Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete ever


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Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete ever

Postby dbirds » Sun Oct 14, 2012 1:28 pm

Beginning Thursday 10/18, ESPN's Sports Science will run a 4 month program where they determine the "real" greatest athlete of all-time. Not the greatest players as most lists do. You can listen to the podcast below - they are not looking at accomplishments but true athleticism.
They are choosing 5 athletes from each sport with 16 sports represented. They are having at least 1 wild card category and they don't mention women so I am assuming they are not included.
I was wondering which 5 they will choose from track. Here are my guesses (remember this is a US based survey so I'm sure at least 3 of the 5 will be Americans.
1. Carl Lewis - has to be there
2. Jim Thorpe - they have to have at least one decathlete. If Thorpe is in another category (maybe multi-sport or something) then pick between Mathias, O'Brien, Jenner and Rafer.
3. Usain Bolt - huge and popular, may not pick current athlete though
4. Sergey Bubka - he is a foreigner but pole vaulters are great all-around athletes and they have all sprinters
5. Jesse Owens - I am sure they want a historical figure although they must decide to not have 3 sprinters here.

Others to consider: if they have women, JJK is a lock. Nehemiah and Bob Hayes both played football and they surely will like the versatility. I wouldn't Edwin Moses (or Bade Didrikson if choose 2 women) out either. They could go with a current decathlete and take O'Brien or Clay (I would say Daley or Roman but once again, this is ESPN). Any other thoughts??



http://frontrow.espn.go.com/2012/10/fro ... -all-time/
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby Conor Dary » Sun Oct 14, 2012 2:05 pm

Why not a Sherpa who can do Base Camp to the summit of Everest in 20 hours without supplemental oxygen? I would like to see Usain Bolt try that.
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby Marlow » Sun Oct 14, 2012 2:16 pm

dbirds wrote:ESPN's Sports Science will run a 4 month program where they determine the "real" greatest athlete of all-time.

That may be one of the silliest things I've ever read here.
So much for "Facts, Not Fiction" as the board motto . . . :roll:
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby dbirds » Sun Oct 14, 2012 3:40 pm

Why not a Sherpa who can do Base Camp to the summit of Everest in 20 hours without supplemental oxygen? I would like to see Usain Bolt try that.


I think it's safe to say Bolt is a much better athlete than any Sherpa

Marlow, I'm skeptical myself but willing to check it out
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby gh » Sun Oct 14, 2012 4:23 pm

people, please be prepared to discover that few of our people are listed. This is ESPN after all.
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby dbirds » Sun Oct 14, 2012 4:42 pm

the way that I understand it is that each sport will have 5 athletes and fans will vote on 1 so 16 different sports will represented in the final bracket. I have to think that the track athlete that is chosen will fare pretty well. I would guess top 4 but we will see.
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby Marlow » Sun Oct 14, 2012 5:17 pm

dbirds wrote:I have to think that the track athlete that is chosen will fare pretty well. I would guess top 4 but we will see.

I wouldn't place Bolt in our Top 20 men. He's a ridiculously fast runner, but an athlete is much more than a one-note singer. I have JIm Thorpe a smidge ahead of Ashton Eaton. Carl Lewis is way up there too. Multiple Mac too. Bubka certainly.
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby Daisy » Sun Oct 14, 2012 5:50 pm

Marlow wrote:So much for "Facts, Not Fiction" as the board motto . . . :roll:

What does that have to do with ESPN? Nothing, as we know too well.
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby kuha » Sun Oct 14, 2012 6:15 pm

So great to know that this question will finally be answered, with absolute scientific precision.

:lol:
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby jazzcyclist » Sun Oct 14, 2012 6:29 pm

gh wrote:people, please be prepared to discover that few of our people are listed. This is ESPN after all.

Don't be such a pessimist. When ESPN chose the 50 greatest athletes, they did include seven track & field athletes, including four of the top 12.
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby jazzcyclist » Sun Oct 14, 2012 6:37 pm

Marlow wrote:
dbirds wrote:I have to think that the track athlete that is chosen will fare pretty well. I would guess top 4 but we will see.

I wouldn't place Bolt in our Top 20 men. He's a ridiculously fast runner, but an athlete is much more than a one-note singer. I have JIm Thorpe a smidge ahead of Ashton Eaton. Carl Lewis is way up there too. Multiple Mac too. Bubka certainly.

I'm with you. The fact that Bolt can't carry the baton with his left hand makes me doubtful of his overall athletic ability. There are four active football players who I suspect have enough athletic ability to have surpassed Ashton Eaton's WR if they had chosen track & field over football.

