Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Which Are The Hardest American Sports To Break Into?

Illustration for article titled Which Are The Hardest American Sports To Break Into?
FunbagTime for your weekly edition of the Deadspin Funbag. Got something on your mind? Email the Funbag.

I was on a flight earlier this week when the cabin pressure changed and my ears popped. So I did the normal thing where you swallow five hundred times in a row and hope no one notices you swallowing so profusely, and nothing happened. My eardrums still felt like they were buried under a pile of sand.

So I resorted to the extreme measure of holding my nose and shutting my mouth and blowing out, turning my head into a stress doll. And that shit didn't work either. So then I started to freak out and think to myself Oh my God. This is it. My ears are fucked forever. I listened to too much ROCKING GOOD ROCK on shitty Sony headphones and now I'm gonna hear everything like I'm underwater for the rest of my life. I am Pete Townsend now. Then I got off the plane and tried the stress doll thing one more time, successfully unplugging my ears and finding myself in agonizing pain.

That happens with me sometimes. My hearing will shift and I'll think I need a cochlear implant, or the vision in one of my eyes will get blurry for just a moment because I've lost a contact and I'll think OH MY GOD I'M BLIND. And the shitty thing about it is that I'll totally go half-deaf and half-blind one day. It happens to EVERY old person. It's just a matter of when, which is not a fun thought. This is why I drink, to avoid that kind of existential dread. I'm sure the long-term effects of alcohol abuse won't speed up my hearing or vision loss at all!


Your letters:


How would you rank professional athletics on Nature/Nurture scale? The NBA and NFL lotteries are largely won at birth, whereas cash and one-track parents have led to many a professional golfer, race car driver, or tennis star. Right? Genes still play a role, but even mixing in all weird sports like BMX and skateboarding where professionals make millions, what's the least-chance to best-chance breakdown of the average fetus making it big? Basically, on what discipline should I force my five-year-old (who will NOT EVER run a 4.1 40 nor be seven feet tall) to toil for my own personal amusement and retirement fund purposes?

I think a lot of it depends entirely on the size of the talent pool involved. One of the reasons that NBA and NFL players are physical freaks compared to the rest of the general public is because they HAVE to be. So many people out there like to play basketball that it takes a seven-foot-tall megalodon with superhuman peripheral vision and hands as soft as a Dairy Queen vanilla cone to stand out from the millions upon millions of people out there hoping to play in the NBA one day.

This is different from the talent pool of a sport such as, I dunno, handball. If you want to become an Olympic handball player, the only requirement is that you need to be able to afford your own equipment. There are sixteen people out there desperate to become American handball gods, so your odds of succeeding are far better. You don't have as many potential competitors out there for the gig. If the 25 million people who play basketball nationwide decided to play badminton instead, the current US badminton team would be reduced to rec-league caliber in a matter of seconds.


That's why a sport like golf is such a mirage for control-freak parents out there. One look at Phil Mickelson's tits and every American parent says, "Whoa, hey, my son could be that guy." The folly is that millions of other parents are thinking the exact same thing, and so while it may be "easy" to train a small white child to become a competent golfer, there is an innate feel for the game and a level of mental concentration that you must have in order to separate yourself from all the other dipshit Andrew Giulianis out there and become a real touring pro.

Here is how I would rank a handful of randomly chosen American sports on the Nature to Nurture Scale, with the top of the chart being sports that only welcome talented freakshows and the bottom representing sports that reward your little Wes Welker for his overall gymrattiness:

1. Basketball
2. Track
3. Football
4. Baseball
5. Boxing
6. Horse racing (NOTE: Kind of an anomaly here, since you have to be an anorexic dwarf to be a jockey)
7. Soccer
8. Gymnastics/Figure Skating
9. Hockey
10. Bowling
11. Tennis
12. Swimming*
13. Golf
14. Skiing/Snowboarding/Xtreeeem motocross
15. MMA
16. Surfing
17. Wrestling
18. Lacrosse
19. Fencing
20. Luge
21. Squash
(*I think that people tend to have more respect for athletes who could conceivably succeed in many different sports. LeBron was a great high school football player. Tony Gonzalez was a college basketball player. Those are REAL athletes. I think they get more respect from people than someone like Michael Phelps, who is perhaps the most dominant athlete of his generation and yet would probably look like a fucking rabbit on stilts if he tried to suit up for an NBA team.)



