Open Mic: NFL Players and NHL Players are Even

Matthew GilmartinSenior Analyst IJune 22, 2008

The USA national soccer team recently played three friendlies against Spain, England, and Argentina.  They were outscored 5-0 in two games, which they lost.  The third was a tie, 0-0.  This could be an indication of the inferior quality of the athletes on the team.

Maybe you're wondering what the case would be if the team had better athletes.  Before answering that question, let's consider why soccer as a whole doesn't have better athletes. 

Everything starts with the decision of which sport to play.  Fewer kids are opting to play soccer these days. 

Past that, from the teen years to early adulthood, soccer doesn't get anywhere near as much glory as other sports.  Soccer players aren't exactly the ones all the girls flock to. 

Well, actually soccer players would get some glory if they accomplished something significant.  But even then, the fame is often very localized and gone in a flash, the feat largely under appreciated shortly thereafter.

Next, what if a soccer player is also good at other sports?  Good enough to go pro in other sports?  The NBA, NFL, or MLB offer millions more than the MLS.

Athletes in other American pro sports leagues also get much more media coverage than the MLS.  Once again, that goes back to fame. 

There are plenty of reasons for a high school soccer player who is equally good at another sport to stray from soccer and focus on another other sport. 

But say top athletes from the NBA, NFL, and NHL decided to play soccer.  But they still grow up to be the athletes they are today. 

I think that if the top athletes in the country played soccer over other sports, we would have the best team in the world.

Take Chad Johnson for example.  He's a tremendous wideout with unbelievable range.  His range would make him an excellent goalkeeper. 

What about mental toughness?  In that regard, hockey players reign.  It's gotta take a ton of concentration for an NHL player to keep his skates underneath, himself, control the puck on his stick, and look around to see what he needs to do with the puck.   

But in terms of sheer fitness, football players are the best.  They must be strong, quick, tough, and athletic to be good at what they do.  Soccer players do run a lot, and hockey players do have a lot to coordinate. But on the average outside rushing play, linebackers have to fight off blocks, catch one of the fastest runners in the world, and drag him down to the ground.  No athlete in any other sport can do that.

Have you ever asked yourself, "Would tennis players make good baseball hitters," or "Would hockey players make good golfers?"?  It's time to get answers.

Tennis players would not make good baseball hitters.  Tennis players are used to swinging a racket with one hand.  Baseball bats require two hands if you want to get any power on your swing.  Plus, the motion for a tennis swing is different from the motion for a baseball swing. 

Hockey players would not make good golfers.  The mechanics for a slap shot (the shot most like a golf swing) are vastly different from the mechanics of a golf swing.  Plus hockey sticks are made completely differently from golf clubs. 

The point is, why would a top young American athlete choose soccer over basketball when more glory and money are elsewhere?  For nothing other than pure love of sport.