng % on shots on goal is in EPL soccer, I assume that can't be all that high.

Gavin and I were actually having a similarly pointless argument the other day, arguing about what sport has the best athletes in the world. He said soccer (using Ronaldino [sp] as his argument) and I said the NBA (with guys like Wade, Kobe and LeBron as mine). It's an interesting, albeit completely pointless exercise in semantics that probably always results in name calling. And denigration of soccer, that also always happens.

Mike 5:03 PM  

Statboy rides again. Out of curiosity, I decided to check to see what the success rate for shots on goal come out to over the course of a 38-game Premiership campaign.

Last year, Manchester United, the EPL winners, took 342 shots on goal, resulting in 83 goals (24%).

Similarly, the more-or-less-median team in the 20-team Premiership, 10th place Blackburn Rovers took 211 shots on goal resulting in 52 goals (25%).

I was a bit surprised at the 1-in-4 success rate, but upon further analysis, found that Man U took 671 total shots, 342 of which were on goal (so that didn't fly wide or high), of which 83 found net. So the success rate is really more like 1-in-8.

paul,  5:33 PM  

Bob in the Studio is a moron... While the "what sport is most difficult" is highly dependent on definitions of "sport", "difficult", and other semantics as Matt pointed out.

Nonetheless, Bob in the Studio would have been wise to aruge that baseball requires the greatest number of precision skills (of course no single player possesses each of these): pitching into a 17"x24" box from 60'6" at 90 mph, hitting a ball that may or may not arrive in said box while the ball is travelling 90 mph and rotating wildly, running down fly balls that travel anywhere from 30 feet to 300 feet but look exactly the same coming off the bat, throwing a ball within a catcher's reach from 250 feet away, etc.

Nonetheless, "What sport is most difficult?" is as answerable as "What is the meaning of life?" Sounds like Bob in the Studio had nothing better to talk about.

Mike 8:23 PM  

What he said.

Nathan 6:39 PM  

The question is inherantly unanswerable. Every sport is easy and every sport is difficult.

As was stated earlier, kicking a ball is not difficult, but kicking that ball in a manner that allows you to simultaneously run at full speed and weave in and out of people trying to take that ball from you, and then kicking it into a net past someone that has devoted his entire life to making sure you don't kick that ball past him...a whole different story.

It's the same with every sport. Any able-bodied (and many handicapped) person can learn to play any sport, but to do it at a professional level is something that is possible only for a select few. Once a sport is invented, it will be played at a higher and higher level, as certain people prove to have natural abilities and personal commitments that make them better and better.

Each sport will always have a glass ceiling, where the absolute best will compete against each other and form an exclusive professional league (or multiple leagues in some cases).

The point is that to do something better than anyone else is just as rare and "difficult" whether you're talking about hitting a baseball or eating hotdogs.

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