Subtle things only true pro's can do - Sports, Art

I have posted stuff associated with this before - about, say, things artists know about their tools (e.g., a drum, a paint brush, a chisel, etc.) that other folks may not appreciate.

I was watching Yankees/Red Sox last night and ARod fielded a grounder lasered right at him - jumps to his right, crouched low and stabs it on his knees, other hand out to provide support as he gloves the ball. As he coils back up to fire the ball to first with a cannon of a throw (you don’t have to like ARod to respect that he has one of the best arms in the game) he subtly wipes his throwing hand on the back of his pants in a fluid motion, gets the ball out of his glove and fires. Boom. Out.

But that subtle wipe of his hand so he can improve his grip? Man, after working with a bunch of Little Leaguers, that is an incredibly tough thing - something you can do well only after thousands and thousands of repetitions - and only after you have been burned hundreds of times by NOT wiping your hand first. It just stood out to me as something I could only appreciate on the outside, not having remotely played ball at that level.

Got me thinking - as a guitarist, I automatically do things like adjust my tone and volume controls on the fly - stuff noob’s have to stop to do. Or knowing to step on a stomp-box effect - say a fuzz box or chorus pedal - and do so smoothly within the context of a performance - especially if I am changing pickups, too and getting ready to step back into singing a verse or something.

The devil is in the details - what are some examples you have seen or you know where if you hadn’t done it a thousand times, it would get in the way of the execution of that sport activity or art?

The first thing that came to mind for me was “the art of the pass” in sports, especially basketball or soccer.

There is a level at which mastery of field awareness and enabling the rest of your team to perform greater simply by moving the ball at the proper time is more important to the game than scoring points. Think Magic Johnson. It is at that point that sport turns into artistry.

For hockey goalies, rebound control. An amateur goalie just tries to get some part of his body in front of the shot to block it. A good goalie will try to make sure that he can cover up the puck after he’s stopped it. A great goalie ensures that they never put a rebound back in front of the net. They either cover the puck or steer the rebound into the corners.

And then there’s Martin Brodeur, who steers the rebound right to his teammates so then can start the rush.

My father told me, when I was very young, that the art of pitching isn’t about striking every batter out. It’s about pitching in such a way that the batter can only hit the ball how you want him to hit it.

Hitting’s a science, no doubt. But pitching is still half art.

This isn’t exactly subtle but, as a soccer player, it’s one of the most impressing thing I’ve ever seen in the world of sports.

I’d like to see an amateur do this

Or hockey. One of the things that made Gretsky “The Great One” was his passing ability. I don’t have a cite, but I do remember reading an interview with one of the Rangers who said, “Gretsky starts his passes before you’re open. Sometimes he knows that you’re going to be free before you do.” Amazing.

Good point Jonathan Chance- Greg Maddux has said that his goal is usually not to struck out a batter, but to get them to hit his pitches, because if he has thrown it right, he knows where it is going and that it will be an out. This was of course during his heyday, not so much anymore I guess.

I’m a terrible pool player – lucky to sink the ball I want in the pocket I want. So I’m extremely impressed by those who can not only do that, but also position the cueball for the *next * shot.

That ad is fake. Like the one of LeBron shooting 90 foot baskets.

However, this one isn’t. Of course, this isn’t subtle either. Watch the bit starting at the 24 second mark.

Is the ball CGI or something? i’m just curious.

Really? How would it have been faked? Just curious…sure looks real.

Yes, some kind of digital imaging, I’m sure.

This is from a recent SI. To access the full article, you need to be a subscriber:

Interesting. I totally bought it anyway…especially because of few of them are long shots which show both him and the net.

Also, there’s another spot where Ronaldo gets new shoes, looks at the camera and says, “Ronaldinho, the ball is supposed to hit the net” and then from like 20 yards,he nails a couple shots off the crossbar that deflect into the goal. Also, very impressive. That looks real. I assume it is.

No kidding. Ever watch those ladies’ 9-ball tournaments? Most of the time, if you lose the lag, the other player just runs the table, thwick thwick thwick. They make it look so amazingly easy, and they think twenty moves ahead.

Since mine turned out to be fake, I’ll add another one.

Intentionally shaping your shot in golf. I’m a pretty good golfer and I know all about opening and closing my stance and I can get the ball to move the direction I want but I can’t control the amount - at all. Watching Annika and Tiger do it in those demonstrations on the golf channel is really quite impressive.

Like the OP, I play the guitar, and the lap steel guitar.

One really useful lap guitar technique is the choke: where you bend one of the strings horizontally behind the bar. This very useful effect led to the development of the pedal steel guitar, which achieves the same effect relatively easily.

Since the knuckle moves the finger in an arc, you tend to pull the string downwards. But this pulls the string away from the bar, cutting off the sound. So you have to practice pulling up slightly as you pull towards you. It looks simple, but took me the better part of a year to get even passable.

It’s the part about hitting the crossbar that is faked. The fast moving ball is digitized from the time it leaves his foot until it comes back to him. He may the the best soccer player in the world but after seeing him miss three easy penalty kicks during the EUFA Champions game I’ll say that he doesn’t have the kind of ball control demonstrated in that video.

It’s not just that he’s wiping off his hand to get a good grip.

He’s wiping off the dirt so he can feel, with his fingertips, the seams of the ball.

Good baseball players throw the ball with a 4-seam grip (the way a pitcher throws a standard fastball). This gives them more control over the throw so it doesn’t sail wide. They reach into their gloves and pull out the ball with a 4-seam grip.

It’s very fast and smooth, and occasionally you’ll see someone double-clutch the ball as he throws, and the announcer would say, “He couldn’t find the handle.” It’s not that they simply brain-farted and dropped it, usually, but that they couldn’t get the right grip quickly enough.

Watching ‘Samurai’ Mike Singletary play in the 80’s Chicago Bears. He wasn’t just a good player (he was one, of course), he was a tactician. He would endlessly study film on the team they were playing against, and, from interviews I’ve read from his team-mates, it gave him an almost precognative ability to figure out exactly what the opposing team would be doing by watching their line-up and listening to their audibles (obviously, this was before his hearing started to fail on him). I recall one interview when a team mate was talking about a game wherein the opposing team called an audible, Mike called back to his team exactly the play the opposing team was going to run, and the linesman being interviewed said something along the lines of, “I looked into the eyes of the man in front of me, and saw, first surprise, then total terror.”