Scrubs can play too, don’t for­get it

The Compass - - SPORTS -

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 nmercer@cbn­com­pass.ca.

Ni­cholas Mercer

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