    Tony Gonzales
    Julius Peppers
    Calvin Johnson
    Robert Griffin III
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby Marlow » Sun Oct 14, 2012 6:40 pm

jazzcyclist wrote:There are four active football players who I suspect have enough athletic ability to have surpassed Ashton Eaton's WR if they had chosen track & field over football.
Robert Griffin III

Can't argue with that.
I always thought Junior Seau was 9000 pts waiting to happen.
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby Pego » Sun Oct 14, 2012 6:51 pm

kuha wrote:So great to know that this question will finally be answered, with absolute scientific precision.

:lol:


Right. Can't wait for the scientific methodology.
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby dbirds » Sun Oct 14, 2012 6:58 pm

I've seen video of Bolt reverse dunking a basketball. He is also reportedly a good soccer and cricket player. Somehow I forgot Eaton - he should be included!
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby jazzcyclist » Sun Oct 14, 2012 7:04 pm

dbirds wrote:I've seen video of Bolt reverse dunking a basketball.

I would assume that anyone who is 6'5" and can run a 100 in under 11.0s can dunk a basketball pretty easily. How well can he shoot a basketball?
dbirds wrote:He is also reportedly a good soccer and cricket player.

I'd like to see him throw the javelin or high jump.
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby Jackaloupe » Sun Oct 14, 2012 7:18 pm

Why not a Sherpa who can do Base Camp to the summit of Everest in 20 hours without supplemental oxygen? I would like to see Usain Bolt try that.
I think it's safe to say Bolt is a much better athlete than any Sherpa

But not Reinhold Meisner, still the "Champ" at high altitude Mountaineering sans O2. But this whole Thread is plenty confused, what with conflating such performance-based criteria as the above and the (implied) competition record at a particular time in history. Otherwise, why would Jim Thorpe be such a popular pick. His marks were not even that competitive against single-eventers, as opposed to Eaton's LJ, HH, and even 100m and PV. I'd even venture that Eaton's HJ is closer to contemporary World Class than Thorpe's--in % terms, that is.
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby jhc68 » Sun Oct 14, 2012 7:35 pm

Well, at least the final 16 will be determined by a vote of the fans, who will, no doubt, apply rigorous scientific criteria in their decisions...
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby gh » Sun Oct 14, 2012 8:07 pm

dbirds wrote:I've seen video of Bolt reverse dunking a basketball. ...!


yawn... perhaps the most overrated feat in all of athleticdom?

Saying that as proud as I am of being a 5-9 guy with tiny hands who could dunk off the right floor. Hell, when I was 40 I could still vertical from a stand in my driveway off concrete (weighing 50 pounds more than I did in high school) and grab the rim.
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby jazzcyclist » Sun Oct 14, 2012 8:10 pm

Conor Dary wrote:Why not a Sherpa who can do Base Camp to the summit of Everest in 20 hours without supplemental oxygen? I would like to see Usain Bolt try that.

Has anyone ever measured the VO2 Max of a Sherpa?
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby lonewolf » Sun Oct 14, 2012 8:48 pm

I will continue to assert that you can devise any scoring/ranking system you choose but there is no such thing as The Greatest Athlete Ever..only those who demonstrated superior skills in selected disciplines compared to their contemporaries.

I do not mean to disdain "ancient" T&F marks but on looking it up, I was surprised to learn that while I was not a super star, just a "useful" versatile T&F athlete, my PBs would have won 9 of the 12 men's Athletic events excluding PV (Silver), SP (Silver) and marathon (never contested) at the 1896 Olympics, held only 35 years before my birth.

Would any contemporary athlete's PBs have won ten events in the 1960 Olympics?...maybe Eaton..?
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby TN1965 » Sun Oct 14, 2012 9:50 pm

jazzcyclist wrote:
Conor Dary wrote:Why not a Sherpa who can do Base Camp to the summit of Everest in 20 hours without supplemental oxygen? I would like to see Usain Bolt try that.

Has anyone ever measured the VO2 Max of a Sherpa?


Here is one study.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9243493
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby Daisy » Sun Oct 14, 2012 11:57 pm

TN1965 wrote:Here is one study.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9243493

They have genetic adaptations to hypoxia too, presumably due to natural selection.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20466884
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22068265
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby shivfan » Mon Oct 15, 2012 1:17 am

Paavo Nurmi, the Flying Finn?

