The Athlete’s Paradox—it’s the most perplexing phenomenon in sports and a major headache for fans, coaches and teammates alike. Despite possessing uncanny physical talent the vast majority of humanity can only dream about, athletes also have an extraordinary penchant for failing at the kind of menial tasks us mortals are capable of doing.
Common sense, patience and gravity are a mundane part of daily life that we often take for granted, but are as equally unforgiving as a vicious dunk face. The best athletes can leap out of a pool, run a sub-4.5 40 or sink a 30 foot putt, yet, completely flub those obvious or simple feats that demand the same attention to detail as tying your shoes.
The Athlete’s Paradox manifests itself as the “dropsies,” choking or an unforced error. It’s found in every sport and has spared no decade or era. These are the 20 things you can do that some athletes can’t.
Maybe it's because I'm not a professional athlete, but I've never found it a particularly difficult chore to finish the race before embarking on my victory lap. It seems like such a simple concept, yet many professional athletes have yet to fully embrace it.
Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson has twice been busted celebrating a touchdown before actually crossing the goal line—once in high school and then again during a Monday Night Football game against the Cowboys during his rookie season.
Now I'm not saying that I, personally, am able to sink a free throw with any regularity. But even when I chuck up my trademark granny ball, I usually get pretty close to the net. So even if the ball doesn't find the net, a complete air ball happens on the rarest of occasions.
Though, basketball was never really my game. It is, however, presumably the game of everyone who plays professionally in the NBA. And it never ceases to amaze me how many ballers, some of them all-time greats, have failed to master this seemingly fundamental skill of the game.
I know there is a difference between failing a drug test because you've tested positive for performance enhancing drugs and failing because you're tweaked out of your skull on crystal meth. Athletes take PEDs to enhance their job performance. Whereas junkies just like drugs.
But that doesn't change the fact that failed drug tests are a common bond that athletes and junkies share, that most of us do not. Plenty of people experiment with drugs in their younger days, but can just say no when they land a job that requires random drug testing.
The referees in any sport are kind of like the hovering boss who is always on hand to reprimand you for any minor, or major, mistake.
Everyone hates that boss and wishes nothing but very bad things for him. Some of us may even day dream about taking a bat to his knees, just to get through the day.
But nobody actually confronts the boss or calls him on his crap, because bad things usually happen. Bad things like a suspension or a hefty fine—isn't that right Rajon Rondo?
If you've ever played little league baseball, softball, tee ball or even kick ball, you've probably fielded your share of pop-up fly balls. If you haven't, you're probably terrible and being marginalized by a team of people who resent your very presence on this planet.
My point is just that even the most mediocre wannabe athletes among us can, with some practice, eventually master fielding a simple pop-up fly. Making it all the more amazing that someone like Jason Bay, who made $16 million in 2012, routinely fails at it.
Ah yes. Something else so many people master as children, that many professional athletes find impossible. Not that regular people don't lie—we do—it's just that regular people seem to understand that it's wrong. We also recognize when the jig is up and it's time to come clean.
Ndamukong Suh? He didn't stomp on anyone—he was just catching his balance. A ridiculous claim that he still asserts to this day. And then there's disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong who is considering confessing to the doping allegations that he lied about for a decade and that we all know are true.
Uh. Lance, you're doing it wrong.
The fact that most soccer games I've watched have ended 1-0 or, even worse, a 1-1 tie, leads me to believe that goals must be pretty difficult to score. Even with such a skinny man guarding such a big net, you can go hundreds of minutes in between scores.
That's why it's all the most essential to deliver on a goal when you're handed a wide open net by a bumbling goalkeeper! But, perhaps momentarily stunned by their good fortune, many players have managed to whiff on a goal served up to them on a silver platter.
Business casual. Black tie. Business dress. Casual. Costume required. Clothing optional. No shoes, no shirt, no service. Dress blues. Dress whites. Ugly sweaters. Tie required. No flip flops.
Most places that we go on a daily basis, from work to the local convenience store, have a dress code. And most of us are able to follow the required dress code with relatively little instruction and without committing any major violations.
Dressing yourself in accordance with the rules is something that adults should be able to do. But there are a number of professional athletes, chief among them is Chad Johnson, who routinely rack up fines because they refuse to follow the simplest of rules.
When someone fumbles a football in the NFL, players on the field can either choose to fall on the fumble or scoop it up in mid-run and heroically run it in for a touchdown, or simply just fall on the ball to gain possession of it for their respective team.
Human nature possesses qualified athletes to go for the glory and scoop up the ball, but that almost never works. How many times have you seen someone go for the glory, only to be stopped by the sensible dude who knows his best chance is just to fall on the ball?
I would be a terrible football player...but falling on a fumble might be the one thing I could do pretty well. I'm awesome at falling on crap.
If you've ever had a formal evaluation at a job, you know that it can be a pretty stressful experience. People who spend most of the year trying to convince you that you're a friend who just happens to work for them, are suddenly raining down judgement upon you for every minor mistake you've ever made.
It's a hard pill to swallow, but swallow it we do. That's just one of the many things that adults, who are lucky enough to even be in the workforce, have to deal with on a regular basis. So if we can withstand a hailstorm of criticism from people we work with every day, people we thought were our friends, why can't Hope Solo manage to do the same?
