Scrubs can play too, don’t forget it
They’re the guys you don’t see a lot of.
The fourth line players or the guys at the end of the bench who don’t get a lot of playing time, if any at all. They’re the Munenori Kawasakis and the John Scotts of the professional sports world.
And, they’re the guys some weekend warriors believe they could beat in a game of one-onone if they were given the chance.
You’ll hear it sometimes on Internet message boards or around the bar. We’ve all got that one friend who was just one break from going to the show and wants everyone to hear about it.
“Man, that guy is garbage. I can play better than him.”
Or perhaps they’ll say, “If he can get to the pros, I know I can.”
They fail to realize these guys are the best of the best at what they do. There are tiers to professional athletes.
There are the elite, who are the Alexander Ovechkins and LeBron James of the world. Then it goes great players — Draymond Green or Anze Kopitar — really good players, good players and so on.
There are only a few hundred jobs to hold in professional sports per league on this side of the pond. Some guys are at the bottom of those leagues, but they’re still there.
They aren’t the guy in your Monday night beer league that can’t skate or handle the puck that you don’t pass to. They can play.
For the sake of argument, let’s look at the case of James Anderson. He was taken 20th overall in the 2010 NBA draft by the San Antonio Spurs and barely got off the bench his rookie year in the Lone Star State.
Anderson was third in the nation his junior year at Oklahoma State University, averaging 22.6 points per contest. In his fifth NBA season, Anderson barely gets off the bench for the Sacramento Kings but you still think you could hand it to him at your local YMCA?
No sir, you can’t. It just won’t happen.
Let’s move to hockey. The Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks have this guy — Bryan Bickell — getting some- where in the range of nine minutes of ice time a game. He has just a handful of points this year, but has registered 37 points in a season before. He might have slipped a bit, but you still wouldn’t be able to beat in a game of three post.
Here’s the point I’m trying to make.
These guys sitting at the end of the bench are professional athletes playing in the best leagues in the world for a reason. They aren’t there in some goodwill gesture.
There was a notion going around a couple of years ago that the University of Kentucky Wildcats male basketball team could beat an NBA team. That’s ludicrous. NBA teams are stocked with players who are the best at what they do. No matter if they start or sit on the bench for games on end, they are some of the best athletes in the world.
They can play. Maybe not as good as the elites, but they can play. To think they couldn’t is a slap in the face to them, really.
If John Scott’s all-star excursion has taught us anything, it’s that the brawlers and grinders of the professional ranks are usually a step or two above even the best minor league athletes.
The fourth line guys need a bit of respect too.
So, the next time you’re out knocking down a few brews with your buddies and that one delusional friend starts saying you’re better than this guy or better than that guy, remind him he’s wrong.
Chances are, it’s not even close.
Nicholas Mercer is a reporter/photographer with The Compass. He lives in Bay Roberts and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To the Point