sam's notes

notes on government, sports and popular culture

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Skip Bayless sacrifices a few trees (figuratively speaking) with a debate that's been going for years, with no resolution in sight: Are cyclists, swimmers and runners better athletes than football, baseball and basketball players?

Bayless objects to those that have crowned Lance Armstrong is the world's greatest athlete, not only by virtue of his cycling prowess but by the many awards he has won during his run of six straight Tour de France victories. Over the past few years, Armstrong has been named A.P. Athlete of the Year, Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year and Sportsnation's Male Athlete of the Year.

While he respects Armstrong's accomplishments on a bicycle, Bayless argues that, as an all-around athlete, Armstrong can't measure up to, say, Michael Jordan:

"Seriously, in their primes, Armstrong was a better all-around athlete than Jordan? Right, and Bill Murray is a better actor than Anthony Hopkins. No one can play that funny-sad Bill Murray character as brilliantly as Murray routinely does. But Hopkins has astonishing range."

Bayless also argues that Ichiro Suzuki, who posseses "sensationally better hand control, gymanstic body control, speed, quickness and throwing ability" could, if he trained on a bike for a year, "be much better at Armstrong's sport than Armstrong could be at baseball."

That's a bold statement, even if it is technically true. Ball sport skills can't be taught at an advanced age. But Bayless' argument also depends on the defintion of "much better." Surely Bayless isn't suggesting could compete in the Tour, which has laid to waste pro cyclists with a lot more than a year's experience.

Bayless doesn't explore how Jordan's baseball experiment reflects on his athleticism. Granted, hitting a baseball is the most difficult thing to do in sports. But Jordan washed out not at the major-league level, but at the Double A level.

Which makes me wonder: Could a fit, 30-year-old guy off the streets not take batting practice for a year and hit at least .202 in Double A ball? If he did, would that make him a comparable athlete to Jordan?


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