Chandler’s best: Mirror, mirror, what is the toughest sport around? |

Chandler’s best: Mirror, mirror, what is the toughest sport around?

Read an article the other day on the great Ernie Nevers — considered by many to be the greatest all around athlete ever. My friends and I often argue about this — some of them say Nevers, some say Jim Thorpe, and I stick up for Bugs Bunny (did you see that one baseball cartoon where he played all the positions?).

Nevers, a halfback, was so good that he once had an entire team named after him (the Ernie Nevers Eskimos). But in addition to playing both offense and defense in professional football, he also played professional baseball (he gave up two of Babe Ruth’s 60 home runs in 1927), played pro basketball and ran track. After retirement he became a scratch golfer — could have easily been a pro had he started earlier.

Of all those disciplines, though, I wonder what ol’ Ernie Nevers would have considered the most difficult. Is hitting the holes as a pro football halfback more difficult than hitting a jump shot with the clock winding down?

Is throwing a fastball past a great hitter more of an accomplishment than scoring an eagle on a difficult hole? And what of bowling — that ball return is vicious; I’ve jammed my thumb more than once.

What is the most difficult sport, anyway? We know that Texas Rangers shortstop Alex Rodriguez makes truckloads of cash — his pay actually arriving at his home each week in trucks. But is his job any more difficult than Ray Borque’s? To me, pro hockey seems much tougher than baseball — any time you combine the terms “enforcer” and “ice-covered playing surface,” to me that spells challenge.

Yep, it’s a conundrum. Luckily for you, however, we are here to help; we’re going to unravel this mystery for you in this very space. We’ll split the problem into three categories, and work out the answers. So hold on, here we go. Please keep your feet and hands inside the column at all times. No spitting.

The nominees are:

1. Quarterback, pro football. You’ve got to be able to read defenses, scramble occasionally, throw accurately and with some strength, withstand punishment, and then after you’ve got all that down perfectly, the pass is there and Terrell Owens drops the ball! It makes you just wanna cry.

2. Pitcher, pro baseball. The minor leagues are littered with guys who can throw hard, but it takes a craftsman to reach the pros, and an artist to excel there. You have to be able to hit spots, throw in the 90s, throw a variety of pitches for strikes, soldier on through arm and shoulder pain, and withstand the humiliation of your three pathetic plate appearances in each game you pitch.

3. Center, pro hockey. Hockey’s rules and nuances are varied and shrouded in mystery — to me, anyway (I’m from a state where the sun comes out occasionally). But I would think that this has got to be difficult, because that net is so small, the goalie takes up the entire opening, and so many defensemen are missing teeth.

4. Pro boxer. When I was a kid I dreamed of growing up and getting into many professions — getting into organized fistfights wasn’t one of them. No matter how good you are, you’re still going to get hit in the face 30 or 40 times per outing. At least in football, the quarterback can slide to avoid the hit; where do you go in the ring when Mike Tyson’s coming at you? And in what other sport do they use body parts for appetizers?

5. Figure skater. Spins, axles, routines, avoiding Jeff Gillooley … oh hell, I don’t know, I just threw this in.


1. Hitting a 99-mph fastball. I can’t imagine. I went to the batting cages to try it out and the thing overheated and exploded at 85. Against Randy Johnson, I could go up to the plate in full padding like they use in those dog attack training videos and still not feel safe.

2. Catching a pass over the middle. Leaving your feet in an NFL game is never a good idea — but to do so in a spot where all 11 defensive players have a shot at you, from all angles, is not my idea of a good time.

3. Soccer goal. There’s a reason that soccer announcers get so excited when someone scores – it almost never happens. It seems like some divine comedy of errors must occur for a shot to even get close, and then the goalie can use his hands! A sportswriter must have invented this game because there sure isn’t a lot of paperwork involved.

4. Stopping a hockey puck. We can’t show you, but just listen to this: “Viisssssssssssshhhhppttttt!” What the … a goal? I didn’t even see that!

5. Ski Jump. No way. Not even for that $25 million bin Laden bounty.

I know we said we were going to figure this out, but it’s way too difficult.

Make your own decision. Just suffice it to say that when the guy next to you in the sports bar says “I can do that,” he’s probably lying.

Alternate ballot:


1. Quidditch Seeker. We just recently saw the new Harry Potter film, and we were totally baffled by this contrived, confusing sport. You’re riding broomsticks, and bocce balls are flying at you from all angles, and you’re trying to capture a little winged ping-pong ball, all the while being scrutinized by a tipsy Richard Harris. I had a dream like this once after a 48-hour binge in Tijuana, and woke up sweating profusely, sans pants, with Harris passed out in the bathtub.

2. Bowler, Cricket. I’ve played many sports, but in none of them did I have to worry about wrinkling my slacks. It’s like when you’re a kid, and you’re dressed up and trying to play touch football in the parking lot just before church. Impossible.

4. Jockey. I have a feeling that Willie Shoemaker could play basketball, but if Karl Malone tried to ride a racehorse he’d suffer a tragic demise.

5. Pit crew, tires. Considering that it takes me two hours to change a flat, I have nothing but admiration for these maniacs.

6. Pod racer. George Lucas likes crashes and loud explosions, and even if you win you have to hang out with annoying Jar Jar Binks.

7. Being shot from a cannon. Rookie mistakes are not tolerated here.

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