My son is 4 and is in preschool. One day after school, he tells me, "Lily's mom died. Somebody killed her." I launched into a talk about how sad that is, and about how Lily's mom is a memory now, and gave him about an hour's worth of help processing it. The next day, I drop him off, and Lily's mom is right there dropping off Lily. I had a whisper conversation with my son about how Lily's mom is actually fine and there she is, and then I left. Should I have told Lily's mom that the class thinks she's dead?


It depends on the source of the rumor. It could have been Lily who told the class her mom was murdered, or your son could have started it, or the class could have heard it while listening to a Beatles record in reverse. If your son just made it all up, there's obviously no reason to tell Lily's mom because it was your stupid kid who started it all. But if Lily told him, "Yeah, my mom was hacked to death by a deranged stalker," then maybe you tell the mother. If you have the courage to do so. You probably don't have the courage to do so. I know I don't.

Kids are breathtaking liars. They lie constantly, about everything, for no reason at all. And they do it with a straight face, like a fucking sociopath would. There's no spike in blood pressure of any sort when they lie. I have no idea what's the truth and what isn't. Hanging out with your average first grader is like being trapped on Shutter Island. One of my kid's friends said she broke her ankle, and my kid made all kinds of sympathy cards for her and shit. But that kid didn't have a busted ankle. That was straight-up perjury. And the worst part is that my kid refused to accept that it was a lie.


ME: She doesn't have crutches. Her ankle is fine.

KID: No! She definitely broke her ankle!

ME: Did she go to a hospital?

KID: No.

ME: Then you are being PLAYED.

So much lying.


Has anyone ever drank food coloring to quench their thirst?

No. To see if they can shit red, yes. But as a straight-up form of hydration? No. It would probably kill you to chug a quart of food coloring. Nothing that concentrated can possibly be healthy. When you use it to dye a drink or a bowl full of cake batter, the label is like, "You only need a couple drops," and you're like, "Pfft. That can't possibly be right. Let's use half the bottle." And then you cake glows like it's made of plutonium. Food coloring is terrifying shit. In the hands of a child, an entire house can be painted green with it.



What do you think is the best sport to have played in college for post-collegiate popularity/success/girl-impressin'? For example, while it's great fun to be a hot shit linebacker at a big football school, you won't really get the chance to impress too many folks with your big-hitting in your local city's flag-football league. On the other hand, being a Division I table-tennis stud, while not cool IN school, gives you the chance to own your neighborhood's block parties and BBQ's for years to come.


I dunno, I think telling people that you played quarterback at Georgia or something is a pretty decent calling card if you want to land that real estate job or chat up that girl drinking from a plastic yard glass at the local douchebag pickup joint. It's fun to be proficient at some hipstery bar game like ping pong or pool or shufflepucks or whatever, but you're still not gonna live the high life as consistently as A.J. McCarron is about to.

Soccer is also good because you can always head over to your local park and dazzle all the yummy mummies with your crazy foot juggling skillz. You could even join in on the local futbol match featuring dozens of Latin American expatriates who wear full uniforms, bring their whole families to the park for the day, and could probably beat the USMNT single-handedly. Those guys are not fucking around when they play pickup soccer. They even hire refs just so they can curse them out.


You can also coach youth soccer, which shows women that you are both athletic AND you work well with children, which is enough to send their ovaries a-churnin'.

Honorable mention goes to baseball. Imagine the tail you could pull at your company's softball picnic. "Jim played at Rice, you know."



Is there a bigger grocery scam than tomato paste? It comes in 6-ounce cans, but you never need more than, like, two tablespoons of the stuff. And once that can is open, you can be damn sure it'll be a jungle of mold within about 72 hours. What am I supposed to be doing with the 80% of the tomato paste I'm not using?


He's right! This is why you should always buy tomato paste in a tube, which is a real product. That way, you can seal the tube back up and use the rest as part of a hilarious prank in which you replace it with your brother's tube of Crest. MWAHAHAHAHAHA.



De-snotting my infant son's nose with that rubber bulb thing is a total nightmare. He screams in pain because he can't blow his nose, and then when I try to suck out the snot, he screams louder and fights back. Eventually I have to pin all limbs down and trap his head but even then the ungrateful bastard doesn't appreciate what's being done. I've reached the point where I feel like I'm waterboarding the poor kid, and I've thought about pretending to interrogate him while I try to relieve his sinus pressure. "TELL US WHO SOLD YOU THE PASSPORT", you know, that sort of thing. Is that a wildly inappropriate reaction? Will I scar my son?


