[Nameplate] Fog/Mist ~ 70°F  
High: 92°F ~ Low: 51°F
Sunday, Sep. 25, 2016

Is NASCAR a sport?

Posted Tuesday, June 16, 2009, at 11:54 AM

The Payoff Pitch

Here, I'm going to introduce a new section of this blog where I discuss my opinions on things outside of the Cardinals since not much is going on with the Redbirds right now. These opinions may or may not be sports-related depending on what I'm thinking about that day.

Today, I want to talk a bit about NASCAR. If you know me, you will know that I have written thoughts in other publications regarding my thoughts on this pseudo-sport and I just want to bring these thoughts to the Daily Dunklin Democrat.

Basically, there is no way on Earth that anyone can possibly convince me that NASCAR is a sport. You can't do it. I've converted many a NASCAR fan to my viewpoint through simple discussion. Perhaps you could call me a sports evangelist, preaching the gospel of true sports to the masses. My sermon is as follows:

First of all, NASCAR fans are going to write me off as an idiot, but I just ask that they hear me out and listen to what I have to say. I'm not staging a bashing of NASCAR and attacking it ad hominem; rather, I will attempt to describe what makes a sport a sport and go from there.

So, what is a sport? To me, a sport is an event with at least two competitors who use athletic abilities to determine a winner. Most definitions of a sport will exclude the "athletic" part, but I feel as though it's essential, and this is where NASCAR falters. Racers aren't athletes. Now, racers can be athletes in that they can have athletic abilities, but the actual act of racing requires no athleticism whatsoever. Is there agility involved? No. Is there personal speed involved? No. Are you using athletic ability to defeat an opponent? No, you're using a machine to compete. That's not a sport to me.

Most people will say that the reason NASCAR is a sport is that it requires great mental skill, perseverance and physical skill. Well, I'm not arguing that. Racers are in a league of their own with regard to concentration and perseverance. That argument is irrelevant because there are many activities that require that particular skill set. Brain surgery, for instance, requires unparalleled mental skill, perseverance and manual dexterity, but is it a sport? No. Competitive eating requires all of these things, but is it a sport? No. How about competitive spelling? Is that a sport? No. Just because something is competitive and it's hard doesn't make it a sport.

Still, others have used the argument of "well, you can't do it," to defend NASCAR as a sport. You're absolutely right. I also can't give birth, but that's not a sport. I can't surgically remove the bladder of a possum under no anaesthesia, yet I would venture to guess that is not a sport. Someone's inability to do something doesn't render said activity a sport. It's poor logic, a non sequitur argument.

Other people have cited NASCAR's entertainment factor as support for their argument, but that doesn't make any sense, either. Some people don't find baseball entertaining, but you can't argue that it's not a sport. Furthermore, I like to do crossword puzzles. I guess that makes it a sport, right? Wrong. Perceived entertainment alone does nothing to justify an activity as a sport.

There you have it, folks -- my sermon on NASCAR's lack of credibility as a sport. For those of you who are ready to be converted to the way of sports, please let it be known as, together, we stand and sing to encourage you (cue "Just As I Am").

More on Khalil Greene's move to third

It seems more and more like the Cards are really hoping they can get some production out of Khalil Greene, and I don't really blame them. I mean, if you were paying someone $6.5 million, wouldn't you want to get a bit of worth out of them? I'll be honest -- for some reason, I like the move. Do I think it will be the answer the Cardinals are looking for? Not at all. But do I think Greene can be more productive there than at SS? I think so, especially defensively, and hopefully that will spill over into his offense.

Third base is a position of pure reaction. It lacks the absurd amount of thinking a SS must be doing during every pitch, so this could spell some relief for Greene's anxiety problems if he goes into it with a simple approach. People are going to smoke balls at him, and he'll just have to react. The most thinking he will be doing will be on bunt plays, but those should be second nature at this point. Let's not forget that Greene was an All-American third baseman at Clemson when he was drafted. It's his natural position. If he has a good attitude and somehow gets hot offensively and defensively then that would be a huge boost and would let the Cardinals explore other offensive options. This is their absolute last-ditch effort before they feel like they need to make a move for a third baseman. If you think of it as a business move for the front office -- and it is -- then you have to give Greene a shot to produce at third so his salary doesn't go to waste on the bench. Here's to hoping Greene rights himself and has some success. He has the talent; there's no question about that. Put him there and keep Brendan Ryan at SS where he ranks among the league leaders defensively. Also, they need to keep Tyler Greene in the lineup and play him at second base during this period. Leave Skip Schumaker in the outfield with Rasmus and Ludwick. Skip is actually one of the worst defensive second basemen in the league. Shore up that defense all around and make people earn runs off of you. Then, you can make any number of possible trades and readjust accordingly. The bottom line is that something has to be done to bring in a powerful right-handed bat to help anchor this lineup. It's essential.

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

Webster's dictionary describes sport as: Physical activity engaged in for pleasure.

