The Most Difficult Thing to Do in Sports

*May 27 - 00:05*Yesterday, I listened as R.A. Dickey talked about throwing a knuckleball.  I attended the Forehand & Friends Luncheon at Lipscomb University where Dickey talked about the last year or so of his life – winning the 2012 NL Cy Young Award, his climb up Mt. Kilamanjaro, his book, and the recently released documentary Knuckleball.

Dickey is a Christian.  And, he has transformed the recent success and attention into a platform to unashamedly share his faith.  That, in itself, can be a difficult thing to do, especially as a member of the Mets…in New York City.

The fascination with Dickey is that he has mastered the knuckleball…in a fastball world.  A knuckleball is an extremely difficult pitch to throw, and Dickey sets himself apart from his community of knuckleballers – Neikro, Hough, and Wakefield – in that he throws it hard.  Where other knucklers float towards the plate at 60, maybe 70 mph, Dickey’s comes flitting in towards batters in the low 80’s.

The problem with a knuckleball, though, is when it’s good, it’s really good.  When it’s bad, it’s really bad, usually leaving the park.  Yet, the thing I found most interesting about Dickey’s comments was how the environment affects his pitch.  The humidity, the temperature, the altitude – all have a significant affect on his pitch.

Think about that for a minute.  Your success depends on the humidity.

Baseball is a difficult game.  I’ve often said that baseball is the most “cerebral” of sports.  While some may see baseball as a slow game, others see it for the fascinating complexities it possesses on so many different levels.  On any given pitch, there are any number of things that can happen, both defensively and offensively.  If you don’t see that, then there’s no need for me to continue that debate.

What is not up for debate, though, is that hitting a pitched baseball is the #1 most difficult thing to do in sports.  And, Dickey just made it that much more difficult.  The list below is from a USA Today survey.  You can read about the survey here.

Hitting a baseball
Considering that a major-league pitch can reaches speeds more than 95 mph, hitters have only 0.4 seconds to find the ball, decide where the ball is going and swing the bat.
Race car driving
Skilled drivers encounter a host of problems, but rounding the corners of the track is equivalent to having three 300-pound linemen pushing you for three of the four hours it takes to conclude a race.
Pole Vaulting
Vaulting is a matter of redirecting kinectic energy of the runner’s approach speed upward, aided by a long fiberglass pole. To do it, athletes need speed for the sprint, strength for lift-off and flexibility to bend the body over the bar.
Hitting a long straight tee shot
Driving a golf ball far and long seems to be an easy thing, until you try it; even professionals have trouble with it. Last year on the PGA tour, only two players, Tiger Woods and Chris Smith, ranked in the top ten for both driving distance and greens in regulation.
Returning a serve
Traveling at over 130 mph, a tennis serve by today’s top tennis players is traveling at 185 feet per second. At that speed, a player trying to return the serve has a half second to react and return the serve.
Landing a quad
Executing a quad toe loop requires a skater to balance height and rotation while skating on a metal blade a quarter of an inch wide. During a successful quad jump, a skater will reach heights of 18 inches above the ice and experience 300 pounds of centrifugal force, all while spinning four times in just over .5 seconds.
Running a marathon
Running a 26.2-mile race is physically demanding and requires a runner to be disciplined, well-trained and able to withstand pain. Runners, including elite marathoners, often suffer from nagging injuries in the lower back, knees, shins, ankles, Achilles’ tendons and feet. However, most runners will say the reward of finishing a marathon justifies the pain.
Tour de France
The Tour de France covers more than 2,500 miles in three weeks and requires a variety of cycling skills that must be performed at levels far beyond those of recreational riders. On flat stretches of the course, tour riders must maintain speeds more than 30 mph for hours on stretch. During mountain climbs, cyclists must be able to ride up mountain roads with grades as steep as 15%.
Saving a penalty kick
On the soccer field, the goalkeeper’s job is to protect a goal that is 24 feet wide and eight feet high — 192 square feet waiting to swallow a ball about 9 inches in diameter. During a penalty kick, the goalie has 0.25 seconds to move and block a ball traveling at more than 60 mph.
The Downhill
The downhill is an 80-mph exercise in balance and control. With little protection, ski racers hurl themselves down an icy mountain course, alternately digging in their edges to carve the fastest line through turns and putting their skis flat on the snow to gain speed in the straightaways. They fight gravitational and centrifugal forces at every stage in the race.

1 Comment

Filed under Baseball

One response to “The Most Difficult Thing to Do in Sports

  1. You must have really been inspired by Dickey’s talk yesterday. Good blog this morning.

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