Nah. It's a baby. It won't remember anything you do to it. In fact, they're engineered that way on purpose, so that you can suck out its boogers and stick it with vaccine needles and leave it abandoned in a crib for hours at a time. If they remembered any of those necessary parental methods, it would be scarred for life. But fortunately, your baby is essentially Guy Pearce in Memento. You should tattoo a bunch of messages on the child so that, when he turns four, he becomes fully conscious and finds out that he may have murdered someone three years prior.

Cleaning a child's nose is the worst, by the way. THE FUCKING WORST. Before you have a kid, everyone warns you about dirty diapers and spit-up, but no one ever mentions the booger thing. There are boogers the size of Texas inside your infant. Sometimes, you'll pull on one and it'll just keep going, like a string of handkerchiefs coming out of a magician's hat. It's horrifying.


One time, my son had a head cold and I went into his room late at night to help him. And when I got near the crib, I saw what can only be described as a WALL of dark brown boogers plastered across his face. We're talking a crust of damp, curdled snot the size of a grown man's mustache. I nearly threw up. It remains the grossest thing I've ever seen as a parent. There were PILES of boogers all over the crib. It was the boy's weight in snot. Even now, years after having seen it, I get nauseous thinking about it. So let this be a warning to you future parents out there: THE BOOGER THREAT IS REAL.


I was walking back to my apartment tonight and noticed a new sign on the pool gate (attached below). I don't know about you, but that thing set my fucking imagination on fire. SO MANY QUESTIONS. What was the incident that prompted the sign? Were there multiple offenses? How did they decide the specific diarrhea timing rules? Did they consult a doctor and/or scientist regarding pool diarrhea probabilities? How could they possibly enforce this (there's no lifeguard at the pool ever)? Are we tenants going to be issued some sort of diarrhea enforcement UPC codes?

Illustration for article titled Which Are The Hardest American Sports To Break Into?

"Currently Active Diarrhea" would make for an excellent fantasy football team name. I like that they demand two weeks' notice. Diarrhea in a pool is just that horrifying of a concept that they want you clear for 14 full days before they let you back in. It's just like the health form I had to fill out before getting on the Kid Rock boat. Officials can deal with solid feces. That's not such a big deal. But liquid fecal matter is like being attacked by the T1000. People want no part of it.


Obviously, someone sprayed diarrhea all over your pool. "I want the entire pool scrubbed, sterilized and disinfected!" They can probably fish out a solid turd, do a chlorine shock on the pool, and be back in business with relative ease. But when someone has the runs and it spreads into every corner of the pool, you're talking about a full drain job, with no guarantee that every last flake of old cabbage has been accounted for.

As an aside, I would just like to note that pool filters are terrifying. Once, when I was a kid, I picked up the lid of a pool filter and saw a roach inside the size of your hand. It scarred me for life. Anytime I see someone lift the lid on a pool filter now, I expect to see a fully grown raccoon/bee hybrid.



My most recent Snapple purchase (a dubious source, I know) claims that honey is the only food that never spoils. Is this really true? If so, why aren't scientists adapting the secrets of honey to make my crabcakes immortal?


It's kind of true, if you believe this Snopes thread, and I believe everything I read on the Internet. The sugar kills the bacteria or something. But you and I both know that honey can crystallize if you leave it around for too long, turning it pasty and opaque. I have no problem with this "spoiled" honey. Eating it makes me feel like a rebel.


So the wife and I just bought a home, and I just found that a month and a half before our purchase some woman was shot multiple times on a street corner about one block from my current house. The case is solved, and drugs/alcohol were a big issue. I Googled the case a bit to see what was up, and it turned out the girl who died had a very public Facebook. Her last post? "Big penis or small penis?" That was all it said. Got me wondering if that's the weirdest final Facebook status anyone has ever had, and the whole idea of Facebook memorials in general since they kind of last forever especially if they're really public. Just makes me glad mine is on private.


Perhaps that final post of hers was a clue as to the kind of murder weapon used. We've discussed murder houses in the past. As always, I like the idea of moving into a house that's been significantly devalued due to past bloodshed. And the whole Facebook thing adds a fun twist to the whole affair. I would definitely mention the "Big penis or small penis?" post while giving party guests the house tour. I could even keep unwanted relatives away by disclosing the house's history to them. "Sure, come and visit us for a week. Oh, did I mention the HORRIFIC DRUG SLAYING that took place here? A penis may or may not have been used."



