Falling Down While Making a Catch Doesn’t Make It a Diving Catch

2006-10-16-edmondsI love highlights of any sport. In fact, as ESPN proved by showing cricket highlights earlier this year, I’ll watch highlights of sports I know absolutely nothing about, and I’ll enjoy them!

I’ve become a little jaded about a common baseball highlight that ESPN features. At any time in the summer, if you go to ESPN.com, you’ll find at least one highlight clip proclaiming: “Incredible diving catch.”

However, we must have different definitions of “diving catch,” because 75% of the time it’s just a guy falling down while he makes a catch. I call this the “Jeter Effect.” Derek Jeter made the simplest defensive plays look like monumental achievements by adding leaps and spins to them, often falling down at the end.

Most of the ESPN highlights are of outfielders. An outfielder’s job is to track down the ball–a ball usually hit high in the air in a completely open, groomed field–and catch it. That’s pretty much their only job.

The skill of this job is knowing where the ball is going to land. They’ve trained for years to perfect this job. So why is ESPN so delighted when they barely get there in time, falling over when they arrive. Just remain standing like the rest of us.

Of course, there are exceptions, times when a player truly needs to extend their entire body to make a catch. Those are awesome. Those are diving catches. Unfortunately, those highlights are heavily diluted by videos of players falling down while making routine plays, and you can’t tell the difference before you start watching.

That’s how I feel about it.