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The Absurdity of Height
Steve Rushin
September 18, 2006
The first thing most people say when meeting me in person is, "You're taller than you look in the magazine," as if the mug shot to the right of this paragraph were life-sized.
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September 18, 2006

The Absurdity Of Height

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The first thing most people say when meeting me in person is, "You're taller than you look in the magazine," as if the mug shot to the right of this paragraph were life-sized.

At 6'5", I'm taller than 99.593% of you. I'm also richer and more intelligent, according to a new study by two Princeton researchers that says tall people make higher wages than shorter people for good reason: "On average, taller people earn more because they are smarter."

Most of you would give your left lift to be this tall, rich and brilliant. I'm eight inches smarter than Einstein and seven inches richer than Bill Gates.

Being tall does have its advantages. Just last week a group of highly remunerated, overly adored, mostly tall people was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, the closest thing we have to a Taj Ma-Tall.

But for the most part tall people are at a terrible disadvantage, even in sports. Our Little League uniforms seldom fit--not that you can tell, since we're just floating heads in the back row of every team photo.

Last week at the U.S. Open, former world No. 1 Marat Safin (6'4") beat 30th-seeded Olivier Rochus (5'5") for the first time in three matches. "He's a very uncomfortable player for me," Safin said of Rochus, whose misguided childhood ambition was "to be tall."

If only Rochus realized the absurdity of height. "Our strike zones are bigger than everyone else's," says my 6'11" brother-in-law, Jason Lobo, who's spent a lifetime avoiding convertibles, ceiling fans and limbo contests. As a 6'11" lefty he has almost no hope of finding golf clubs, which is a pity because he's the consummate golf partner, much closer to the lightning than you are.

On the upside, he's halfway to the board in darts, never needs a periscope at golf tournaments and was lavished with basketball scholarship offers coming out of high school.

Mostly, though, the world conspires against tall people. Jail-bound Ralph Sampson (7'4") will get a cot designed for Bonnie (4'11") and Clyde (5'4"), and Aaron Durley--the 6'8" 13-year-old who played for Saudi Arabia this year in the Little League World Series--is still getting accused on the Internet of lying about his age. It goes without saying that Durley plays first base. Like end in football or the low post in basketball, it's where every tall kid gets parked.

Last week's WNBA Finals were full of exceptionally tall women, for whom height is even more burdensome. Former WNBA center Kara Wolters is 6'7" and four months pregnant, which presents a special challenge when buying a cocktail dress. Her height drew ridicule as a child, but since then she's been named college basketball's player of the year (in '97), won an Olympic gold medal (in 2000) and become happily married to a man seven inches shorter than she--10 inches shorter when Wolters wears heels, which is often. "Now I'm comfortable with people looking at me when I walk in the room," she says.

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