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Thursday, May 6, 2004
Updated: May 7, 12:28 PM ET
Zero degree of difficulty

By Jim Caple
Page 2

Forget the most difficult things to do in sports. Here are the easiest:

10. Pass an exam given by Jim Harrick, Jr.

9. Get Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon riled up about a subject.

8. End an interview with Barry Bonds.

7. Get a lap dance at the Gold Club ...

Degree of Difficulty
Check out more Page 2 content:

WHAT IS THIS?
  • Check out Jim Caple's essay

    BRACKETS
  • Vote: Best male athlete in the world
  • Vote: Best female athlete in the world

    THE BIG GRID
  • Sports Skills Difficulty Rankings
  • Boxing: Down for the count?
  • Basketball: Underrated or overrated?

    THE ATHLETES SPEAK
  • Why is your sport most difficult?
  • Hardest thing in your sport?
  • Best all-around athlete in your sport?
  • Most impressive feat you've seen?
  • Most amazing thing you've seen?

    PAGE 2 TRIES ...
  • To hit a major-league fastball
  • The modern pentathlon
  • Riding the waves on a surfboard
  • Rowing with a crew team
  • Taking to the water polo pool

    LISTS
  • Greatest feats of athleticism
  • Greatest all-around athletes ever
  • Feats we'd like to see
  • We've learned a couple things over the past few weeks while bringing you the Degree of Difficulty package. For one, we learned that everyone thinks the particular sport they play is the toughest in the world. Several of us at Page 2 took part in an afternoon-long web chat last week; and every second posting we received, it seemed, was from someone calling us all morons for ranking his or her sport too low. (And who knew there were so many rugby fans out there?)

    Well, we're sorry about that, but get over it. Although we consulted as many experts as we could -- including Olympic trainers and multi-sport professional athletes -- we never intended our rankings to be a definitive, incontrovertible list. Sure, we took the best, most reasoned stab at it we could before our speech started slurring and the bartender cut us off, but is football really harder to play than water polo? The answer, I suppose, depends on whether some 215-pound two-meter defender has just dunked you so hard and so deep into the pool that you'll still be smelling chlorine when you're wearing Depends.

    The main goal of our series was not to deliver hard and fast answers, but to get people thinking about the most important qualities in athleticism, and to get you thinking about how difficult sports really are. What is the most important quality? Is it hand-to-eye coordination? Strength? Speed? A combination? What combination? What is the most difficult sport? Football? Water polo? Cycling? Or is it hockey?

    And does it really count as a sport if the highlights never show up on SportsCenter?

    6. Get Warren Sapp to open up.

    5. Coordinate the wardrobe for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

    4. Eat the post-game spread ...

    In the end, we ranked boxing as the world's most difficult sport. We may be wrong about that; but if you disagree, we suggest you plead your case after you've gone a round with Evander Holyfield. And you voted Lance Armstrong as the world's best athlete. You may be wrong about that; but we certainly aren't in position to disagree given that cycling the slopes of Kansas leaves us moaning like Meg Ryan in "When Harry Met Sally.''

    (Oh, and a note to all those motocross fans who organized themselves to flood my email with comments about what an idiot I am for leaving your sport off the list: I did not choose the sports for the list. But even if I had, I would never, under any circumstances, have included motocross. You're relying on a motor, for God's sake.)

    But let's be clear on this. At the elite level, almost every sport is very difficult. Certainly, the ones worth watching are. We know. We tried several and we're still icing our knees and swallowing Ibuprofen as if they were Junior Mints. We tried hitting major league fastballs, surfing off the coast of California, treading water with a water polo team, and even ... well, we've saved one back for tomorrow's page. (No hints, but it's a lot to swallow.) Not only did we fail miserably in our pursuits, we looked as awkward trying as Jessica Simpson does dancing.

    As Jeff Merron wrote, he was exhausted just packing for his day with the U.S. Olympic pentathlon team.

    Sports aren't easy. That's something to bear in mind the next time you feel the urge to boo a batter for striking out on a 90-mile slider on the black.

    Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant
    The way the Lakers are going, they're going to be more interesting when the season is over.
    3. Get Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal to argue.

    2. (Tie) Get to the kitchen, open a beer and get back to the couch between plays of an NFL game.

    2. (Tie) Bet on baseball ...

    What sport did we find to be the most difficult? After all our research, after listening to all the athletes, after trying all the sports, after fielding all the chat-room questions and after the prices went back up following Happy Hour, the answer is a little like the solution to Agatha Christie's "Murder on the Orient Express." They all are.

    You readers are right. Whichever sport you're playing really is the hardest. Heck, when your team is down by a run and there's a runner on second and there are two outs in the final inning and you have two strikes on you, even slo-pitch softball is a bitch of a game. Especially when you've been drinking between innings.

    So ... What is the most difficult sport? That's for you to answer. And to debate. We just provided the topic and some arguments to consider. We hope you enjoyed the series. More than that, we hope you gained a new appreciation for just how good and how athletic the players we cheer really are.

    Even David Wells. Hey, he shut out the Braves for seven innings Wednesday night.

    And the No. 1 easiest thing to do in sports:

    1. Get put out to stud.

    Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com