Most people tend to think of baseball, basketball, and football as sports and tend to limit calling other things sports. You stated that in your opinion that a sport is when at least two competitors use athletic ability to determine a winner. NASCAR is a team sport. When the driver needs new tires or gas, pit crews can make or break a race for a driver. They use their athletic ability to be quicker than the other pit crews to make those adjustments. To think that a driver does not use any athletic ability when driving, is being na*ve. The next time you watch a race, pay close attention to the fact that you have approximately 40 cars driving approximately 200 miles per hour, just inches apart. Did you know that it is common for a driver to lose approximately 5 to 10 lbs during a race?...I would say there there is physical activity there, plus nerves of steal by the drivers. I'm not a big NASCAR fan by any means and would much rather watch, baseball, football, or the NFL over NASCAR, but to brush it off as not being a sport is ridiculous. This is America and you have the right to your opinion though!

-- Posted by grizz1 on Tue, Jun 16, 2009, at 2:30 PM

Thanks for reading, and I'm glad you commented. That's what I wanted!

In your reply, you stated that a driver typically loses 5-10 lbs. during a race, and I can believe that because it gets hot in those cars in all that protective gear, but that's why they lose the weight. It's like sitting in a sauna wrapped in towels, but I still don't think that requires athletic prowess; rather, it requires proper hydration and endurance, which I gave kudos to the drivers for in my entry.

You make a very good point about the pit crew as well. I agree that NASCAR pit crews are very talented at what they do, but they are using air hammers and one-pump hydraulic jacks to do the work for them. Those are just learned and refined skills.

Also, to talk about your first point about limiting the scope of sports by just including the "Big Three," I actually have a very broad inclusion of what a sport is. This is anything from gymnastics to frisbee golf.

As for Webster's definition, I don't think pleasure alone can define a sport. Gardening is a physical activity engaged in for pleasure, but that's not a sport.

-- Posted by Brandon Higgins on Tue, Jun 16, 2009, at 3:01 PM

By your definition do you consider horse racing a sport? After all the horse is doing all the work

-- Posted by vark on Tue, Jun 16, 2009, at 3:30 PM

vark, that's not entirely true. The jockey never lets his rear touch the horse, so the jockey is actually doing a squat manuever during each gallop while also controlling the horse. Studies have actually shown that jockeys are among the best athletes in the world, if not the best overall athletes because of their ability to balance while still maintaining reflexes on a half-ton thoroughbred. I would also consider the horse as an athlete. Horse-racing is most definitely a sport.

Read the following passage from "Seabiscuit."

"To pilot a racehorse is to ride a half-ton catapult. It is without question one of the most formidable feats in sport. The extraordinary athleticism of the jockey is unparalleled: A study of the elements of athleticism conducted by Los Angeles exercise physiologists and physicians found that of all major sports competitors, jockeys may be, pound for pound, the best overall athletes. They have to be. To begin with, there are the demands on balance, coordination, and reflex. A horse's body is a constantly shifting topography, with a bobbing head and neck and roiling muscle over the shoulders, back, and rump. On a running horse, a jockey does not sit in the saddle, he crouches over it, leaning all of his weight on his toes, which rest on the thin metal bases of stirrups dangling about a foot from the horse's topline. When a horse is in full stride, the only parts of the jockey that are in continuous contact with the animal are the insides of the feet and ankles -- everything else is balanced in midair. In other words, jockeys squat on the pitching backs of their mounts, a task much like perching on the grille of a car while it speeds down a twisting, potholed freeway in traffic. The stance is, in the words of University of North Carolina researchers, 'a situation of dynamic imbalance and ballistic opportunity.' The center of balance is so narrow that if jockeys shift only slightly rearward, they will flip right off the back. If they tip more than a few inches forward, a fall is almost inevitable. A Thoroughbred's neck, while broad from top to bottom, is surprisingly narrow in width, like the body of a fish. Pitching up and down as the horse runs, it offers little for the jockey to grab to avoid plunging to the ground and under the horse's hooves" (85-86).

-- Posted by Brandon Higgins on Tue, Jun 16, 2009, at 3:50 PM

Good point on horse racing. How about these 2 sports. Harness racing, again the horse is doing all the work & the "jockey", don't know if this is the correct term, is sitting down & bobsled racing, after all the rider(s) only use there bodies to push the sled a few feet & then are just along for the ride

-- Posted by vark on Tue, Jun 16, 2009, at 4:11 PM

I'm actually not totally familiar with the mechanics of those sports, so I'm not sure I can give an appropriate answer. If harness racing is what I'm thinking it is, where it's almost like the jockey is in a chariot, it's hard to say. I would lean toward considering it a sport because I still feel like a horse is an athlete. Like I said, though, I'm not really familiar with the mechanics of the sport.