When I read the headline, in my naivety I thought the emphasis would be on track and field athletics. Now that I realise it's ESPN, I wouldn't be surprised to see that the list is dominated by American footballers, basketball players, baseball players and golfers.
:roll:
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby shivfan » Mon Oct 15, 2012 1:19 am

dbirds wrote:I've seen video of Bolt reverse dunking a basketball. He is also reportedly a good soccer and cricket player. Somehow I forgot Eaton - he should be included!

Both Bolt and Blake are pretty decent pace bowlers in cricket as well....
:D
I bet you won't see any cricketing pace bowling greats on that ESPN list.
:?
Courtney Walsh was the supreme athlete, and should be ranked amongst the best.
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby j-a-m » Mon Oct 15, 2012 3:28 am

jazzcyclist wrote:Has anyone ever measured the VO2 Max of a Sherpa?

Talking about mountains, those rock climbers are rather good athletes.
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby j-a-m » Mon Oct 15, 2012 3:29 am

jhc68 wrote:Well, at least the final 16 will be determined by a vote of the fans, who will, no doubt, apply rigorous scientific criteria in their decisions...

Yeah, that would seem to defy the purpose.
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby j-a-m » Mon Oct 15, 2012 3:32 am

dbirds wrote:I was wondering which 5 they will choose from track.

You can make a valid for argument for the greatest pure t&f athlete to come from any of the following: multi events, pole vault, sprints. So whoever's the greatest in those three areas should be among the top five.
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby preston » Mon Oct 15, 2012 3:48 am

jazz, you keep bringing up this "inability to carry baton in left hand" as if it is the de facto litmus test for the pinnacle in athletic achievement (slight sarcasm). It's not, and it's irrelevant to how much of an athlete Bolt is - if in fact athletics ability can be measured by science. One other thing: Carl Lewis also changed hands.

I also don't put a hell of lot of weight in throwing a javelin or high jumping (you wouldn't, or I should say shouldn't, be surprised to know that a LOT of basketballers have tried high jumping and weren't that successful...); plus, many of the best "athletes" in the decathlon are great first day people...javelin is on day 2 along with the pole vault and discus and many of the multi event "athletes" don't usually do too well in these events.

I recently read where Bolt could bench press 308 lbs (impressive, and believeable) and squat over 700 lbs (utter horseshit); his cricket and soccer skills are also "good", as noted. But, this may not be enough to make him the greatest athlete...but it doesn't disqualify him from that title either.

And, I wouldn't discount Eaton's ability to the point that I would say that there are NFL'rs out there who could be better. They might be, but that's a tall ask. Eaton has sub-44.50, sub-10.10, sub-13.10 and 28' ability. That's great anywhere. Everywhere. But, also don't out look some of the plus 280 pounders (NFL and T&F) who have fairly impressive verticals, agility and start speed. The one thing that we (read: me) know is that the "best" athletes are certainly not long distance runners by most people's measure. :wink:

j-a-m wrote:You can make a valid for argument for the greatest pure t&f athlete to come from any of the following: multi events, pole vault, sprints. So whoever's the greatest in those three areas should be among the top five.

Not and maintain any shred of credibility. There are very few pole vaulters who would qualify. MOST are a unique subset of athletes with unique skills. And, most of the multi eventers are average athletes who have worked to learn enough capability in the other events to maximize the points from the scoring system (which benefits some events more than others). The reasons why O'Brien, Thompson, Huffins, Eaton, Hardee, Clay and a few others stand out over their peers is that they have raw explosive ability that the average elite decathlete just doesn't have. It's called real speed.
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby Marlow » Mon Oct 15, 2012 3:50 am

j-a-m wrote:You can make a valid for argument for the greatest pure t&f athlete to come from any of the following: multi events, pole vault, sprints.

I see MANY abilities at play in the the multis and PV . . .. I think Houston McTear demonstrated that one can excel at the sprints first time out of the blocks (literally!). I'm not sure that's 'athleticism', per se. Speed is one asset for a great athlete. If Bolt were also a hurdler or LJer, then I'd agree he's more than just a sprinter. He might be!
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby preston » Mon Oct 15, 2012 4:16 am

Though the unitiated might assume that hurdling is an athletic ability it's really a speed ability. There are many "hurdlers" who have been more fast than technical (see: Mayo, G. and Woodson, R.).
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby Marlow » Mon Oct 15, 2012 7:24 am

preston wrote:Though the unitiated might assume that hurdling is an athletic ability it's really a speed ability.

