Did you catch the video of the hapless Philly dude getting face-popped and windmill-dunked at the playground on by Joel Embiid? If not, watch and cringe as your fellow man loses his man, his honor, his very soul:
— Rob Dauster (@RobDauster) May 28, 2018
Turns out it was only the second most embarrassing news involving the 76ers to break this week, but we digress. The Embiid dunkapalooza slams home a reminder that we all too often forget when we’re mocking the non-LeBron Cavs as a troupe of stumbling tots or the Mets as a crew of hapless puppies. The very worst pro athlete playing right now – indeed, the very worst athlete ever to reach the pros – is light-years beyond what you, I, or anyone either of us knows could possibly do on a field/court/course/track, and none of your Twitter trollin’ skills will save you.
But let’s say you find yourself in the position Johnny Hipsterbeard did against Embiid. Let’s say you’re lining up against a pro athlete. Here’s the definitive rankings of whether you could handle a pro athlete head-to-head in their chosen sport, from least to most likely. Good luck!
MMA: HELL NO.
I mean, come on. Your only option in the Octagon is to flat-out run and try to stay upright for more than 10 seconds. The moment a pro MMA fighter grabs hold of anything on you – a sleeve, an arm, an ankle, a toe – forget it. You’re meat. Fighting back would be like shoving your hand into a garbage disposal. Your only prayer is to tap out before getting a bone snapped.
NHL hockey: NO.
For the purposes of this exercise, we’ll assume that you can skate well enough to circle a rink with a stick in your hand. Good for you! Now you’re about to get crushed. Even a routine brush from an NHL-level player while chasing down a puck will send you pinwheeling. A hard check will put you in concussion protocol, and a fight will have you flailing like an inflatable tube dancer at an auto dealership. As for playing goalie, forget it. You’d have better luck trying to catch the landing gear of a descending plane. And your shootout move would be about as deceptive to a pro goalie as a baby’s attempt at hide-and-seek.
NFL football: NO.
Let’s put you at quarterback. How long would you last before getting swallowed up? About as long as it’d take the D-line to take three steps. Look, even a guy like Ben Roethlisberger, who has all the mobility of a refrigerator on its side, knows how to step up in the pocket. You? Your entire thought process will be OHMYGODTHEYAREHUGETHEYARECOMINGRUNRUNRUNAAAGGGHHPAIN. Even assuming you could take the snap — in itself no sure thing — you seriously would have time maybe to sling the ball in the air somewhere downfield … where it would be intercepted and returned for a touchdown. Nice work, though there’s still probably hope for a backup gig with the Jets.
NASCAR: KIND OF.
You know the cliché of the little old lady who has to look through the steering wheel to drive, puttering along at 20 miles below the speed limit? Yeah, that little old lady is setting speed records at the Bonneville Salt Flats compared to how you’d do behind the wheel of a stock car. Sure, you could mash the gas on the straightaway at Talladega, but you’d find your car slung up the high banks the moment you hit the far turn. And if you’re the kind of person who gets upset at a parking-lot dent in your car, you’re going to have a tough time navigating thick tradin’-paint crowds of cars. (Personal anecdote: I once raced go-karts in a group that included NASCAR driver Justin Allgaier. He not only lapped me, he passed right by me without even giving me the respect of a glance. That was cold hard truth.)
Have you ever watched a pro tennis match up close? TV doesn’t give you a true sense of the cannon-shot speed and assassin’s precision that the finest tennis players – and by “finest,” I mean the best 100,000 in the world – achieve as the sport’s cost-of-entry. Trying to return a serve from a pro player is like trying to capture a locomotive with a butterfly net. And if one of those groundstrokes hits you in the chest, it’ll feel like Conor McGregor drove his knuckles into your sternum. But you could probably lollipop in your serves, so you’ve got that going for you.
NBA basketball: BARELY.
You’ve seen what happens when you try to play defense on a seven-foot Tasmanian devil like Embiid. What about trying to get off a shot on a pro player? I want you to envision a three-year-old blowing bubbles. That three-year-old is you. Those delicate, floating bubbles are your shot. You can probably guess what happens next. That’s right: your shot will get swatted so hard the ball will detonate.
Let’s start with the fact that pro soccer players can run while dribbling the ball faster than you can ride a bike. They can also knock you over and steal your ball, your wallet, your shoes, and your significant other before you hit the ground. On the plus side, you might well be able to flop and wail at a professional soccer level; give it a try the next time a project at work doesn’t go your way. Always good to keep your skills sharp.
Baseball: A LITTLE BIT.
You’re not putting wood on a major-league fastball. You’re just not. You’re going to be starting your swing when the catcher’s throwing the ball back to the pitcher. As for making a routine fielding play, like scooping a grounder and throwing to first, or tracking down a fly ball in the outfield on the move? Sure, you might be able to do it if you’ve got any experience, but you’ll look as lost as a squirrel on an interstate. Of course, since scratching, spitting, and bo’ing up for fights you have no intention of actually entering are all essential parts of baseball, you could do a fairly competent imitation of a bench player.
Remember when you used to play your dad in Madden, and he’d lose his mind, claiming that his controller wouldn’t work right while you Mike Vick’ed all over his old butt? Guess what: the universe is ready to repay you for your arrogance. Today’s pro eSports players – let’s put aside the question of whether video games are a sport for the moment – would absolutely vaporize you within moments of you arriving on an Overwatch map. You might be able to survive a few moments by trying the ol’ mash-every-button-and-pray method. But in truth, you’re just a bunny in the sights of a bored, 17-year-old, Monster-swilling hawk who not only doesn’t care how good you used to be at Mortal Kombat or Punch-Out, he’s never even heard of those antiques. Your physical form will be fine. Your soul and spirit will be crushed with the grim realization of time’s ceaseless march.
This is not to take anything away from the blade’s-edge focus and zero-conscience will that the finest golfers possess, but this is the only sport where you wouldn’t get completely blown off the field, and seriously injured, within seconds of starting. Yes, you will lose 150 yards off every tee to Dustin Johnson, and two strokes a hole to Jordan Spieth. But if you’ve played putt-putt, you already have all the physical ability necessary to drop a 60-foot putt just like the pros, if not the jeweler’s touch or the muscle memory. Of course, if Phil Mickelson decides to start throwing around bets the size of your annual salary, that hole’s going to look a whole lot smaller. You’ll escape a head-to-head golf match with your spine intact, if not your wallet or your dignity.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at email@example.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.
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