People celebrate things every day. Graduating from school, getting married, having children, receiving a promotion at work or purchasing a new car—these are among the many occasions for celebration. They happen all the time, and people walk away from them physically unharmed.
Which is why there is no excuse for an athlete celebrating successfully doing his job to the point of injury. Notable examples include Redskins quarterback Gus Ferotte celebrating a touchdown in 1997 by head butting a wall in the end zone. The game ended in a 7-7 tie and Ferotte ended with a concussion.
Perhaps even more hilariously was the injury incurred by former Cardinals Bill Gramatica in 2001. Gramatica jumped up to celebrate his kick that put the Cards up 3-0 and tore his ACL on the landing. Maybe I'd have less of a problem with this if the kick didn't come during the first quarter.
Injuring yourself celebrating your own achievements is one thing. Yes, it's stupid, but getting carried away in the moment and hurting yourself is okay because there is no malice involved. Celebrating your accomplishment by physically assaulting an innocent bystander—well, that's a horse of a different color.
That's why so many people were stunned when Giants linebacker Michael Boley celebrated a touchdown in 2011 by rifling the ball at the face of an unsuspecting intern. You have to question the mental faculties of someone whose go-to celebration involves physically assaulting strangers.
The layup is the single simplest shot in the game of basketball. It's the one shot that everyone, regardless of their athletic ability, should be able to make more often than not—particularly when the shot is uncontested. Even I can make a layup look pretty easy, and I'm terrible at basketball.
Maybe it's because of how easy the shot is, professional basketball players occasionally take it for granted—something most of us laymen would never do. And the second someone takes it for granted is the second he humiliates himself with a failed shot so epic it will follow him around the rest of his career.
We all know that fans can be complete a-holes. Most are just run of the mill a-holes who lack a little perspective about their team, as well as the ability to control the volume of their voices. But there are a select few who believe that the purchase of team apparel and tickets to a game also buys them the right to personally menace the opposition.
Those types of fans are probably particularly grating for athletes to deal with but, aside from their athletic endeavors, not attacking fans is pretty much their only responsibility. These people are idiots, but they pay your bloated salary. Raking in millions to play a game and not beat up Flyers fans—I think most of us could handle that. Tie Domi and Ron Artest are among those athletes who cannot.
Holding "it" is something most of us spent the first five years of our life trying to master. We learn to recognize the urges and act accordingly. And we also learn to go before we leave the house. I like to think that the vast majority of the population achieves this goal and never looks back.
But I've found in recent years that there is a different set of bathroom standards for professional athletes. Chargers kicker Nick Novak and golfer John Daly are just two of the athletes who have been caught in the act, but the (excellent) book NFL Unplugged revealed just how prevalent public peeing is.
As a golf fan, I'm keenly aware of the unending criticism it faces by the critics who insist it is not a real sport. I can't say that I agree with that notion, but it becomes harder to argue every time a golfer misses a putt from inches away.
Not that it happens every day, but it's not nearly as uncommon as it should be. Anyone who has ever been golfing, or mini golfing, has made enough of those putts themselves to feel comfortable screaming "OMG even I can do that!"
I'm not sure if it stems from a lack of proper sex education or, perhaps, just a whole lot of alcohol, but there are a number of professional athletes who seem to have absolutely no understanding of the value of birth control. Children are expensive little creatures, which is why so many athletes have trouble paying their child support.
The first child, and maybe even the second, can be called accidents or surprises, if you want to put a better spin on it. But after the birth of your second child, you can no longer claim ignorance on the fact that a baby is one potential result of having sex. So how many illegitimate children is too many?
Well, let's just say that if you have to count them on two hands and can't remember all of their names, that a pretty good indicator. Considering the American birthrate is at the lowest since 1920, it seems most of us have mastered effective birth control. Maybe someday Antonio Cromartie will do the same!
Budgeting your finances is something that most of us have to do just to keep a roof over our heads. So blowing through a few hundred million dollars with almost nothing to show for it is petty much unfathomable. Yet, as the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary Broke showed, many athletes seem hellbent on accomplishing the unfathomable.
I know from my personal experience writing about the financial problems of many athletes, that there are an awful lot of people out there who are nothing short of gleeful to see them fall on their faces. Probably because athletes are put on a pedestal and it's human nature to want to see the successful knocked down a few pegs.
Normally scoring a goal in hockey is a lot of work. It requires working together with teammates. There are defenders to contend with. And the net is usually minded by a masked man who is fortified with enough padding to make him fearless of the physical threats all around him.
Which is why there are few things more tantalizing for a hockey player than an open net. The game is on the line and all obstacles have been removed. In that moment complexities of the game are stripped down and a player is faced with a shot so simple that even a disabled old lady could make it.
And yet…with no defenders or goalie in sight, there is no shortage of NHL players who have epically whiffed on the puck in that moment.
The high five is one of the crudest forms of communication. We learn at a young age that there is no better way to universally convey enthusiasm than a high five. Kids can master the high five. Babies can master the high five. Heck, even my dog has mastered the high five.
It should go without saying that anyone who plays professional sports for a living should have long ago mastered the high five. It should, but it doesn't. The interwebs are a treasure trove of high five fails, the best of which are athletes like Chris Bosh failing to connect.