A Talented Athlete Who Smokes Is Still a Talented Athlete

We'll speak idiot here for a second: a talented athlete who smokes and treats his body badly is still a very talented athlete capable of performing well. This can even happen in what you would assume are the most lung-intensive of sports, and you need look no further than Zinedine Zidane as an example. You may remember him as the world's best soccer player for a spell in the late '90s, or as the guy who headbutted Marco Materazzi in the chest in the final of the 2006 World Cup. He was awesome in both instances. (If you're gonna get thrown out of a game, go big, which Zizou certainly did. Applause for being consistent no matter the situation.) ↵

↵As this article reminds you, Zidane smoked like a Chinese chemical plant throughout his career. (The article is also a reminder that while the UK and the US both speak English, there are substantial and important differences in usage.) So has the Nationals' Scott Olsen, a pack-a-day nicotine fiend who has nevertheless managed to maintain a promising career as a major league pitcher. Like you, he smokes more if he starts mixing the magical duo of beer and cigarettes. Unlike you, he can do this and still be effective. ↵

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↵⇥Scott Olsen pulled out a cigarette, one of the dozen he allows himself every day, though sometimes, with a beer or two, he'll smoke a few more. He tried to quit on his 25th birthday, in January, but that didn't work. Now he's thinking he'll give up the habit only when his girlfriend gets pregnant. ↵⇥

↵⇥"I just have to get motivated," Olsen said. ↵⇥

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↵To be fair, Zidane's accomplishment is far freakier in terms of human anatomy. Zidane had to run miles a day as a soccer player; Olsen has to pitch, a far less strenuous physical task than playing midfield at the highest professional levels. Olsen also fits into the grand tradition of beer-drinking, cigarette-smoking baseball slouches like Mark Grace, who attributed much of his longevity as a major leaguer to smoking, donut consumption, and the special magic of the slumpbuster. ↵

↵It's not that smoking, drinking, and taking terrible care of yourself are a good idea for anyone. It's just another example of how winning the genetic lottery of being athletically talented cuts you yet another break in life: even vices take a smaller bite out of them than they do out of a normal schlub such as yourself. (Especially if you play baseball, a sport of hand-eye coordination where the lungs can take long, luxurious breaks in between plays.) ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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