What's The Best Job in Sports?
Like most boys growing up in America, I wanted to be a professional athlete. My idols were stars like Michael Jordan, Eric Davis, and Barry Sanders, and I dreamed of excelling at a professional sport just like each of them did. I thought those guys had the best jobs in the world.
Now that I’m much older, I have a different perspective. I still think being a professional athlete would be the best job in the world, but now I think there are far better roles to aspire to than being “the star of the team”.
Now don’t get me wrong, being the star still looks like it would be a great time, but that’s a role with some serious drawbacks. I don’t want to be the center of attention, especially in this day and age. Miss a shot, get criticized. Sleep with some girl on the road and end up on Instagram (you know who you are guys). Answer a controversial question, get attacked on social media. Say you want the ball more and some asshole like Skip Bayless says you are selfish. Don’t say you want the ball more and that same asshole says you don’t have the will to win and aren’t a leader.
Sure, I want the lucrative endorsement deals and big-time contracts, but that comes with a price as well. You have to carry the team on your back, and that surely gets old. That’s why Leborn has looked 48 since he was 22. Oh, and you have to be constantly exhausted. I mean, have you seen the minutes Lebron has logged over the course of his career? Some of these guys have sustained and played through so many injuries that they won’t be able to walk when they’re 50. Or, if you played football, the consequences might be far worse. At least Goodell will be sure you’re taken care of…oh wait.
So, if I could go back in time and tell my younger self what role to aspire to in professional sports, what would it be? Let’s debate a few of the best options:
NBA Bench Player (we’re talking 11th man here, not 6th man)
I’ll take this right off the list for a few reasons. First, if you’re in the NBA (with the exception of a few guys), you’re probably tall enough that your height is a constant inconvenience. Occasionally, someone may yell “freak” in your direction a la Deuce Bigelow if you’re particularly tall. Buying clothes would be a pain in the ass and I’m sure you would constantly bitch about doorways, plane seats, and mattresses. Also, apparently if you’re white in the NBA you’re going to struggle to find a barber that can give you a decent haircut. If you’re out with the rest of the team (a bunch of other guys that are likely 6.3” to 7.1”), you’re going to be identified as a professional basketball player. Maybe some single guys out there would see that as a perk, but if you want to blend in with the rest of the world, then you’re in a tough spot. Also, I’ve always had a thing for shorter girls and it’s just odd when a guy is 6.6” and his girl is 5.2”. We all know what everyone’s thinking.
Second, lest you forget, NBA rosters aren’t all that extensive. Even though, as an eleventh man, you won’t have to play in many games, you still probably have to bust your butt in practice. You also had to log a lot of hours in AAU, high school, and college. There’s no way your knees don’t hurt constantly. And back to practice. Everyone knows that a huge part of success in basketball comes down to your confidence. I don’t know how you manage to stay confident when every day at practice you have Demarcus Cousins threatening to kick your ass, Kyrie Irving breaking your ankles, Kawhi Leonard stealing the ball from you, or Blake Griffin mushroom stamping your forehead as he dunks on you. It would take me fifteen seconds to lose all my confidence, and then I’d be headed to the D-League. Do you know where the D-League teams are based? Neither did I, so I looked. Here’s a taste of the bustling metropolises to which you might be assigned: Erie, PA; Fort Wayne, IN; Sioux Falls, SD; Des Moines, IA; and Hidalgo, TX. What? No thanks. That’s not a chance I’m willing to take.
Look, are there some good aspects? Sure. I mean, Tyler Johnson just signed like a billion dollar deal (he plays for the Miami Heat FYI), so this new salary cap money is for real. And you probably get some great kicks even if you don’t have a high-visibility shoe contract.
You get to be in NBA 2K, but I mean, so am I. I guess you just won’t have to lie about your height and weight (and skills) like I do.
Middle Relief Pitcher in MLB
This seems like a pretty good gig. I think everyone knows you don’t have to really keep yourself in great shape to play baseball. John Kruk is one of many examples, although since we’re talking about pitching, David Wells is the better example. Oh, if you don’t remember him, he was a pitcher and he was kind of…husky. Nobody really recognizes middle relievers, in the streets, and I think just as few people recognize them when they come into a game. I think it might even be possible for a middle reliever to go through an entire career without a win, loss, save, or a blown save. I mean, think about that. The only record of your career would be an ERA. Starters have a lot of pressure on them, and closers do, too. But middle relievers get to avoid some of the high-stress moments, until the play-offs that is.
