Tuesday, August 22, 2006


So, obviously, sports topics come up at work A LOT. It is just the nature of a sports store. And, since I live in Northern Minnesota, the topic is usually hockey.

I don't like hockey. I don't like what it has become. But hockey represents 3/4 of the yearly sales at my store. So I sell hockey. And I do it well, for a guy who has never played.

But that doesn't mean I have to defend it against basketball. NO WAY, NO HOW. There is a rivalry between the two sports, because they are played at the same time of the year. So Ken and Woody decided to start this debate yesterday: Hockey players are better athletes than basketball players.

The bullet points:

1) Hockey is a harder sport to "pick up"- the average joe can more readily succeed at a pick up game of basketball.

2) Hockey players have more crossover success in other sports.

3) Hockey is more physically demanding.

Now, I cannot argue with number 1. But I am not sure if athleticism is the factor, or if it is skill, or technical proficiency. That is to say (and I pointed this out) it is very hard to just go golf, if you have never swung a club. But golf is far less physically demanding than weight lifting, which anyone can go do, first try. (No one would accuse John Daly of being an athlete) What makes hockey so hard to do at the start is the act of skating, not the rules or the general gameplay, which basically mirror soccer in most respects. And most people can go out and play a pick up game of soccer with the same amount of success as they can play basketball.

Of number two, I cannot think of one Pro hockey player who is a pro in another sport. But I did mention (to many laughs) that Wilt Chamberlain was a professional volleyball player, too. They did not think volleyball was on the same level. "All he has to do is stand there, he is so tall" Wilt could also run a sub 4 forty, but I guess his legs were just long. (Shaq has longer legs, as does KG, and neither can clock that speed). However, I don't know if this proves athletic ability, or sports aptitude. Since the two sports are played at the same time, you won't see a Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders (both of whom played two professional sports-Baseball and Football-at a high level). But one could argue that if LeBron James would have grown up in Canada, we would not be talking about Sidney Crosby right now.

The third one is really the bone of contention. How can you measure that? Honestly, I need help on this one. At the highest level, both sports are terribly demanding. Is it harder for a person skating his whole life to skate, or for a person jumping his whole life to jump? Is a 15 inch vertical on skates more impressive than a 50 inch vertical over another player (see the 2000 Vince Carter olympics)? Is it harder to skate up and down a shorter field, gliding half the way, or run up and down a larger field walking half the time? This is the real meat of the question, and it is comparing apples to watermelons (yes, that is a racist joke, but it happens to be funny, too).

But here is all I know. If I took Crosby and James and put them in a decathlon, James would WASTE Crosby. Wouldn't even be close.

For a bonus, just before Ken decided we shouldn't talk bad about hockey in front of the customers (meaning I shouldn't talk) He said if he and a friend played two basketball players in basketball, and those same two players played him in hockey, the margin of victory for his game would be larger that the margin for their game. That may be true of the average player. Maybe (although if Mike and I played those two in hockey, we WOULD score a few, and we WOULD check their asses to the boards, and those two 5-8 guys would not score two buckets on us, and that's not bragging) But if the two best hockey players played the two best basketball players, those hockey players would not score ONCE, and the basketball players would get a couple open net scores.

Again, though, crossover success means little. Lebron James could wrestle a high school heavy wieght and he would get his ass handed to him. That doesn't make the high school heavy wieght more athletic.

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