The Most Impressive Feats in Sports
Now, don't get me wrong, as someone with decent athletic ability, I can tell you that I'm envious of anyone who can step onto a court or field and claim to be a professional athlete.
But let's be honest, as fans, we always want more.
Fair or not, seeing someone just get to the big leagues in their respective sport isn't good enough for us, as we need that player to perform at a high level and demand that they're almost perfect each time they play.
That's unrealistic, but it's the name of the game for us.
Still, as high as our expectations are, there are still a few things in sports that should be considered the most impressive feats teams or players can do, and these are the ones we should all marvel at no matter what the circumstances.
Playing While Sick or Injured
As someone with a competitive problem, I get it—but I still don't know how athletes do it.
Think about minor injuries that nag us and keep us from doing something as simple as going for a jog.
For athletes, they would laugh at us and call us whusses—in the nicest way possible, I'm sure.
That's because they're expected to play with a temperature over 100 degrees and get questioned if they take themselves out of a game because of an injury.
Need a more specific example? How about when former All-Pro and future Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott had part of his pinkie finger amputated so he wouldn't miss the start of the NFL season.
There is tough and there is insane in sports, and Lott defined both by choosing to do what he did.
Climbing the Wall to Steal a Home Run
Who says that you don't need to be an athlete to play baseball?
Though some players carry a little extra pounds, most of them are just as athletic as others in sports like football, basketball and hockey.
And when a guy is fast enough to track down a flying baseball, instinctive enough to time his jump, powerful enough to leap up the wall and strong enough to withstand full-speed impact to hold onto the ball without dropping it, it's a thing of beauty.
They might make it look easy, but it's anything but.
Sinking a 30-Foot-Plus Putt
You know the old saying "drive for show, putt for dough?" That's why making a 30-foot-plus putt is so impressive—because it actually takes more than one skill.
While pro players make the way they read greens that are as fast and hard as concrete look simple by hitting their ball with the precise amount of effort to drain it, don't be fooled, because it's something that would take us amateur golfers two or three frustrating attempts to sink.
With slopes and difficult pin placements to work with, sinking a putt over 30 feet is a hell of a lot more rewarding than hitting a 350-plus-yard drive that ends with a bogey.
Making the Defining Play for a Title
I'll say it until the day I die: What makes sports so great is that it's unscripted, providing drama orchestrated TV could only dream of.
For that reason, seeing a player—no matter how famous—make a defining play to help their team win a championship should never be unexpected.
Guys such as David Tyree and Malcolm Butler have done it in the Super Bowl, Robert Horry won six titles in the NBA after hitting big shots and Travis Ishikawa had a walk-off home run to send his San Francisco Giants to the World Series this past offseason.
Just when fans think their respective teams' chances are over because their All-Stars are having an off night, someone else steps up and plays the role of hero, etching their name in history.
Coming Back from Injury
Remember when Adrian Peterson blew out his knee in late December 2011 and we all thought his career was over? Boy, did he prove us all wrong.
Whether it was pure drive, medical advances, insane rehab or all three, Peterson not only was on the field months later, starting for the Minnesota Vikings in 2012, but he played every single game and went on to rush for the second-most yards during a season in NFL history.
For a normal person—and hell, most athletes—that injury is something that would shelve us for months and affect us for years. But for Peterson, and other cases like his, it was just a part of his legacy.
Bowling a 300
That's all it takes to derail a bowler's chances at a perfect game.
And the crushing part is that it doesn't matter if it occurs in the first or 10th frame, because if one is left wobbling, finishing off with a 299 isn't quite 300.
Like pitching a perfect game in baseball, the bowling equivalent takes some luck, but the skill of someone who even has a chance at doing it is something that shouldn't be overlooked because it's no fluke—whereas no-name guys have gotten lucky and completed a perfect game in MLB and finished with bad careers.
Putting on a Performance for the Ages
With players as athletically gifted as they are these days, it might appear that fans get spoiled by performances like this all the time. But we should know better than that.
There aren't necessarily rules for what defines a performance for the ages, but one of the prerequisites is, typically, the stage on which it's done.
If a player drops 50-plus during a regular-season game in the NBA, they might be admired for a couple days, but not as much as the guy who does it during Game 7 of the Finals would, as fans would talk about him for years following.
