Thursday, December 24, 2009

Who is an athlete? What is a sport?

When the Associated Press recently named NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson its Male Athlete of the Year, it brought up a couple of interesting questions. What is an athlete? And, what qualifies as a sport? It's hard for me to consider a guy who sits down on the job for the title of top athlete. There is no doubt that Johnson has great skills as a race car driver, including tremendous reflexes and great stamina. But I really don’t think he can be considered alongside people like Roger Federer, Usain Bolt, Peyton Manning, Lance Armstrong or Lebron James. That brings us to the question of what is a sport, and what is not. In my definition – and this is just my opinion – a sport involves defense. In other words, there has to be someone trying to stop you from doing what you want to do for an athletic event to be a "sport." To me, golf is an athletic pursuit, as are track and field events, gymnastics and ice skating. They all require athleticism, but they're not sports, at least under my definition. What are your thoughts?



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe I'm saying this Brant, but I completely agree with you!

Best to you and yours for a wonderful Christmas and a happy and healthy new year.

December 24, 2009 at 8:35 PM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

I too question the choice of Jimmie Johnson as Athlete of the Year. Also, I am by no means a NASCAR fan despite living in a city that hosts two races per year. You state that sports involve defense, and I agree for the most part, but there is a tremendous amount of defense in racing. You get a lead and must defend it. You have teammates who will work with you to defend it if you have the lead. But as to whether these guys are athletes...well that's debatable. There is a lot of stamina involved in racing a car like that. But stamina figures into a lot of things, like eighteen holes of golf, a daily jog, even sex (well, particularly in sex!). NASCAR has several drivers who are well past the prime age for professional athletes. Some will drive well into their fifties. You don't see that in too many other sports.

A local sports radio talk show host here in Richmond has brought up the same debate before. His take is this: it is NOT a sport if you can smoke a cigar or cigarette and drink a beer while doing said activity. Thus, you're completely correct in golf being an athletic pursuit (or in my case, a project involving extensive divot reconstruction). And technically, you CAN drive, smoke and drink. I did it until I was 25 years old.

December 25, 2009 at 8:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


December 25, 2009 at 11:27 PM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

The bar?

December 26, 2009 at 3:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, the party spot!

December 26, 2009 at 11:00 PM  
Blogger Lori said...

Even Sporting News wanted the answer to your question. Maybe the trained thinkers can help you understand more than my layman self.,_nascar_does,_too

December 27, 2009 at 8:22 PM  
Blogger Joe Tuscano said...

Anyone who has seen John Daly on a golf course knows the sport does not include athletes.

December 28, 2009 at 11:10 AM  
Anonymous ha said...

Athlete of the year should go to all the military members that lost limbs but still enjoy running, swimming..ect..

God bless our troops **==

December 28, 2009 at 1:57 PM  
Blogger MJ said...

The argument is not whether NASCAR is a sport, or if Johnson is an athlete. Instead, it's about how NASCAR has destroyed it's top series by turning a great season-long championship formula into a 10-race shootout with the Chase. Put Petty, Pearson, Yarbrough and Earnhardt in a 10-race Chase and I be they would've won four championships in a row. Johnson winning four in a row isn't that impressive.

December 29, 2009 at 11:19 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

That's an excellent point, Mike. It's like in the olden days in tennis, when the defending U.S. Open champ got a bye into the finals the next year. I also believe that in the PGA Championship, in the early years when it was match play, the defending title-holder automatically was in the finals.

December 30, 2009 at 6:24 AM  
Blogger Lori said...

The chase is like the playoffs in football. If you don't make the play offs you don't get a chance at the Super Bowl. At least in NASCAR the other drivers still get to compete for the 13th place Million dollar bonus. Also worth a mention, still win money and get experience like the regular season.

December 30, 2009 at 7:29 AM  
Blogger MJ said...

Imagine if the Steelers had been wrecked in the 4th Quarter of the Super Bowl by the Oakland Raiders. Playoffs work in other sports where you compete head-to-head, but they don't work in NASCAR where you have 43 cars -- most of which are field-fillers -- rolling around the track at the same time.

December 31, 2009 at 1:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They still race cars?

January 3, 2010 at 10:07 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

I thought they raced advertisements...

January 4, 2010 at 1:57 AM  

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