-- Posted by Brandon Higgins on Tue, Jun 16, 2009, at 5:27 PM

I am a NASCAR fan. I have also been involved in various sports, having participated in what most of us would agree are "sports," including basketball, baseball, softball, Judo, Taekwondo, tennis, racquetball and handball. Despite varying opinions about whether racing is a sport, particularly NASCAR, I'll let professional dictionaries speak for themselves.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines "sport" this way: "Physical activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively, a particular form of this activity; an activity involving physical exertion and skill that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often undertaken competitively; an active pastime; recreation."

Does NASCAR racing fit this definition? Let's see. It is a physical activity (If anyone doubts that spend a little money and take the opportunity to drive a race car. You can drive one as close as Memphis, Tennessee.) It is governed by a set of rules. It is engaged in competitively. It definitely involves skill (Try driving 200 mph in the middle of 40 other cars going the same speed and jockeying for position to win.) It is an active "pastime" and it is "recreation." It fits!

Webster's New World Dictionary defines "sport" this way: any activity or experience that gives enjoyment or recreation, pastime, diversion; such an activity, esp. when competitive, requiring more or less vigorous bodily exertion and carried on, sometimes as a profession, according to some traditional form or set of rules, whether outdoors, as football, golf, etc., or indoors, as basketball, bowling, etc.; fun or play."

Does NASCAR racing fit this definition? Let's see. It is an activity/experience that gives enjoyment, recreation, and diversion. It is competitive, requiring more or less vigorous bodily exertion, and carried on by a traditional form or set of rules. It fits!

The Cambridge Dictionary of American English defines "sport" this way: "a game, competition, or similar activity, done for enjoyment or as a job that takes physical effort and skill and is played or done by following particular rules."

Does NASCAR racing fit this definition? Let's see. It is a competition done for enjoyment or as a job that takes physical effort and skill, and it does follow particular rules. It fits!

Opinions are like -- well you know what they're like. We all have them and often most of us let go of them only after much debate. Facts speak for themselves, however. Therefore, NASCAR racing is definitely a sport.

-- Posted by hhshornet74 on Thu, Jun 18, 2009, at 10:10 AM

I think gardening is a sport too.

-- Posted by Vickie on Thu, Jun 18, 2009, at 11:20 AM

Gardening? The case can be made for it, I guess. :)

-- Posted by hhshornet74 on Thu, Jun 18, 2009, at 2:34 PM

I agree totally that NASCAR is NOT a sport. I resent the space given this impostor on our sports pages. I just cannot see sitting for hours watching machines run around in circles. On another note I cannot understand watching people play cards on TV! We must have too many sports channels if that is all they have to show.

Gardening? Well, I guess it is about as interesting watching plants grow.

-- Posted by BenchWarmer on Fri, Jun 19, 2009, at 5:25 AM

You're correct in saying "First of all, NASCAR fans are going to write me off as an idiot."

-- Posted by ms.pat on Fri, Jun 19, 2009, at 9:24 AM


You pose a good argument based on much research, and I can appreciate that. At the end of your post, you say that "facts speak for themselves," which is based on the definitions from those dictionaries. Aren't all definitions opinions? Even those given by professionals? Even their research is based on opinion, stemming from the etymologies of words and so forth. It's all up for interpretation, which makes the discussion interesting. Thanks for actually crafting an argument.

As for ms. pat, that was a mighty well-crafted and enlightening statement you made. Thanks for sharing that with everyone. Everyone is more intelligent for having read it.

-- Posted by Brandon Higgins on Fri, Jun 19, 2009, at 10:50 AM

Hey Brandon!

Enjoyed both your blog about NASCAR and your reply to my post. I "blog" very little but, as you could tell, your blog about racing certainly interested me. I also enjoy a little "debate" from time to time! Actually, definitions in reputable dictionaries are not opinions. Definitions in reputable dictionaries are based upon the historical origins and uses of words, usually over a very long period of time. See you at the track sometime?!

-- Posted by hhshornet74 on Fri, Jun 19, 2009, at 11:57 AM

Will you see me at the track? Unless they nix the car, demolish the track and make the infield one suitable for baseball, that answer is likely a "no." I encourage you to continue reading, though.

-- Posted by Brandon Higgins on Fri, Jun 19, 2009, at 1:37 PM

Respond to this blog

Posting a comment requires free registration:

Redbird Roundup
Brandon Higgins
Recent posts
Blog RSS feed [Feed icon]
Comments RSS feed [Feed icon]
A blog for Cardinals fans by a Cardinals fan. This blog will explore the happenings in the St. Louis Cardinals organization on a semi-daily basis, from roster moves to game-by-game analysis.
Hot topics
Holliday Signs With Cardinals
(14 ~ 9:19 PM, Jan 19)

Mizzou Basketball
(0 ~ 10:38 PM, Jan 9)

Most overrated baseball players
(8 ~ 9:31 PM, Jan 5)

Matt Holliday
(3 ~ 5:53 PM, Jan 4)

Smoltz now a Cardinal
(0 ~ 1:46 PM, Aug 19)