I was driving the other day and my progress was impeded by a train. Is the train the worst driving obstruction you can run into? You don't know how long they are (I couldn't get close enough to the tracks to look and see how long of a train we were dealing with; turns out, it was endless) and they go so EXCRUCIATINGLY slow.


Sometimes I press my face against the windshield to get a better look. A CABOOSE. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, LET ME SEE A CABOOSEY.

By the way, I have a kid who loves trains and goes batshit insane anytime we get to a railroad crossing and a train goes rumbling by. Suffice it to say, if he is in the car, we NEVER come across a train. But if I'm alone in the car, I will see six different trains with every possible combination of gondola car, hopper car, boxcar, flat car, cattle car, magnetically levitating donut car, etc. Trains don't give a fuck about entertaining your children.



At what age are you too old to enjoy a bachelor party? I'm 39, been married for 12 years with an eight-year old son, and heading to a bachelor party in New Orleans in a few weeks. While it would have been fun 15 years ago, the thought of coming home to fatherhood/husband duties (often ratcheted up because I've been on 'vacation') and work makes me dread the trip. Is this just one of those things that's less fun as you get older or am I being a complete gash?


It's just part of your natural evolution. When you get that old, the idea of staying in a hotel room with five other filthy pigs and drinking until you feel like shit suddenly seems unappealing. And then you have to fight with your own psyche being like MAN UP, BRO! FUCKING PARTY!

When you get to age 35 or so, you usually just want to have a nice meal and then get a decent night's rest. Staying up for hours and hours and actually talking to other human beings starts to feel like fucking work. It sounds insane, but it's true. My wife and I went to some party once and the next day were both run down from talking to other people so much. That shit takes energy that I don't have anymore. OH THE AGONIES OF SOCIALIZING.


When you get to my age, you also don't have any interest in talking to strippers or meeting new people in bars anymore. You have enough friends. You don't give a shit about impressing people anymore. And you're old enough to know within seven seconds whether or not a person you encounter is a complete fucking idiot or not. Being stuck talking to someone you don't want to talk to is agonizing. I went to a bachelor party a few years back at a beach house. There were no strippers. We just went swimming, grilled steaks, drank some beers, and then went to bed. It was ECSTASY. I'm too old now to be in someone's stupid Wolfpack.


Just went for my 1st pee of the workday, after a prolonged search I realized I'd put my boxers on backwards. Amazing how something so simple can lead to such frustration and confusion. So do I correct it or just live with it for the rest of the day?


My God, the peehole disappeared! It's tempting to change, but then you have to change pants in the work bathroom, which is always fraught with danger. Anytime I see a man changing clothes in a public bathroom, I assume he's just finished killing someone/masturbating/escaping from prison. And any time I change clothes in a public bathroom, I'm terrified other people will think the same of me. You have decide whether or not that brief moment of angst is worth experiencing a full day of frustrating urinary toil. I say take a scissors and cut out a new peehole.

Email of the week time!


The other night I wake up with searing pain spreading from my wrist up my arm. I jump out of bed screaming, waking up the wife who asks "what's wrong?" I respond, "I dunno what, but something friggin' bit me!" Her reply? "Oh yeah, I saw a bumble bee in the apartment earlier. I figured it flew out on its own." That's when I see, out of the corner of my eye, not a cute little bumble bee, but a terrifyingly enormous yellow jacket hovering over my pillow.

After running out of the room while screaming like a little girl, I had to gather my composure and force myself to return to the scene of my violation and murder that bastard, with my upper hand slowly going numb and arm feeling like it's going to fall off. I spot it on the light fixture, and freak out yet again as it hovers onto my bed (no doubt marking its territory after causing me to flee). I hit it with a broom, and it pops onto the floor, writhing in pain and anger. After hitting it a bunch of times with the broom, I take it to the bathroom to dispose of the carcass, too afraid to confirm the kill, at which point it drops off the broom and starts convulsing towards me. I finally manage to broom-smash its guts out with the side of the broom, thinking the nightmare was effectively over. Yet I still go to bed every night in fear of being stung (in a worse place than my wrist), and I have yet to really forgive the wife.


Image by Jim Cooke.

Drew Magary writes for Deadspin and Gawker. He's also a correspondent for GQ. Follow him on Twitter @drewmagary and email him at You can also buy Drew's book, Someone Could Get Hurt, through his homepage.

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