Harmony with Fox News: the Haynesworth Test

By James Fallows

A reporter for the local Fox TV station did something I'd been thinking about, which nudged me to try it myself. She took the "Haynesworth test."


haynesworth.jpg

Le tout Washington DC is in a snarl about the standoff between Albert Haynesworth, the Redskins' hyper-talented defensive lineman, and Mike Shanahan, the new coach. Haynesworth, theoretically the most dominant player on the team but one who radiates Bad Attitude, skipped all off-season training sessions; Shanahan is either putting him in shape, or hazing him, by making him pass a "conditioning test" before he can practice with the rest of the team. Haynesworth has now failed two or three straight times.

When it comes to "tests" that professional athletes take, usually the standards are so inconceivably high that they seem impossible for mortal humans to contemplate. Hundreds of pushups or pullups; throwing a baseball farther than I can see; running an entire marathon at a faster pace than I can hold for half a mile; delivering -- or returning -- a 130-mph tennis serve. There's no place to imagine what it would really be like.

But Lindsay Murphy, the Fox reporter, thought as I did that the Haynesworth test didn't sound so impossible. It's a back-to-back set of two 300-yard "shuttle sprints." You run 25 yards in one direction; touch the ground; and run back. You repeat that for six nonstop round trips (a total of 300 yards). Then after a short rest, you do it again. The "test" is to do the first one in 70 seconds; and then, after a 3 1/2 minute rest, do the second in 72 seconds. 

As shown below, Murphy made the first pass in under 70 seconds, then got tired and missed the 72-second standard for the second one. But, still. More info here and here.

See web-only content:
http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2010/08/harmony-with-fox-news-the-haynesworth-test/60742/
So this afternoon I tried it too. I went to a football field, got set on the goal line and looked down to the 25, and took out my stopwatch. I just barely made it, in both the first and second passes, but I did meet the time standards. It wasn't easy, and by the fifth and sixth round trips each time I was really breathing hard. But unlike most pro-athlete standards it wasn't just completely out of reach.

This doesn't say anything about Haynesworth or his skills. He's carrying a lot more pounds than I am, though I am carrying a lot more years. He's one of the most gifted of today's pro athletes, and this is about the only conceivable athletic test where he could even be measured on the same scale as a regular person. Still, it's nice that there is at least one physical test where we could think we'd match a pro. Consider giving it a try yourself. (If you have any experience running, the time-limit won't be that terrible; and the 3.5 minute recovery is probably a proxy for aerobic exercise in general.) 

This is also a reminder for the long-promised "running in the post-Achilles injury era" update, about which more shortly.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2010/08/harmony-with-fox-news-the-haynesworth-test/60742/