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Perspectives
Tom Wallisch vs Me or Kobe Bryant vs Me: Where’s the Bigger Gap in Skill?

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GREGG
BLANCHARD
   

A couple months ago I wrote about what I’m starting to call “the gap” in skiing: the different between a beginner (or even intermediate) skier and the best of the best. The concept that after a week playing football, I can feel more like a pro than I could after a decade of skiing. I said it like this:

“A beginner, on his/her first day, could probably make a few three pointers and shots from the exact same spots on the court as the pros. In other words, the gap between a LeBron and a Newb doesn’t feel all that wide to the participant…but as a pretty good snowboarder, there isn’t a single feature on the [XGames] slopestyle course I’d dare hit. Not one. The gap between what pros and amateurs do isn’t just big, it’s massive.”

I grew up playing a lot of sports. I still play, and follow, most of them. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to illustrate what I mean when I talk about this gap. After browsing some headlines over the weekend, I realized I may have a way.

Take a gander at the top 5 headlines screenshots from 5 different sports on ESPN.com:

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I’ve often described myself as “okay at a lot of sports, not great at one.” But even with my mediocre skills on the count, field, or links, how hard is it for me to feel like I’m a pro? Not one of those glamour shots that the producers of ESPN put up in lights is beyond my ability level. Whether it’s Blake Griffin driving by Kobe, or Steve Cherundolo sprinting into the box, if you had game tape of all my sporting adventures, you could probably pick out 100 frames that look very similar to those.

With a little money and a bit of practice, I can look and feel like a pro. And then there’s skiing. Here’s the screenshot of the freeskiing headline on ESPN:

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Double cork over an 80′ jump. Nearly 20 years into my skiing “career”, I doubt I could find a single frame on my “highlight reel” that would look anything like that on even a 1/4 scale.

The gap doesn’t just exist, it’s getting all the headlines. If the X Games gets people excited to try skiing but two decades of turns doesn’t even put you on the same court as the pros, it makes me question how that impacts the ability to keep people in our sport?


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