Is NASCAR really a sport? This is a question that has baffled me since I was a young child. To this day, I am amazed at the sheer attraction of NASCAR, and probably speak for millions like me when I ask “why is NASCAR called a “sport?”
NASCAR is actually an acronym for the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. Men and women drive “stock” cars with 800 horsepower at speeds of approximately 180 mph around a circle 500 times! Archery is also a sport, as is hunting, or so I’m told. I tried to understand with a pro and con approach.
Pros: It takes guts and concentration to stay awake while driving at extremely high rates of speed in a circle 500 times! Sounds easy except that the driver is mashed into the car through a window, has no airbag, and no cup holder for the coffee. Additionally there is an exhausting amount of clutch pushing, (I’m not talking about a cute purse ladies), to change gears on a curve with some guy right on your ass!
Cons: It’s just driving! Of course, there is some strategery involved, like passing other cars. (Strategery is a made up word used by Will Ferrell when he does his imitation of President Bush! I thought it appropriate here since I find the movie Talladaga Nights excruciatingly funny.)
After my short analysis, I delved deeper. Alas, as soon as I saw the word “prohibition” I had a vision of a crazed man transporting moonshine somewhere in the deep south, which immediately reminded me of the Dukes of Hazzard. It took years for me to realize the attraction was the car and not the girl. All of my brothers and dad looked like deer caught in headlights when that show came on. Back to the moonshine, which came from Appalachia, and was transported by “bootleggers”. To do this they created vehicles with handling and speed to outrun the law in mountainous regions. Thus, one particular strip in Knoxville, Tennessee became a popular racing venue for bootleggers. After prohibition, Wilkes County, North Carolina grew into a racing mecca. Well that explains NASCAR’s dominance in the deep south. (God, I love Wikipedia!)
But does being a bootlegger make an athlete or NASCAR a sport? Dictionary.com has at least 10 definitions of the word “Sport”. Here are the top two:
1. An athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature, as racing, baseball, tennis, golf, bowling, wrestling, boxing, hunting, fishing, etc.
2. . . . especially in the out of doors
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, this could be anything, even chess! To further confuse anyone who has been living in a cave to avoid auto racing (like me), NASCAR’s “about us” page states that NASCAR is the number 1 “Spectator Sport.” Most of us think of athletes when we think of “sports”, not bench warmers. But picture Bubba sitting in a fishing boat with a bowl haircut and bad sunglasses. He is actually hunting for fish on national television. Does that make fishing a sport?
From all this, I can hardly believe NASCAR is a sport and drivers are athletes. EXCEPT, and you are really not going to believe this . . . . drum roll please . . . .
Jimmie Johnson, a popular race car driver, was among many candidates listed for the 2007 US Sports Academy athlete of the year! What??? You heard me. A race car driver listed among athletes such as quarterbacks, pitchers, runners, swimmers and golfers, vying for Athlete of the year. No he didn’t win, but come on, really, Bret Favre won.
This debate could go on endlessly. In any event we will all be happy to know NASCAR’s CEO, Brian France, concedes that NASCAR is all about the entertainment. So is it a sport among other sports or is it just “sport” to entertain?