Which leads me to why this isn’t the best role in sports. First of all, it seems like the only time your life matters is during the play-offs. People could watch your team all year and not know who you are, but come play-off time, you are most certainly getting the call with two outs in the fifth with the bases loaded (or at least runners on second and third). Get the out and nobody remembers you. Give up a hit and they’ll never forget you.
Then there’s the other stuff. You have to pitch a lot, even if it’s just during practice. At some point,, your arm is going to fall off. The worst part though? Watching the games. I mean, it would be cool to watch like twenty games a season from the bullpen, but you have to watch 162 slow ass baseball games each year. Just imagine watching baseball every day for almost six months a year. No way. I don’t care how cool the other pitchers watching with you are. Maybe you can drink in the bullpen.
Back-up Quarterback in the NFL
I’ve heard this called the best position in sports more than a few times, and I get it. Most of the time, you stand on the sideline with a Microsoft Surface in your hands making a bunch of weird hand gestures. You get paid pretty damn well to do it too. And at the end of the day, you spent high school and college as the star quarterback of the football team. I think we all know that job comes with some perks. And the best part is that you get an awesome seat to every game and rarely have to play.
But fuck, if you do have to go in, your life instantly sucks. It’s hard to be a good quarterback, but probably pretty easy to be a terrible one. If the starter ahead of you gets injured, you’re likely walking in as he’s being carted off the field…and you’re looking into the eyes of the guys that just let him get injured. What’s that you see? Oh, they’ve already given up for the day. Look across the line- Von Miller looks excited. Your only hope is Jay Cutler was the starter and everyone on the line is actually excited to have you coming in and plans to play harder now.
But there are other reasons it sucks to be a back-up QB. First of all, you have to spend way too many hours in film study and learning the playbook, all so you can learn some overly complex hand signals for communicating to the starter on the field. Oh wait, your hand signals are just in place to serve as a decoy? And you still need to learn all those motions? Great. At least in college they’ve just resorted to holding up poster boards with random pop culture images on them. Oh yeah- college. That’s right, I almost forgot. Remember all those hits you took in college? Those sucked.
Inevitably though, you’re going to end up in a game. If you play like crap, you’ll probably be out of the league before long. On the other hand, if you play well in that two-game stretch, the Houston Texans will probably offer you an eight-figure deal. But then you’re a starter with the Texans’ offensive line protecting you. Now you have one of the worst jobs in sports and your career will be over before the season ends.
Sorry to all those that claim otherwise, but this is not the best job.
We’re definitely getting closer now. NFL kickers have a lot of things going for them at first glance. You have one job. You get tackled maybe once or twice a year. And in a league where the average career is like seven months, you have the potential to play for about fifteen years. If you handle kick-offs, you occasionally have to attempt to tackle someone. But let’s be honest- as long as you can handle looking silly when some fleet-footed returner spins you in a circle, that’s not so bad.
Oh, but then there are all those pressure moments when you’re called in to actually do that one job you have. That right there is enough to counter every positive thing about being an NFL kicker. I mean, other than quarterbacks (and maybe coaches), nobody gets more blame than kickers. I remember like four guys from the Buffalo Bills dynasty (I think maybe it’s fair to call them a dynasty, but also I couldn’t think of a better word). Three of those guys are Hall of Famers. The other is Scott Norwood. Are you with me here?
And to make matters worse, those assholes had to go and move the extra points further back. Screw it. I’m out.
So here we are. The single greatest job in sports. These guys have it made. During practice, you goof off and kick the ball a bunch of times. And stretch a lot I guess. Maybe you do some trick kicks for fun. “Hey man, I moved the trash can over here. Try to kick it in now.” You enter the game for maybe three to eight plays each week and you have one job when you come in. Kick the ball as high and as far as you can, except on the rare occasion you have to try to aim it out of bounds. You don’t have to be in great shape and nobody has high expectations for you. Bad snap? Nobody expects you to scoop the ball up and run for a first down. Just fall on the ball. Or don’t. Most likely the defender will just fall on it. Just tag him. It’s going to be their ball anyway. You can play forever and get paid pretty well. Over the course of a season you maybe get hit twice. And if you get hit, you can act hurt and be a hero when you earn a first down via penalty for your team. So you come in toward the end of the game and need to pin your opponent back? Well go ahead and screw it up. Nobody will remember anyway. If you win, nobody cares, and if you lose, it’s the defense’s fault. Oh and playbook? What the hell’s a playbook? You run one play.
Maybe the only negative I can come up with is you might be the fourth string quarterback. I think that’s just a tool for negotiating more money.