Much like Curt Schilling's epic performance during Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees, when he pitched with sutures in his ankle for the victory. When a player does something like that, we'll never forget; it becomes something fans will always talk about as if it were yesterday.
Breaking a Long-Standing, Career Record
With all due respect to track athletes such as Usain Bolt, while we can celebrate their accomplishments every time they step onto a track and set a time never before seen, they're not really breaking long-standing records.
That's why I'm referring to something like Peyton Manning supplanting Brett Favre as the all-time passing touchdowns leader, or Kobe Bryant inching past Michael Jordan to climb into third place on the NBA's all-time scoring list.
Not only do players such as Manning and Kobe need consistency and good health, but they also need to have an internal fire that burns no matter what their team's record is or if they're a little under the weather.
Despite missing significant time in recent years, they've both still gotten to where they are in the record books, which is remarkable.
Pitching a Perfect Game
With just 23 recorded in the history of the over century-old major leagues, tossing a perfect game is one of the most difficult things a pitcher can do.
Seeing how there are 2,430 games played in each MLB season shows how impressive it is.
Don't get me wrong, a no-hitter takes luck and skill too. But a perfect game is something that is one of those instances when literally everything goes right for a pitcher, when just one slip-up can cost him the chance of adding his name onto a list that's both bizarre, random and incredible.
Winning the Tour de France
It might not get the attention that it does in Europe each summer, but the Tour de France is arguably the most grueling competition in sports.
Testing the will of an athlete both mentally and physically, it's not something for the faint of heart to even train for, let alone try and complete in.
With stages that involve rides through mountains and full-out sprints, it takes a cyclist who has great resolve to win the yellow jersey once the entire event is complete.
Go take one spin class and multiply that by 1,000 and you might get a inkling of what it's like.
Running a Sub-4.4 40-Yard Dash
As someone who is, as we speak, sitting on a plane back from the NFL Combine and participated in drills, I can tell you firsthand how incredibly impressive anything under a 4.4 40-yard dash really is.
We might all wonder why players spend hours losing sleep and practicing something that lasts, in most cases, under five seconds. But after doing it at the Combine myself, with all the lights on, it's nerve-wracking.
Add in the added pressure of knowing that just one-tenth of a second can cost you millions of dollars, and it's easy to understand why NFL players are some of the most freakish athletes on the planet.
Any Dunk from the NBA Dunk Contest
Have there been piss-poor dunks in the NBA's annual dunk contest over the years? Of course.
Still, that doesn't mean any of us complaining about the level of difficulty or lack of execution should be griping about them while watching on TV.
That's because even ignoring the fact that players do it on a 10-foot hoop, these are things that none of us could ever dream of doing.
And when a guy such as Zach LaVine puts on the type of show he did in this year's competition, forget about it, because it's something we'll all be talking about for years following.
Completing an Ironman Competition
There are some people who can't even complete a 26.2-mile walk in a full day, let alone doing it while timed in a competition.
Oh, and did I mention that the marathon distance comes after a 2.4-mile swim and 112-mile bike ride?
We may all roll our eyes when we see people at the gym with the Ironman tattoo on their body, but after hearing what they went through to complete one, I don't even care, because they're damn beasts.
Winning Back-to-Back Championships
As we all saw with the Seattle Seahawks' quest to win their second straight Super Bowl title this season, repeating as champs isn't the easiest thing.
In addition to getting the cliched "every team's best shot," reigning champs have to battle internal struggles such as complacency and changes to the locker room each and every year.
Knowing that it takes a full team effort and guys to accept their roles might earn a team a solo title, but doing it in consecutive years and still finishing on top is a rarity that should be applauded by us fans.
Getting Inducted into the Hall of Fame
All of these other feats are impressive, but the one thing that defines how impressive what an athlete did during their playing days is getting inducted into their sport's Hall of Fame.
While many players have done it without winning a title, relying on big-time stats to get them in, the ones who are on the Mount Rushmore and in the conversation as the best ever are guys who won multiple titles and revolutionized their game.
They don't all need to be polarizing, but they need to have been known for playing at a level that most of their peers weren't capable of reaching.
With as many pro athletes as there have been in history, a Hall of Fame fraternity is the most selective of them all.