Which Is Less Impossible: Scoring In An NBA Game, Getting A Hit In An MLB Game, Or Getting A First Down In An NFL Game?

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As often happens when you work with highly opinionated idiots, the Deadspin staff got into a lengthy argument yesterday over, what else, a Twitter question:

It was stupid, it went on for too long, everybody was wrong, and we had several members of each group hunkering down for the Slack fight to end all Slack fights. In the end, with no unanimous consensus among our writers and editors, Luis Paez-Pumar, Albert Burneko, and Patrick Redford decided to air this out in the public forum that we call “work.”



Let’s start with the fact that all three of these are nigh impossible for the normal Deadspin staffer, and certainly for the normal Deadspin reader. If I have to pick one for a chance at a million dollars, I’m going NBA every single time. Why? Aside from being the least terrifying of three choices from a physical level—I don’t want to see a baseball flying at me at 98 miles per hour, and the NFL is scary enough for pros, let alone for my lanky frame—it also provides you the most chances at scoring a point, and the most options at doing so in a way that opens the door for blind luck.


The most obvious way to do this is to cherry-pick. If you stand under the opponent’s basket all game, no one is going to guard you; after all, every NBA team would drool at the chance to play five-on-four offense on the other end of the court. However, statistically, it’s bound to happen that someone throws an errant pass, or dribbles off their foot, or some other version of a turnover. That’s when your teammates can chuck you the ball, Kevin Love style, and hope that you can make a simple lay-up. The only two skills required here are catching a basketball and sinking a wide-open lay-up. As long as it’s not LeBron James running back to try to block me, I’d take those chances.

You could also be a bit of a scumbag and try to bait someone into a technical foul, therefore giving you a free throw’s chance for the prize. Even the most uncoordinated of Deadspin staffers could likely hit free throws at a 50 percent clip. You’re not taking those odds over magically making enough contact with an MLB pitch that you get a hit? Or somehow avoiding 11 very large and shockingly fast NFL defenders for 10 yards before they pulverize you into a pile of blood and broken bones? The only real risk you run with this technical foul strategy is that you make an NBA player so mad somehow that they clock you in the face, because that’s curtains for you on the whole being alive thing.

The nature of an NBA game also makes it uniquely qualified to trick you into thinking you have a shot here. There are more possessions in basketball than in football, and definitely more than in baseball, where, at absolute most, you’d get something like six at-bats in a game. That’s more likely than not 18 strikes in a row against you. And since I’m working off the assumption that the opposite team would not really guard you in the NBA game—seeing as how they’re trying to win, there’s no reason to cover the slow, unskilled internet user—it’s very possible that you just find yourself open even in a half-court set for a jumper. There is just too much variance in an NBA game from possession to possession to say definitively that you will never score a point, no matter your lack of skill or coordination.

If all else fails, you could just chuck the ball from half-court all game. If some dude can hit a hook shot from there on his first try, you can probably go 1-for-20 for a million bucks. - Luis Paez-Pumar



None of these things are happening. That is the first point. If the professional ballplayers are treating it like a real game, forget about the million dollars. You will sooner win the Mega Millions lottery.


If the NBA players actually guard you—and for what it’s worth, I believe they would, since an average human being is not halfway athletic enough to make an NBA player sweat and is no threat to drive past chest-to-chest defense, but is a mortal lock to commit a turnover the very second the pressure arrives—you will not touch the ball, once, in 48 minutes, unless your teammates allow you to inbound the ball, which they will not, because allowing an ordinary person to throw the inbound pass is not in any way different from just handing the ball to the other team. Forget about making a lucky halfcourt heave. You are not touching the ball. Not even once.

If the NFL defenders actually give full-speed chase, not only are you not rushing for a first down, you’re not rushing for a yard. You’re never getting close enough to the line of scrimmage to fall onto it as you die. And after either your first or second carry—depending one whether you scream and wet yourself and fling the ball to the nearest defender on your first, which you probably will—you are being airlifted to the nearest trauma center. Forget about some wacky triple-reverse hook-and-ladder gimmick play. Every nanosecond that elapses between the snap of the ball and its arrival in your hands exponentially increases the odds that you will be a crumpled pile of shattered bones and organs by the time anybody gets around to delivering it to you. The only way you’re touching the ball is if the quarterback pounds it into your gut immediately after the snap. And forget about the idea that you’ll just hit the hole opened by your offensive line and hope for the best. You will not be able to discern the hole. You will be too busy shrieking in terror and curling into a ball at the quarterback’s feet.


Likewise, if the MLB pitcher really wants to strike your ass out, you can absolutely forget about keeping your eye on the ball, getting a good head start on your swing, and blooping the ball over the second-baseman’s head for a cheap single. Forget it. You are not capable of keeping your eye on a mid-90s fastball. You are certainly not capable of keeping your eye on a mid-90s fastball while also performing the mechanical action of swinging a wooden baseball bat at it. Forget about it! And then there’s the frickin’ slider! You will wrench your spine out of your torso if you even try to keep your eye on the slider.

However! Baseball, by its weird, unique nature, imposes some formal restrictions on things that at least make it vaguely possible for luck to intervene, meaninglessly, in the complete absence of skill or aptitude. That is, the pitcher can’t decide he’s going to throw the ball to the center fielder rather than the catcher; he has to pitch to you, and you’re allowed to stand there and take your feeble hacks. This is unlike basketball, where you’re absolutely not going to get a chance to so much as touch the ball, much less take a shot with it, or football, where you’re going to die not less than 9.9 yards from the first-down marker.


You’re not going to get a hit! Forget about it! But there’s at least some astronomically tiny incentive to flail wildly at each pitch as it goes by, to just rear back and corkscrew your miserable ass into hell at each one. For no actual good reasons at all, it is at least possible for the bat to make good, flush contact with the pitch without your having actually done anything good or right to make it so, and then for the ball to just kind of randomly plunk down between two fielders, like when the motion of astral bodies originating billions of light years apart in space happens, eons later, to drill an asteroid into the face of a planet, despite the odds of that being worse than the odds that two particular grains of sand will collide with each other in a hurricane.

This does not make “getting a hit in an MLB game” easier than those other two things. It’s not going to happen! Forget about it! You will never get a hit in an MLB game. But the MLB one is, for my shot at the million dollars, the only one where there’s any reason even to try it. Take your cuts! Flail away! On November 30, 1954, a woman named Ann Hodges was napping on her couch in the town of Oak Grove, Alabama, when a grapefruit-sized meteorite from the depths of space crashed through her roof, bounced off her wooden radio cabinet, and crashed into the left side of her body. The odds against that happening are so long as to be infinite. It is not possible for a grapefruit-sized hunk of chondrite to fall out of space, crash through a roof, bounce off a radio, and hit you in the side of your body where you are napping on your couch. It couldn’t happen. Ever. It a zillion squadrillion eons. But it did. Swing from your heels. - Albert Burneko



lol - Patrick Redford