Tuesday, August 20, 2013

How 'Bout a Poll?: Best Athletes in a Pro Sports League

There is a recurring argument within one group of my friends. Many of us disagree about which professional sports league features the best athletes in the world.

In light of that argument and this blog's modestly increasing readership (not just our relatives anymore!), we present How Blank's first-ever poll.


You can vote on the side of our homepage. If you feel the need to justify or clarify your answer, please do so in the comments section at the end of this post. You have no idea how excited Kavanaugh and I get for a good sports argument, which is why we're trying our hand at this poll business in the first place.

Interpret the poll question in whichever way you wish. Here are a few of my pros and cons for voting for each league.

Pros: My love for baseball is no secret on this blog, and I think it's the best, most American game we have. It is a common adage that hitting a major league fastball is the most difficult thing to do in all of sports.
Cons: The Wall Street Journal recently calculated calculated that there are fewer than 18 minutes of actual action in the average baseball game. Also, John Kruk.

Pros: People often say that LeBron James would be a first-round pick in the NFL right now. But even average NBA players must have a tremendous blend of endurance, explosiveness, hand-eye coordination, and fast-twitch reflexes. If you've ever tried to play a pick-up game against even Division 3 players, you understand the crazy athleticism involved in playing hoops, and the NBA might be your jam. (See what I did there?)
Cons: Height often trumps athleticism. There is a legend about 7-foot-7 Sudanese center Manute Bol: When scouts first went to see him as a teenager, they handed him a ball and told him to put it in the hoop; he promptly broke his front teeth on the rim during an attempted dunk.

Pros: Speed, balance, precision, reflexes. Professional hockey players do what 99.99999% of the population can't (43% of Canadians), and they make it seem unbelievably easy. Also, if you factor toughness into your equation of athleticism, the NHL might get your vote.
Cons: The other side of the toughness coin? Most NHL teams employ enforcers, guys who make the roster solely on their ability to fight and cause mayhem on the ice. Most true enforcers are weak skaters with poor puck skills.

Pros: I think that much of America's passion for pro football* comes from the average person's understanding that "regular guys" could never see themselves on the field. In watching baseball, on the other hand, some people think (very incorrectly) that with a few breaks here and there, they could have made it to the MLB. This is one difference between PED acceptance in the two leagues. Football players probably need it in order to deliver and withstand the vicious hits we cheer for every week. NFL players, unlike those in other leagues, push the human body to its limits.
Cons: How can I put this delicately? Most offensive linemen are slightly overweight.

*...other than fantasy leagues, beer, and TV.

English Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, or Bundesliga
Pros: If this blog had more of an international audience (We did have 14 pageviews in Norway last week!), I would expect professional soccer to garner the most votes. Midfielders for faster-paced teams sometimes run 10-plus miles in just over 90 minutes, with much of that running coming in sprints. In addition, soccer has its fair share of contact and ball-carriers must be exceedingly strong. And while many people think of the goalkeeper as the fat kid on their youth team, goalies have some of the quickest reflexes among all athletes.
Cons: Americans have reacted negatively to the perceived "flopping problem" in the NBA, but soccer fans know diving as an accepted part of the game. This week, I watched Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo writhe in pain after seemingly hurting his hand. The announcers were unsure how he injured it, and Ronaldo returned to play at the next stoppage. Again, you can factor toughness into the equation if you choose.

ATP World Tour
Pros: Unlike in the above leagues, pro tennis players (singles, that is) assume the entire spotlight each match. That takes unwavering mental fortitude, and many would call it a form of athleticism. More tangibly, all tennis players have some combination of quickness, power, speed, and stamina.
Cons: In many countries, potentially-superior tennis players are pushed toward more popular team sports like basketball or soccer. This phenomenon probably dilutes the ranks of pro tennis players. I mean, can you imagine Chris Paul on a tennis court?

PGA Tour
Pros: For years, many people have considered the top golfers to be among the best athletes in the world. Pro golfers probably face even more of a mental challenge than tennis players. As a twice-a-year duffer, I have the utmost respect for even proficient golfers.
Cons: I was going to try to get through this section without using the term "man boobs," but I guess I still lack some maturity. My apologies to Phil Mickelson.

NASCAR, Formula 1, or IndyCar
Pros: Professional race-car drivers must have the clear-headedness of golfers while possible death awaits them around every turn. Races are long, hot, and mentally draining.
Cons: Many people argue that car-racing is not even a real sport. I won't get into that argument now, but it probably tells you something about drivers' actual athleticism.

I'm sorry to die-hard fans of the following leagues: Roller Derby, WNBA, the Professional Cricketers' Association, and the Australian National Rugby League. My ignorance is your main enemy.

Now, on to the voting! I already know which league I'd pick, and I'll post my reasons when the poll closes. In the meantime, please vote and hopefully start the type of argument many of us have when we're drinking with a group of friends.


  1. NBA, but not by a ton. I go with them because there is the least variance, like you mention. For every Mike Trout or Justin Verlander (who's nasty at golf), there's a masher like Adam Dunn or John Kruk that bring the idea of a baseball player down.

    NFL follows that same pattern. I like hockey and soccer, but with NBA you know every guy that steps on the floor is quick, strong, can leap, and has great hands. Even a monster like Shaq had to get up and down the floor and have some touch on baby hooks to be effective, as opposed to a massive linemen whose primary objective is to push the other guy.

  2. I choose European soccer. (certainly not the MLS even though it is getting better) They have all the things an NBA player has but they do it with the ball at their feet rather than their hands, which is much harder!

  3. eeehh.... tough one. Being the great athlete that I am I feel i can have some input in this.


    Im not going to get into details, but in a close race... definitely soccer.

    1. Haha, you should have been a lawyer, Dermot. "Your honor, being the genius that I am, I feel I can have some input in this. I won't give you the details or evidence, but my client is definitely innocent."

    2. Ronaldo over lebron in worlds best athlete competition.

  4. Replies
    1. Just 9 days and 8 hours until kickoff!

  5. As I sit here wearing my gray Chicago Machine shirt, I can only imagine that the disappointment I feel is nothing compared to that of our friend and professional Laxer, Hugh Hughes. What a blatant lack of respect for the MLL (Major League Lacrosse). With that being said, there is no way I would actually vote for the MLL anyways. I agree with Kavanaugh...the NBA has the best athletes, headlined by the best athlete in the world in LBJ.

    1. Sorry, but any sport where you need an in-season job to supplement your income doesn't get consideration.
      I hear Chicago Machine gear fetches good money in the memorabilia market, though.

  6. I think that Christiano ronaldo after practicing would be better at basketball then lebron would be at soccer after practicing for the same amount of time. I think its just common sense to think that its harder to control a ball with your feet than with your hands. And i would like to see who has a higher vertical leap. Ronaldo if you have not seen can get up pretty dam high for headers.

    1. I saw in a couple different places online that Ronaldo's vertical is 30 inches, and LeBron's is somewhere between 32 and 34. LeBron is the best all-around athlete I've ever watched consistently, and he's the only guy that I think rivals the Bo Jackson footage that survives today.

      As for the feet vs. hands argument, it's definitely harder to control a ball with your feet, but it's not like Ronaldo is competing against guys that use their hands and he's somehow handicapped. His competitors all use their feet, too. It just seems like that's a bogus argument for who's the better athlete.