Pros and Cons of Major Sports in the U.S.
First published: Tuesday February 2nd, 2021
Sports are lots of fun to play and watch. Sometimes. Other times they can be tedious and boring. Here are my thoughts on the pros and cons of the most watched and played sports in the United States.
- From a fan perspective, there is a fun freak show element to basketball. People with proportions like Manute Bol just should not exist. Not to mention the insane jumping ability and athleticism of players like Lebron James and Michael Jordan.
- It's easy to find a game of pickup basketball, and you can play a competitive match with anywhere from 2 to 10 players.
- The better team wins a high percentage of the time. Rarely does a single referee decision or fluke shot decide the game.
- Basketball is very inexpensive to play. All you need is a ball and a hoop, many of which exist in public parks. Many of the top players grew up poor.
- Forget about even playing basketball if you aren't tall. The average NBA player has a wingspan of 6'11", more than a foot in excess of the average man. The game is ridiculously slanted towards tall people at every level, from professional to the lowest recreational leagues.
- In organized basketball, "flopping" is one of the most important skills. This often takes the form of a player dribbling the ball, then charging into the defensive player and throwing up a wild shot while making a flailing motion with his arms. Depending on the referees, this can be the single most efficient form of offense, as demonstrated by the NBA's top scorer James Harden.
- At the highest level, basketball strategy is boring. Most teams try to shoot all their shots from beyond the 3-point arc or within five feet of the basket. All other shots strategically ineffective.
- Teamwork is less important in basketball than other sports. Often times, the most successful strategy is to give the ball to your best player and let them try to score.
- Recreational basketball is somewhat toxic. It's not uncommon for people to talk trash or even to get into fights at pickup basketball games.
- American Football is without question the most strategically intricate game among all the major U.S. sports. Every play must be planned in advance, honed during practice, and then unleashed on the opponent with perfect timing and execution. A brilliant coach is far more important than any player.
- Of all the sports, American Football most simulates the violence and pageantry of actual warfare, if you're into that.
- American Football is the ultimate team game. Everyone must work together, perform their assigned task, maintain formations, etc... No one player can lead a team to victory.
- American football players have a combined size, strength, and speed which is simply awe inspiring. There are 300 pound linemen who can outrun the fastest sprinter on a typical high school team.
- Playing football is extremely bad for your health. Many players experience CTE which causes depression and dementia. Not to mention the many broken bones, ligament tears, and other injuries which frequently result from playing football.
- Football is not a life-long sport. Almost no one plays tackle football as an adult.
- Games are extremely long and boring. It takes three to four hours to play a football game, with an average of 11 minutes of actual action. TV timeouts and video replays have made this even more painful.
- It takes a ridiculous amount of equipment to play a proper tackle football game. In addition, the average high-level game employs seven different referees.
- The rules of football are complicated. Frequently, an amazing play can be taken back by some obscure penalty related to formations. If even one player makes a trivial mistake, it can negate the performance of the other 10 players on his team.
- As far as sports go, fighting is the ultimate mano a mano test of athleticism, courage, and willpower.
- The history of boxing goes back thousands of years.
- I'm pretty sure that Rocky ruined boxing for spectators. In real life, boxers get tired, grab their opponents, keep their hands up, and generally try not to get punched in the face. Meanwhile, Rocky and Apollo exchanged haymakers while playing absolutely no defense at all. To the casual fan, real life boxing looks like two guys circling around each other until something happens really fast and one boxer is flat on his back. If we're lucky. Other times it goes to a decision where three judges of questionable integrity get to choose the victor.
- I'm not 100% sure boxing isn't fixed. Convicted murderer Don King was, for a long time, one of the top boxing promoters.
- Boxing is extremely bad for one's health.
- Tennis is a life-long game. You can play it from a very young age until you are quite old.
- There is a good social scene around tennis and it's a great way to meet friends.
- Tennis is relatively inexpensive. You can buy a pro-level racket for about $250. Balls cost about $1 each, and courts can be found for free.
- Tennis is mostly about not screwing up. Until you reach a very high level, you are far more likely to lose a point via an unforced error than to win one by making a good shot. This leads to some players becoming "pushers", who merely hit the ball back and never try to actually win the point. Even some pro players are essentially pushers.
- Tennis can get boring. A large percentage of points are won on the serve, the return, or the next shot. Dramatic rallies are rare.
- The level of athleticism in tennis is not as high as other sports. I'm pretty confident that if someone trained a young Michael Jordan how to play tennis, he could have eventually licked Pete Sampras. I'm 100% sure that Pete Sampras could never have become a better basketball player than Michael Jordan.
- There is something deeply satisfying about hitting a ball with a bat. Even hearing the crack of a bat can have the same effect.
- People who play baseball as a youth develop strong hand eye coordination and overhand throwing ability, avoiding potential embarrassment later in life.
- Baseball has a long history in the United States which often evokes positive nostalgic feelings and often involves father son bonding.
- Baseball is fertile ground for writers, history buffs, and statistics nerds.
- Baseball is extremely difficult to play. Even professional players sometimes look ridiculous, providing easy fodder for the blooper tapes that are played during rain delays.
- Playing baseball is not good exercise, leading to the quip "We're not athletes, we're baseball players".
- A hard ball flying at high speed is bad for your health.
- Baseball is boring. Very few exciting plays happen in the field. At the professional level, the game is dominated by walks, strikeouts, and home runs.
- Hockey is full of excitement with few breaks in the action.
- Subbing on the fly allows players to play at a higher level of intensity than other sports where they are forced to conserve energy.
- Hockey gives people in northern climes a reason to be outdoors during the long and brutal winter.
- It's difficult to see the puck when watching games.
- Hockey is extremely difficult to play, and you have to know how to skate to even try.
- It's also extremely expensive to play.
- The talent pool is shallow compared to other major sports. The level of athleticism in hockey is lower than in football or basketball, for example.
- Soccer is cheap to play. You barely need any equipment.
- Soccer is also very easy to play. Even young children can play some semblance of soccer.
- The talent pool is extremely deep. Soccer has more players than any other sport in the world.
- Soccer is a lifelong sport. It's easy to find pickup games in most major cities in the world. It's a good workout and it's less likely to cause serious injuries compared to american football or baseball.
- You don't need to be tall to play soccer. Players of all heights can be successful. Lionel Messi is only 5'7". Maradona was only 5'5".
- In low-level games, passing the ball is often counterproductive. Simply kicking the ball as far as you can towards the other team's side of the field can be effective.
- With 11 players on the team, an individual player doesn't get to touch the ball a lot. Some players only play defense and rarely, if ever, get the chance to score. Goalies have the worst job of all.
- Many games hinge on a referee's decision to award a penalty kick. As a result, flopping is a huge problem.
- The best professional teams buy all the best players, so there is very little chance that a new team can win a major championship ... except for that one time that Leicester won the Premier League.
- Golf is objective. Your score indicates your level of proficiency.
- Golf creates an excuse to have a fun social outing.
- You can play golf until you are very old, providing an excuse for elderly men to spend time away from their wives.
- Golf is extremely expensive. A typical set of clubs costs about $500 and a single round typically costs $20–$100 or even more.
- Golf is difficult. It takes hundreds of hours of practice to have enough skill to keep an honest score. Even relatively good players often hit terrible shots.
- It sometimes feels difficult to take a sport seriously when the "athletes" look like John Daly.