- The Beatles’ musical talent.
- Jennifer Lawrence’s acting ability.
Yes, many things in life are overrated.
Sports is particularly susceptible to this, as marketing departments and fierce loyalties converge.
Entire populations become irrationally certain that a particular player is the best, a certain team is unstoppable, or a particular league is the pinnacle of their sport.
But if we drill right down, we even find that particular moves can be overrated.
Football: The Nutmeg
The nutmeg is a move in football where a player kicks a ball through the legs of a defender.
This is supposed to be career-shatteringly embarrassing for the victim. Fans fall over each other in delight when it happens. There are entire competitions held where the objective is to nutmeg your opponent. Even the greatest football player of all time has been caught up in the idea that a nutmeg is something to aim for.
The logic is apparently that a player shouldn’t ever ever EVER let the ball through their legs.
Perhaps that would make sense, except that elite coaches emphasise staying balanced while defending… with your feet square to your shoulders… you know… with your feet apart.
That a ball being moved with quick speed and skill across the ground might occasionally pass through the legs of a person in the correct defensive stance shouldn’t be as highly valued as it is.
“Yes, I was in the recommended defensive stance but Barcelona’s 17th consecutive short-and-sharp pass, travelling around 80km/h, got through my legs before I managed to close them. Excuse me while I go commit seppuku to deal with my tremendous shame.”
We’ve been over this ground before at Mike or The Don, but it’s worth repeating:
The hitout is rarely used effectively in the AFL.
Now I’m not saying hitouts are overrated because fans are all eagerly checking the hitout tally in the paper on Monday… No sane person does that.
However, it is used by TV and radio commentators as a metric far too often. They seem to believe it is an important measure of an AFL game, a way to gauge who is “dominating the middle.”
Yes, an elite Ruckman is worth their weight in Goldstein, but most Ruckman are really just big blokes who throw their weight around at stoppages and who aren’t as skillful as their coach would want. Their hitouts result in a secondary contest most of the time. Getting first hand to the ball at a ball-up or throw-in is hugely overrated.
A hitout that goes straight down the gullet of a teammate as they’re in full stride towards goal is obviously a good statistic to rack up, but how often does that happen? The idea that chalking up 30+ hitouts in a match means the Ruckman has done a good job is just wrong when 25+ of those hitouts weren’t to anyone’s particular advantage.
For every Sandilands and Goldstein there are 5 AFL ruckmen who lumber from stoppage to stoppage, jostle for position a bit, and then whack the ball if they can manage. They have a horrendously poor rate of advantageous hitouts, hovering around 25% of hitouts… and that doesn’t even take into account the fact that sometimes a Ruckman will tap the ball directly to an opponent!
The perfect example is Jason Holmes, the American import playing for St Kilda, who chalked up 35 Hitouts on debut!? What an impressive effort for a guy who… oh wait his first real tap went straight to an opponent. Never mind.
The hitout is overrated by commentators especially.
“Yeah, nah, it was a bad day for the fellas. We may have lost by ten goals and we got smashed around the stoppages, but I had 41 hitouts so I reckon that counts as a moral victory, right?”
Some bloke in the NFL took a really nice one-handed catch a couple of years ago, in a game they lost anyway.
But now they literally have the guys jersey on display in the Hall-of-Fame to commemorate a nice one-handed catch… something that happens every week or two in the AFL.
And be honest… when it comes to ‘running with the flight’ catches, what that NFL bloke did wasn’t half as impressive as Nick Reiwoldt’s effort here.
Nick used two hands, but hot damn, that’s still far more impressive than “The Catch” on almost every imaginable level.
The physical contest involved, the rotation of the ball, the absorption of contact, spatial awareness, soft hands, and factors like oncoming traffic all worked AGAINST Nick Reiwoldt. He still caught the damn ball. And then got up. And play went on.
Meanwhile the NFL guy took a very nice grab of a neatly rotating ball, having been held back a little bit. He then had a chance to preen for the crowd. Good for you, mate. Not really on the same level as Saint Nick though, is it?
Checked out this clip, the Top 10 NFL Catches of the ALL TIME. Some nice catches, but most would be considered a ‘Contested Mark’ in the AFL, get some polite applause from the crowd, and the game would continue… but in the NFL these catches get some major overreaction from commentators, teammates, and fans.
“OH MY GOODNESS! JACKSON CAUGHT THE BALL THAT HAD BEEN THROWN DIRECTLY AT HIM DESPITE A DEFENDER BEING NEARBY AND HE MANAGED TO GET HIS FEET BACK ONTO THE GROUND WHILE STILL HOLDING THE BALL! THAT IS JUST REMARKABLE!”
NBA: “Broken ankles”
Many basketball fans are obsessed with the crossover, where a player abruptly changes direction while dribbling the ball.
The crossover itself is an effective move, used to create space for a player with the ball.
But when a crossover is especially abrupt it can sometimes cause ‘Broken Ankles.” This is when a defender stumbles or falls while trying to change direction.
When this happens, the crowd ooh and aaah and then jeer the vanquished opponent about his ‘broken ankles.’
This reaction doesn’t make a lot of sense to me . The NBA is a league of almost ridiculous pace and sharp movement by large men in a confined space. Occasionally people slip over, or trip over while defending.
The correct, textbook way for a defender to move laterally involves their feet coming very close together, almost touching. When you think about it, it’s actually remarkable more players don’t trip over their own feet defensively in the NBA.
“Broken ankles” don’t show up on a scoreboard, or even a stat sheet. So while the crossover is a legitimately important move, the resulting ‘broken ankles’ are overrated.
“Oh no, the extremely fast and skillful Kyrie Irving made me stumble for half a second while I was furiously backpedaling diagonally to stay in front of him. Even though I am a professional basketball player being paid millions of dollars, I am so ashamed of my obvious lack of basketball ability.”