Have you ever coached hurdling? There are many (many!!) sprinters who simply can't hurdle. I have also become similarly disappointed to find out that a great many bball talents - with prodigious dunking abilities - can't High Jump. :( On the other hand, almost everyone can Long Jump somewhat close to their native speed/jumping ability. Triple jump, not so much.
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby jazzcyclist » Mon Oct 15, 2012 7:39 am

preston wrote:jazz, you keep bringing up this "inability to carry baton in left hand" as if it is the de facto litmus test for the pinnacle in athletic achievement (slight sarcasm). It's not, and it's irrelevant to how much of an athlete Bolt is - if in fact athletics ability can be measured by science. One other thing: Carl Lewis also changed hands.

Not being able to do something simple like carry a baton in your non-dominant hand, which most sprinters can do, does indicate a deficiency IMO, though I agree with you that it doesn't disqualify Bolt and Lewis from consideration as the greatest athlete, assuming they can make up for it in other areas. Speaking of Lewis, it's my understanding that he stunk at ball sports.
preston wrote:I also don't put a hell of lot of weight in throwing a javelin or high jumping (you wouldn't, or I should say shouldn't, be surprised to know that a LOT of basketballers have tried high jumping and weren't that successful...); plus, many of the best "athletes" in the decathlon are great first day people...javelin is on day 2 along with the pole vault and discus and many of the multi event "athletes" don't usually do too well in these events.

I put stock in the javelin and high jump because they require a whole different type of ability than what's required for running fast and jumping far. High jumping requires body control, and the javelin requires quickness and rhythm.
preston wrote:I recently read where Bolt could bench press 308 lbs (impressive, and believeable) and squat over 700 lbs (utter horseshit); his cricket and soccer skills are also "good", as noted. But, this may not be enough to make him the greatest athlete...but it doesn't disqualify him from that title either.

I don't think 308 on the bench is impressive for someone Bolt's size, and I don't know enough about cricket to give an informed opinion on an athlete's cricket ability.
preston wrote:And, I wouldn't discount Eaton's ability to the point that I would say that there are NFL'rs out there who could be better. They might be, but that's a tall ask. Eaton has sub-44.50, sub-10.10, sub-13.10 and 28' ability. That's great anywhere. Everywhere. But, also don't out look some of the plus 280 pounders (NFL and T&F) who have fairly impressive verticals, agility and start speed. The one thing that we (read: me) know is that the "best" athletes are certainly not long distance runners by most people's measure. :wink:

The 100 and 400 are very similar events, and the 100, 110H and long jump are somewhat similar events, but all of these events put a premium on speed/explosiveness. What about upper body strength and hand-eye coordination? Also, I rate Kenenisa Bekele as high as I rate Bolt because both the sprints and distance races require equally limited talent.
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby jazzcyclist » Mon Oct 15, 2012 7:44 am

Marlow wrote:
preston wrote:Though the unitiated might assume that hurdling is an athletic ability it's really a speed ability.

Have you ever coached hurdling? There are many (many!!) sprinters who simply can't hurdle. I have also become similarly disappointed to find out that a great many bball talents - with prodigious dunking abilities - can't High Jump. :( On the other hand, almost everyone can Long Jump somewhat close to their native speed/jumping ability. Triple jump, not so much.

Of all the jumping events, the long jump would seem to be the one that requires the least amount of body control which is whole different talent than speed/explosiveness.
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby preston » Mon Oct 15, 2012 7:45 am

Marlow wrote:
preston wrote:Though the unitiated might assume that hurdling is an athletic ability it's really a speed ability.

Have you ever coached hurdling? There are many (many!!) sprinters who simply can't hurdle. I have also become similarly disappointed to find out that a great many bball talents - with prodigious dunking abilities - can't High Jump. :( On the other hand, almost everyone can Long Jump somewhat close to their native speed/jumping ability. Triple jump, not so much.

Overall hurdling time, imo, depends more on speed - especially at the high school/collegiate level. Even some elites get away with very poor "hurdling" (Thomas, D - who is much improved; Brathwaite). I used Mayo and Woodson as "fast" hurdlers (I think both were NCAA Champs...) who couldn't "hurdle" in the classic sense. I would agree that there are many sprinters who can't hurdle but there are also a LOT of sprinters who could, if they wanted to. In fact, there is a woman that I know (well, we all know...), who owns an olympic gold medal below 400m, who has never run an in competition hurdle race of any kind, but proved that she has sub-13 ability based upon her practice times.

As for hurdling...what is more shocking to me is NOT true sprinters not being able to convert to short hurdlers, it's 400m runners who can't convert to long hurdles.
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby jazzcyclist » Mon Oct 15, 2012 8:00 am

preston wrote:As for hurdling...what is more shocking to me is NOT true sprinters not being able to convert to short hurdlers, it's 400m runners who can't convert to long hurdles.

