Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Advertisements
Advertisements

Athleticism needed to drive in circles?

NASCAR’s biggest race of the season ? the Daytona 500 ? took place Sunday.

Big whoop.

I’ve grown sick of ESPN’s obnoxious coverage of the racing world, particularly NASCAR, as I’m sure others have as well. Whether it be on the cable channel itself or on its website, there are days like Sunday where you simply can’t escape images of the races or commentaries by former drivers who dissect current drivers’ performances. What makes it even more unbearable is that the Daytona 500 wasn’t even broadcasted on ESPN ? the race was on FOX. That, and there’s already an entire channel ? the SPEED Channel ? devoted to auto racing.

Advertisements

To be fair, the ?Worldwide Leader in Sports? has strayed quite a bit from its humble roots.

Back in the day, you could flip on ESPN and actually find live games, sports highlights and analysis. While the network still has these things, you often have to dig deeper to find it; it seems too much emphasis these days is placed on the ?E? in the name ? entertainment ? and not enough on the ?S.?

So am I contradicting myself by saying ESPN is increasing its coverage of NASCAR but decreasing its overall coverage of sports? No. The reason? NASCAR is not a sport.

There, I said it.

I’ve had this debate before, and I always am glad to play devil’s advocate on the issue. I fail to see how driving a car around in circles for 200 laps and 500 miles ? as was the case for this weekend’s Daytona 500 and many other races ? could be in any way constituted as athletic.

One challenger in an argument I had regarding the validity of the ?sport? argued that the drivers sweat a lot during the race and can lose several pounds of water weight as a result. While that may be true, perspiration doesn’t necessarily equal athleticism. I sweat during finals week. Does that make me an athlete as I fill in bubble after bubble on a Scantron or tirelessly scribble out an essay? I wish. Heck, if that was the case, I’d be on full scholarship.

Of all the drivers in today’s NASCAR world, Tony Stewart ? who finished third Sunday ? is among the most popular and successful. But when you look at the guy, there’s no way you would ever confuse him with an Olympian or marathon runner. He’s up there with John Daly ? the same John Daly that smokes while golfing ? as one of the most out-of-shape ?athletes? today.

I’m not trying to take away from the skill of drivers such as Stewart or Sunday’s winner, Ryan Newman. I give them credit for being able to keep their cars under control at speeds of over 150 miles per hour without (usually) crashing into the wall or other drivers. But the athletic ability needed to do such a task is minimal at best. Hold wheel. Push foot on gas. Turn wheel. Millions of Americans do this every day on their way to work; I’m not sure how many of them would consider their daily commute a sport.

I realize NASCAR is much more popular in other parts of the country than it is here in the Midwest. Look outside and you’ll see it’s difficult enough to drive down the streets of Madison at 30 miles per hour this time of year. It’s unreasonable for NASCAR events to hold much water up here.

But down South, NASCAR isn’t just a sport; it’s a way of life. There’s even fantasy NASCAR leagues, suggesting that it is becoming as big as the NFL. It even made its way into pop culture in 2006, with Will Ferrell starring as a fictitious driver in the movie ?Talladega Nights.?

With that said, I’ll refrain from any judgments of the auto racing industry’s culture. As for the races themselves, I just can’t justify putting them on the same network as football, basketball and baseball. The accomplishments of Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. can’t compare to those of LeBron James and Tom Brady.

The wise Ricky Bobby once said, ?If you ain’t first, you’re last.?

I hate to break it to you, NASCAR, but in my book, you ain’t first.

Tyler is a junior majoring in journalism. Disagree with him? Tell him why you think NASCAR is a sport at [email protected].

Advertisements
Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *