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  1. #1

    What sport has the best athletes?

    Last night, I got into a zoom argument with my baseball-loving friend about which of the major sports have the best athletes. If I limit the “major” sports to football, basketball, baseball, soccer and hockey, I contend that the least athletic are baseball players. My argument is that baseball players are more skilled than athletic. Sure there are guys like Trout and Betts that are wonderful athletes but there are so many seemingly out of shape guys getting paid to play baseball that it’s hard for me to consider it a sport that puts a premium on athleticism. If you think of athleticism as running fast, jumping high and far, sustained endurance and coordination, I would say that basketball has the best athletes. If you include strength, football players enter the conversation.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by nmduke2001 View Post
    Last night, I got into a zoom argument with my baseball-loving friend about which of the major sports have the best athletes. If I limit the “major” sports to football, basketball, baseball, soccer and hockey, I contend that the least athletic are baseball players. My argument is that baseball players are more skilled than athletic. Sure there are guys like Trout and Betts that are wonderful athletes but there are so many seemingly out of shape guys getting paid to play baseball that it’s hard for me to consider it a sport that puts a premium on athleticism. If you think of athleticism as running fast, jumping high and far, sustained endurance and coordination, I would say that basketball has the best athletes. If you include strength, football players enter the conversation.
    I’ll add that soccer players run like 7 or so miles per game at the upper levels, incredible athletes. And outside of the USA, most of the world’s great athletes gravitate towards this sport.

    Agree on football and basketball. Although they are by and large limited to Americans or, in basketball, freakishly tall people.

    Hockey is tough but you play on lines and get a rest.

    Baseball is a lot of standing around and sitting. Great athletes, but I agree they are less active than the others. Still, the level of competition is intense.

    I’d say:

    1. American football
    2. Everyone else’s futbol
    3. basketball
    4. Baseball.
    5. Hockey. (Maybe ahead of baseball, but I’m American so I can’t say that publicly).

  3. #3
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    Tough to have this convo without agreeing on what constitutes athletic. The get being said, not baseball.

  4. #4
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    Vermont
    I discovered a new sport the other day, cornhole with filled dog poop bags, requires tremendous eye hand coordination.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by OldPhiKap View Post
    I’ll add that soccer players run like 7 or so miles per game at the upper levels, incredible athletes. And outside of the USA, most of the world’s great athletes gravitate towards this sport.

    Agree on football and basketball. Although they are by and large limited to Americans or, in basketball, freakishly tall people.

    Hockey is tough but you play on lines and get a rest.

    Baseball is a lot of standing around and sitting. Great athletes, but I agree they are less active than the others. Still, the level of competition is intense.

    I’d say:

    1. American football
    2. Everyone else’s futbol
    3. basketball
    4. Baseball.
    5. Hockey. (Maybe ahead of baseball, but I’m American so I can’t say that publicly).
    I think you are underrating hockey. Personally, i would put it 1, world futball 2, basketball 3, Amrican football 4 and then baseball.

  6. #6
    I just thought of an interesting way to think about this. Consider if you took the 20 best athletes from each sport and gave them a month to train for a decathlon, which sport would have the best overall score? Same scenario but randomly choose 20 players from each league to compete. Or how about 20 all stars from each league to compete, which league wins?

    IMO, a young LeBron easily wins a decathlon, shoot, a young LeBron might have won a gold medal in the Olympics had he followed that path.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by budwom View Post
    I discovered a new sport the other day, cornhole with filled dog poop bags, requires tremendous eye hand coordination.
    Do be sure the target edges are well sanded...

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by nmduke2001 View Post
    I just thought of an interesting way to think about this. Consider if you took the 20 best athletes from each sport and gave them a month to train for a decathlon, which sport would have the best overall score? Same scenario but randomly choose 20 players from each league to compete. Or how about 20 all stars from each league to compete, which league wins?

    IMO, a young LeBron easily wins a decathlon, shoot, a young LeBron might have won a gold medal in the Olympics had he followed that path.
    I’m no expert, I expect this grossly underestimates the training required for some of the more specialized events. Maybe javelin, discus and shotput are ultimately “throwing stuff”, and still an event like pole vault I doubt you’d be competitive after a month.

    Back to the original question.Definition is important.

    Most powerful athletes? Football.

    Best athletes? Soccer and very closely behind or too close to call is basketball. Wasn’t mentioned to start, I’d also advocate for lacrosse. There’s a reason its called the fastest sport on two feet.

    Baseball? No. Yes, I understand its insanely hard to hit a baseball. I also understand its more interesting to watch grass grow.

    Football? Also no. Incredible athletes, powerful athletes whose sport’s timing is dictated by TV.
    Show me a football game where both teams are on the field for 45 minutes of uninterrupted play (in as much as can be given the nature of the game) and I’d say an argument could be made for football players. Five to fifteen seconds of action with at least 30 seconds in between in play?

    An unanswerable question in a vacuum that completely depends on your definition.

    Some of the best general athletes I’ve ever met are swimmers.

  9. #9
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    Not a team sport for the most part, but I'd put tennis players in the mix. Quickness, hand-eye coordination, balance, vision, body control, even leaping ability, especially at the net. And endurance. And instant decision-making. All without real-time coaching. Tell me Nadal or Jokovic wouldn't be on any short list of great athletes.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by jimsumner View Post
    Not a team sport for the most part, but I'd put tennis players in the mix. Quickness, hand-eye coordination, balance, vision, body control, even leaping ability, especially at the net. And endurance. And instant decision-making. All without real-time coaching. Tell me Nadal or Jokovic wouldn't be on any short list of great athletes.
    Yes! Thank you Jim. I feel like tennis players are often not as appreciated for the amazing athletes they have to be. It's incredible the strength and endurance these guys have to survive five set matches and continue to be able to sprint after balls and hit ridiculous serves. Anybody who has done "suicides" interval training can tell you these guys are beyond absurd.

    They may not possess as much "brute strength" as well as jumping ability as it's not as critical for success, but they are still ridiculously strong but can't be at the limitation of endurance and flexibility/reaction time. Hence why these guys have slender builds. But make no mistake that Federer, Djoker, and of course Nadal possess absurd strength where they need it (core, shoulders, forearms). I feel actually decently similar body types to soccer players except more upper body strength required and likely taller as that helps with serves.

    Of course, tennis isn't one the "major US sports."

    I think ESPN did an expert survey on this several years ago (also taking "danger" into consideration which upped racecar driving) -- although maybe it was "most difficult" instead of athletic and I seem to recall boxing being #1 and tennis also being very high.

    Of the "major US sports" yeah probably basketball as it combines the most strength, quickness, and endurance of them. I'd put baseball last but I think football/baseball have huge variances depending on the position. A RB or QB in football needs to be a great athlete, some other positions, not so much. Same with shortstop/CF vs. first baseman/DH.

  11. #11
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    Gotta be golf. I mean, John Daly and Angel Cabrera are major champions, so ...
    "Amazing what a minute can do."

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tripping William View Post
    Gotta be golf. I mean, John Daly and Angel Cabrera are major champions, so ...
    Curling is the beer drinker’s sport. I’m in.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tripping William View Post
    Gotta be golf. I mean, John Daly and Angel Cabrera are major champions, so ...
    Didn't Daly once drive directly from a Hooters parking lot?

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by bundabergdevil View Post
    Didn't Daly once drive directly from a Hooters parking lot?
    When he qualified for the Masters, he always stayed in a Winnebago packed in the Hooters’ parking lot just a mile down Washington Road from the course.

    Saw him take a driver on a short par 3 course hole, and put the ball waaayyyyyy over the woods. Probably cleared the course grounds.

    Dude was a blast. Literally.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldPhiKap View Post
    When he qualified for the Masters, he always stayed in a Winnebago packed in the Hooters’ parking lot just a mile down Washington Road from the course.

    Saw him take a driver on a short par 3 course hole, and put the ball waaayyyyyy over the woods. Probably cleared the course.

    Dude was a blast. Literally.
    Daly and ANGC. What a visual. Is that in the dictionary next to “cognitive dissonance”?
    "Amazing what a minute can do."

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tripping William View Post
    Daly and ANGC. What a visual. Is that in the dictionary next to “cognitive dissonance”?
    We patrons enjoyed him. Not sure the members shared our enthusiasm.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldPhiKap View Post
    We patrons enjoyed him. Not sure the members shared our enthusiasm.
    IKR. He might have even referred to “bikini wax” and “body bags,” and we KNOW that doesn’t go over well.
    "Amazing what a minute can do."

  18. #18
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    Eliminate baseball:

    johnkruk1.jpg

    (when seen smoking in the dugout and called out by a female fan)
    [redacted] them and the horses they rode in on.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by devildeac View Post
    Eliminate baseball:

    johnkruk1.jpg

    (when seen smoking in the dugout and called out by a female fan)
    Kruk was the John Daly of our National Pastime. Seriously.
    "Amazing what a minute can do."

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by bundabergdevil View Post
    Didn't Daly once drive directly from a Hooters parking lot?
    Drive his car, or drive a golf ball?

    DBR has always tried to discuss the concept of athleticism as if a consensus could be achieved, when everyone has their own definition. I read the title question and thought of gymnastics before clicking and reading the thread.

    The decathlon hypothetical is more interesting because it forces pro team athletes (who have years of training in specialized skills) to be tested on more general athletic ability. Who struggles outside of their wheelhouse the least?

    I’m starting to appreciate two-sport athletes even more.

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