For the past two months, I've asked the same question to everyone from friends to colleagues to athletes to executives: "What are the toughest jobs in sports?"
Their nominees have helped spawn a series of stories spotlighting eight dauntingly difficult jobs and the people who find them rewarding.
Some of the jobs are glamorous; others thankless. Some of the jobs are lucrative; others barely profitable. Some of the jobs are physically strenuous; others don't even require breaking a sweat. The only thing they all have in common is none is an easy way to earn a living.
Schedule for the series:
July 21: Manny Pacquiao's sparring partner — From black eyes to bloody noses to broken bones, David Rodela has suffered a litany of injuries trading blows with some of the world's best boxers. He explains why he loves his job anyway.
July 22: World Cup referee — No referees have a more pressure-packed, physically demanding job than those on soccer's grandest stage. A look at the challenges of officiating an event in which one mistake can make a referee a target for criticism, projectiles and even death threats.
July 23: Pitcher for the Colorado Rockies — Solving the riddle of how to pitch at altitude has been Colorado's central challenge for two decades, yet the Rockies aren't any closer to an epiphany. Ex-Rockies pitchers detail the challenges altitude presents and how the franchise can overcome them.
July 24: Publicist for Alex Rodriguez — Which disgraced athlete's reputation would be the most difficult for a public relations specialist to salvage? Sports business experts say it's Alex Rodriguez. They also detail what they would do if they were publicist Ron Berkowitz to try to repair Rodriguez's tarnished brand.
July 25: Ice maker for the Arizona Coyotes — J.J. Straker's job is to bring ice in the desert. The Arizona Coyotes ice technician is responsible for the playing surface in the NHL's hottest-weather city. He explains the challenges of creating a smooth sheet of ice when temperatures soar into the 90s and even past 100.
July 26 Baseball card shop owner — Once a billion-dollar industry in the early 90s, baseball card sales have declined about 75 percent since their peak. Shop owners and industry experts explain what caused that dropoff and examine the challenges of running a store in the modern era.
July 27: NCAA enforcement staff member — Cracking down on cheating in college athletics comes with immense pressure but insufficient authority. NCAA investigators must catch wrongdoers without the power to subpoena uncooperative witnesses, request search warrants or penalize perjury.
July 28: Professional sports gambler — Quitting your day job to bet on sports sounds like a dream come true for many fans, but only a select few gamblers are savvy and disciplined enough to make a living. Dave Cokin explains why he is. Ronald Andrews shares why he wasn't.
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