I played a couple different sports growing up, and they all help me during the Mardi Gras season. Catching beads isn't an art, it's a sport.

If you want the best beads, fanciest trinkets, cups and keepsakes, you have to work for it.

Making direct eye contact isn't enough some times. Through several years of trial and error, I came up with a foolproof plan to come down with more beads and goodies than I can carry home at the end of the parade. Wonder how I do it? I learned it all from athletics, and each sport can give you a different tool to use.

Warning: You might need to get a calf workout or two in before the floats start rolling. You gotta be in this to win this.

(Original Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

FOOTBALL

I only played football for a few seasons, but the skills I acquired at the wide receiver position go miles during Mardi Gras season.

Bead catching is a serious business, only because you often have bead throwers who do their jobs a bit too enthusiastically. There's no need to be throwing Brett Favre bullet-passes, dude. Expect a few heaters to come your way, and always remember to cover your face.

If you really want to haul in boatloads of beads, the first thing you have to do is find the hole in the defense. Just like a slot receiver, the best way to get open for a pass is to simply find a space all to yourself. If you find yourself in a crowd, the work gets a bit more tricky.

Footwork is very important. Standing on the barricade and locking your feet into the slots gives you security to maneuver, but most importantly it allows you to high point the ball...I mean beads. Receivers are always taught to grab the football at the highest elevation possible. The math is simple, the longer an object floats in the air, the chance of a defender getting in the way increases. Beads are no different than footballs. Go get 'em.

My last tidbit from football will help protect your face, you know, the money maker. It might sound simple, but don't overlook its importance: catch with your hands.

A lot of receivers get in trouble trying to catch with their bodies. If you let a flying set of beads through your hands, it hits you square in the face. Even worse, if you miss a catch there's no telling who or what might get hit behind you. I always try to snag anything heading toward babies just in case. You can always just hand them beads afterward, thus avoiding possible baby injuries.

And please, drunk bros...stop throwing bullet passes. A simple lob will suffice.

(original photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

BASKETBALL

Aside from teaching you to avoid the seven feet tall people, basketball offers a lot come Mardi Gras season.

Box out, guys. Positioning yourself in front of your neighbor will guarantee you the best shot at that plastic cup you need to add to your collection. I'm not suggesting you throw some heavy hips or swing elbows after hauling in a nice set of beads, I'm just saying don't be afraid to assert yourself down on the barricades.

After that, you gotta attack the rack. Think of every toss like an alley-opp. Snag that sucker and rip it down.

Basketball also taught me it's nice to have people taller than you around too. Ideally, you go with a group that can put the shortest people in the front with the tall trees catching the hot potatoes headed to the curb.

Sometimes you have to play a little defense too. I can paint the perfect situation for a block or tipped pass.

Imagine your friend looking down to check a text message or take a sip of their adult beverage. Now imagine a heavy set of beads flying at approximately 60 mph toward their face. It's officially your social responsibility to swat that rogue strain of face-assaulting beads. Go strong, and don't hesitate...just watch for drinks. The last thing you want to do is karate chop somebody's brewski going for the block.

(Original Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

 

BASEBALL

The best baseball players are selective. They don't swing at every pitch. They let the bad ones go. Want to bring home the best Mardi Gras beads? Pick the right pitches.

Scout your floats before they hit throwing range. Don't fall victim to the pickoff move: when the pitcher looks like he's going to throw to you but switches his target at the last second. Find the easy pitch right over the plate. If you have to reach too far for it, you might strikeout, or worse, fall over. More than that, identify the pitches while they're still in the hand.

Be selective. If the pitch isn't for you, let it go. I know it's hard, but it will reduce your tangle at the end of the night.

Not all beads are winners. You might miss a light-up set of Saints beads because you were grabbing a string off the ground. Don't be that guy. Hit home runs. Be a champion. Win Mardi Gras.

On a final note, sports reward their young fans. If you aren't going to do anything with your beads, just give them to a kid in your "section." You might even make their night.

Have a safe and magical Mardi Gras...and I'll see you out at the parades. Just don't reach for my beads.