ESPN’s Highly Questionable with some “Highly Questionable” takes on Handball

Former NFL Quarterback, Jay Cutler, thinks he could get a team together to take Gold at the Olympics; He’s not the only one with this “highly questionable” take.

It’s always great to see team handball get a little publicity on TV and yesterday the sport got around 3 and a half minutes of analysis on ESPN’s Highly Questionable, a show with a question and answer format resulting in some irreverent takes on a variety of topics.

Team Handball got two questions: Video Link

The first handball question was, “Are you with Jay Cutler that he could win a gold in handball?” The clip then shows, the former NFL quarterback discussing handball on the Barstool Sports, Pardon My Take, Podcast. The episode is here (1:18:45 – 1:19:53), but ESPN rebroadcasts most of the handball discussion.

Co host, Domonique Foxworth, a former NFL cornerback, has the typical take we hear every fours during the Olympics, “I’m sorry if it’s disrespectful to handballers everywhere, but I’ve watched that game before… You know who plays handball. The people that couldn’t make it in soccer, couldn’t make it in football… Me, Jay Cutler and Lebro will go win a handball championship.”

While Sarah Spain, has a more accurate assessment, “I do feel like there are probably some sports where the very best of our athletes could excel if they spent the time and energy.”

The second question was “Do you guys want to see what the U.S. handball team currently looks like?” At which point they showed footage of a 2016 promotional video done by the residency program at Auburn. At which point Sarah reverses course and agrees that Dom and Jay Cutler would dominate.

Of course, the problem with that video is that is most definitely not our current team. The residency program has been shut down and most of the men’s national team now consists of dual citizens playing in Europe, some at a fairly high level. And, trust me, this U.S. Men’s team would make short work of some inexperienced wannabe handball athletes in their mid 30’s, no matter how good they are in other sports.

Past Commentaries on this Topic

Like clockwork every four years during the Olympics this topic comes up. In 2016, LeBron’s potential as a would be handball player was front in center.

Could LeBron James really become the best handball player in just 6 months?

  • Part 1: Do I really have to explain how crazy that notion is? Link
  • Part 2: Why it’s just not going to happen, but what about Lebon lite? Link

More recently the dismal showing of the U.S. Men’s Basketball team shows just how silly the notion is that the U.S. could win a gold medal in a sport with all newcomers: Link

Future USA Team Handball Plans Related to this Topic?

The old saying, “Any publicity is good publicity” certainly applies here. Even if it’s nonsense takes, it’s totally awesome for team handball to be a topic of discussion on Barstool Sports and ESPN.

What has me a bit worried, however, is that USA Team Handball’s CEO, Barry Siff, is brand new to the sport and seems to buy into these takes to a certain degree. In several interviews he’s talked about talent transfer and the possibility of turning water polo players into handball players. He’s already jumped on the possibility of getting Jay Cutler to an open tryout for our National Team.

Now, obviously Cutler at 36 is simply too old for such a transfer, but make no mistake he would have been a great handball player. According to his Wikipedia article, in addition to football, he was a first team Indiana All State basketball player and honorable mention All State shortstop in baseball. That’s a strong pedigree, but there’s virtually no way he would have given up an NFL career to choose handball.

And, this is where the discussion becomes, “Well, maybe we can’t get Jay Cutler or Lebron James, but what about Lebron Lite?” And, then you have a boat load of questions to take into consideration:

  • How much “lighter” in raw talent?
  • At what age can you get that athlete to switch?
  • How long does it take to make that athlete a great handball player?
  • How much is it going to cost you to transition that athlete?
  • And, the biggest question of all… If you focus on such athletes what are the opportunity costs in time and resources diverted from growing traditional grass roots?

I take on some of these questions in Moneyball Handball series:

  • Part 1: Broad Categories for Athlete Identification: Link
  • Part 2: Pushing the Outside of the Recruiting Envelope: Link

Overall, I’m hopeful that these national team tryouts (now apparently planned for this summer in LA and NYC) are primarily marketing tools for publicity, but I could be wrong. Regardless, the publicity won’t hurt. I just hope it doesn’t become the primary focus and eat up too much of the budget.