22 June 2016: A debate that has been ongoing for years and most likely will continue to be fiercely debated. Everyone pretty much agrees football, baseball, soccer, basketball…etc are sports. However there is still a portion of people who refuse to accept racing as a “sport” – or by extension, drivers as athletes.
You may recall that former pro quarterback Donovan McNabb famously said six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson is “not an athlete” in 2013, triggering another round of spirited debates on TV and social platforms.
“No, he sits in a car and drives,” McNabb said on FOX Sports Live (clip below).
For those involved in Motorsports, this can be a rather insulting question, however before we can address this properly we need to agree upon what essential ingredients actually make up an athlete?
According to the digital “oracle” (Google) an athlete is a “person trained or skilled in exercise, sports or games requiring physical strength, agility or stamina”. Being a former racing driver and current amateur athlete in other sporting disciplines, I have come up with my own recipe on what I feel a successful athlete consists of…
- Having a strong state of mind.
- It’s setting a goal and measuring your performance against it.
- It means making the outcome and how you got there matter.
- It’s about pushing the edges of the envelope and breaking through barriers.
- Having the discipline to endure the physical and mental demands of a sport. Not just to survive, but thrive. Peak physical conditioning to win!
- Sacrificing the things you like for things you love.
- Having that burning desire to be the top of your game.
This list can go on and on, but I doubt the recipe will differ from other more traditional sports. Just because you have limited movement in a race car does not mean the demands are less strenuous – but I’ll let you watch the clip below and you can make up your own mind.
(Make sure you also watch Jimmi’s response on the next video).
And Jimmi’s response…