Some High, Hard Ones

September 18, 2005

We've all seen those lists of life's most vexing questions, such as: Why do drive-through ATMs have instructions in Braille? How does Teflon stick to the pan? If you choke a Smurf, what color will he turn? But with a single exception--Why is it called a foul pole when it's in fair territory?--the unanswerable sports questions never get asked. Until now.

How do fans in China form the letters when singing Y.M.C.A.?

A jockey's silks are actually made of nylon. So why won't jockeys just admit that they wear nylons?

And why do some boxers wear Jockeys while some jockeys wear boxers?

Pinocchio lied and his nose grew. So what grows when ex-Viagra spokesman Rafael Palmeiro tells a lie?

Why are you allowed to have a cap on your head during the national anthem but not on your beer bottle? (In most stadiums, bottle caps are removed at the concession stand.)

Do Boise State football players think the grass is always bluer on the other side of the fence?

Why does television regularly show suicide bombings in Iraq, monks setting themselves on fire in the street and murders captured on convenience-store security cameras but never--never--shows someone running onto the field at a baseball game, for fear that the images might encourage such behavior?

If baseball players are about to hit in a batter's box, why do they practice in an on-deck circle?

Who built the first cheerleader pyramids?

Why do hockey players remove their gloves to fight but fighters put them on to do the very same thing?

If the Cleveland Browns were named in 1945 for their football coach (Paul Brown), why weren't the Georgia Bulldogs named in 1945 for their football coach (Wally Butts)?

Why did the Jazz retain their name when they moved to Salt Lake City, where there is plenty of honky but very little tonk?

Is it possible to get emphysema from a secondhand cigarette boat?

If the opposite of pro is con (and the opposite of progress is Congress), how did so many of our ex-pros become ex-cons?

During a shirts-and-skins basketball game at a nudist colony, do the players in shirts feel self-conscious?

While you're waiting, what do you call a player to be named later?

Why are Pro Bowlers rich and famous but pro bowlers are not?

Why is it always the case that the only score you're interested in has just passed by on the ticker? And why does that same ticker always go to a commercial just as your score is coming around again?

If it's physically impossible to be on the hill and over the hill at the same time, how do you explain Randy Johnson?

If Who's on first, Who's your daddy and Who let the dogs out, my question is, Where does Who find the time?

Do one-dimensional teams always look good on paper?

Why do tennis players, alone among famous athletes, serve as their own equipment managers--stuffing sweaty shirts, towels and rackets into gym bags after matches, then lugging it all out of the stadium by themselves? Mozart wasn't a piano mover. Julia Child didn't bus her own dishes. Tiger doesn't loop for himself. But Andre Agassi's first act at 1:09 a.m. after winning a five-set U.S. Open thriller last week was to pack. (While America slept, Agassi schlepped.)

Which is faster: sudden death or instant replay? (And if you watched sudden death in instant replay, would you travel back in time?)

In baseball why do the take sign and the steal sign mean two different things entirely? And if the other team steals your take sign, is it hypocritical to complain?

Why, in this digital age, are bullpens the last refuge of the wall-mounted telephone, the kind with 40 feet of spiraled cord that your sister used to twirl in her fingers while monopolizing the line for hours on end?

Do synchronized swimmers always give 220%?

And why do those professional athletes who claim that they always give 110% only tip 8%?

What did former Reds outfielder Cesar Geronimo yell when jumping out of an airplane?

If bicycles race in a velodrome, what races in a palindrome? Kayaks?

If an honoree is someone who gets honored and an invitee is someone who gets invited, what exactly is a Yankee?

If you can play H-O-R-S-E in tennis shoes, why is it so difficult to play tennis in horseshoes?

And the single most mystifying question in sports: Where the hell did we park the car?

• If you have a comment for Steve Rushin, send it to

Pinocchio lied and his nose grew. So what grows when ex-Viagra spokesman Rafael Palmeiro tells a lie?


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