I agree with this 100%. The 400H doesn't place nearly the premium on rhythm and body control that the 100H and 110H do. Didn't Irina Privolova win an Olympic gold medal in her seventh race or something like that?
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby preston » Mon Oct 15, 2012 8:05 am

jazz, I disagree with you about UB and KB, but that's my opinion, and we could both debate the issue to moot standstill I'm sure. However, what I wanted to add, which I think you missed, is the 280+ pound linebacker, DE or SP'er who is a REAL ATHLETE!!!! Some of these guys are as good as any for the first 20m...and have some impressive agility. NFL defenses are littered with them and old skoolers like Oldfield were quite impressive outside of the ring.
jazzcyclist wrote:
preston wrote:As for hurdling...what is more shocking to me is NOT true sprinters not being able to convert to short hurdlers, it's 400m runners who can't convert to long hurdles.

I agree with this 100%. The 400H doesn't place nearly the premium on rhythm and body control that the 100H and 110H do. Didn't Irina Privolova win an Olympic gold medal in her seventh race or something like that?

Privalova is one of those who falls in my top-5 athletes! Period. She is not typical by any means; she also made an attempt at one point to make the Russian team at 800m! :shock: (started out as a speedskater)
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby TN1965 » Mon Oct 15, 2012 8:33 am

preston wrote:...what I wanted to add, which I think you missed, is the 280+ pound linebacker, DE or SP'er who is a REAL ATHLETE!!!! Some of these guys are as good as any for the first 20m...and have some impressive agility.


But I bet that I (a middle aged mediocre rec runner) can beat every single one of them in a 1500m race. :)

And in Bolt-Bekele comparison, Bekele's 100m should be far more impressive than Bolt's 10000m based on the scoring table.

And that brings up the question: what exactly is athleticism? Most people agree speed and strength should count. But does it include endurance? Or flexibility?
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby jazzcyclist » Mon Oct 15, 2012 8:46 am

preston wrote:jazz, I disagree with you about UB and KB, but that's my opinion, and we could both debate the issue to moot standstill I'm sure. However, what I wanted to add, which I think you missed, is the 280+ pound linebacker, DE or SP'er who is a REAL ATHLETE!!!! Some of these guys are as good as any for the first 20m...and have some impressive agility. NFL defenses are littered with them and old skoolers like Oldfield were quite impressive outside of the ring.

I agree with the NFL being littered with freaks like the ones you describe. Those are the types of guys I was thinking of when I made my list on on page one of this thread. One guy in college who fits this mold is South Carolina's man-child DE Jadeveon Clowney.
Last edited by jazzcyclist on Mon Oct 15, 2012 9:24 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby preston » Mon Oct 15, 2012 8:52 am

jazzcyclist wrote:
preston wrote:jazz, I disagree with you about UB and KB, but that's my opinion, and we could both debate the issue to moot standstill I'm sure. However, what I wanted to add, which I think you missed, is the 280+ pound linebacker, DE or SP'er who is a REAL ATHLETE!!!! Some of these guys are as good as any for the first 20m...and have some impressive agility. NFL defenses are littered with them and old skoolers like Oldfield were quite impressive outside of the ring.

I agree with the NFL being littered with freaks like the ones you describe. Those are the types of guys I was thinking of when I made my list on on pade one of this thread. One guy in college who fits this mold is South Carolina's man-child DE Jadeveon Clowney.

Then we are in complete agreement. I saw a youtube clip of Jason Pierre-Paul doing back handsprings (though you would have to google "back flips") and obviously he's an athlete. Vernon Davis running a 4.38 at 250? Athlete!
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Re: Sports Science to determine the real greatest athete eve

Postby Marlow » Mon Oct 15, 2012 9:00 am

TN1965 wrote:what exactly is athleticism? Most people agree speed and strength should count. But does it include endurance? Or flexibility?

We've been over this several times, and it is our very inability to agree on what it is that is the reason you can't 'measure' it, much less 'scientifically' (sic) come up with a meaningful list of athletes.
To me speed, strength, endurance, and flexibility are all in the mix, but my prime ingredient is 'coordination adaptability'. If you put ten athletes in a brand new sport that put a premium on all the aforementioned qualities, which athlete would be the best at this new sport. Sports Illustrated did a study and decided that the best overall athletes were . . . boxers! Mano a mano fighting! Ya gotta admit, that's an intriguing idea. Maybe Ali was right: he is The Greatest.
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