FanDuel - WFBC

December 21, 2009

NASCAR Driver Jimmie Johnson AP's Male Athlete of the Year: Jimmie Johnson has become the first race car driver to be named AP's athlete of the year. Johnson's year included his fourth consecutive NASCAR championship -- a historic first -- and seven race wins. Johnson used the opportunity to make the argument that drivers are athletes. "I've looked at other sports, particularly baseball, and I've seen plenty of out-of-shape, fat players," he said. "So to anyone who wants to go head-to-head with me in athletic ability, let's go."

posted by rcade to general at 04:29 PM - 34 comments

I don't like Jimmie Johnson, and never have.

That's really all I have to say about this.

posted by mr_crash_davis at 04:30 PM on December 21

I know that we discourage athlete/not-an-athlete, but Johnson is begging for that kind of discussion with his comments.

posted by rcade at 04:30 PM on December 21

Next year the title might be won by a chess champion, or poker player.

posted by Atheist at 05:00 PM on December 21

Or golfer. ;-)

posted by tommytrump at 05:02 PM on December 21

I'm not a fan of NASCAR, but I have to ask a quick question:

Are the cars used in competition truly "stock"?

I mean, if Johnson were to switch cars with, say, Gordon, would it make a difference?

I know that in F1, cars are different enough that switching from one team to another makes a HUGE difference in results (see: Villeneuve, Jacques).

If they are truly "stock" (as in all meet exact specifications), then I guess the driver is the main difference.

But if Johnson's vehicle is just better designed than the others, I have a hard time with a driver winning the award.

posted by grum@work at 05:17 PM on December 21

There is nothing stock about a stock car.

I love the way Johnson calls out baseball players as a comparison for the athlete vs non athlete debate when issuing a rhetorical challenge..

I guess when someone is defending their non athletic sport against another they have to point out there are other sports in which the participants are actually fat and out of shape also. Thus proving once and for all that you can be fat and out of shape and still be an athlete, even athlete of the year or decade.

posted by Atheist at 05:23 PM on December 21

Some ideas to distinguish activities as non athletic events.

If men and women compete evenly and against each other without handicap, it probably is not an athletic event.

If when competing you can wear docker slacks, a leather belt, fashionable shoes, and a sport shirt, it probably isn't athletics.

If you can leave your seat during play to get beer and not miss any action, I suspect it might not be an athletic event.

If you can spend most of your time while actively doing the sport sitting on your ass it is not an athletic event.

When watching a sport makes you more tired than playing it, it is not an athletic event.

If an animal does most of the work for you, it is not an athletic event.

If spectators have to whisper during the competition as to not disturb the players, it is probably not an athletic event.

If you can hold a beer while performing the sport, it is probably not an athletic event.

posted by Atheist at 05:51 PM on December 21

Most of the UPS drivers I know are in pretty good shape, as are most of the airline pilots I see. Does that make them athletes? They operate vehicles for hours at a time, not sure I see the difference.

While there may be some baseball players with few extra pounds on them, most in MLB kick his ass in just about any athletic competition.

I think he ought to be more worried about Danika Patrick than baseball players...after all, she's used to driving 50 MPH faster than he is. hmmmm, maybe she's more of an athlete than he is?

Maybe Cansenco can challenge him to a boxing match?

posted by dviking at 05:52 PM on December 21

If NASCAR racing is a sport, how can its competitors not be athletes? These discussions are too complicated -- and in the case of Atheist's list, completely asinine. If sports pages cover an activity, it's a sport.

posted by rcade at 06:05 PM on December 21

"So to anyone who wants to go head-to-head with me in athletic ability, let's go."

The great thing about a statement like this is any reputable athlete has nothing to gain by challenging him. It's a statement that won't be held to him.

The AP probably sells more copy by picking a controversial candiate, so it makes a little sense from a logistical standpoint.

posted by dfleming at 06:30 PM on December 21

If you can leave your seat during play to get beer and not miss any action, I suspect it might not be an athletic event.

So if I go to get a beer during a baseball game, and the batter has 2 strikes when I leave, and fouled off 3 pitches in the time I was gone, what did I miss? Or during an intentional walk? Or if the pitcher repeatedly throws to first to keep a runner close, but never picks him off Does this mean baseball isn't an athletic event?

If when competing you can wear docker slacks, a leather belt, fashionable shoes, and a sport shirt, it probably isn't athletics.

If spectators have to whisper during the competition as to not disturb the players, it is probably not an athletic event.

Dockers notwithstanding, tennis players can and do wear everything else, and the crowd is usually silent during play. Are they not athletes?

Fact is, everyone has their opinions on the subject, and that's all they are...opinions, not facts.

posted by MeatSaber at 07:15 PM on December 21

"So to anyone who wants to go head-to-head with me in athletic ability, let's go."

No thanks. I concede that you can probably drive in circles longer than me. I have no doubt though that I can whup your ass at Madden. Any version.

posted by irunfromclones at 08:54 PM on December 21

I have no doubt those guys are athletes. Driving at the top limit of a car for three hours? Exhausting, I'm sure. Of course, there are exceptions like Tony Stewart.

But coming after baseball? C'mon. That's like attacking the second fatest kid at summer camp.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 09:50 PM on December 21

Every definition of athlete I've read so far have included the necessary attributes of strength, agility and endurance or stamina. I don't think there is any argument as to the level of endurance required by the drivers of NASCAR. I think the title athlete applies just fine. JJ deserves the award.

posted by BoKnows at 10:11 PM on December 21

I have no doubt though that I can whup your ass at Madden. Any version.

You saying that you're that good? If that's true, I would be more than happy to take you on Madden 2010 on the 360 with 5 minute quarters. Just hit me up via email and we can pass along our gamer tags and set up a match. Results would be posted on SpoFi.

posted by BornIcon at 07:08 AM on December 22

The tension in the air right now is palpable.

posted by smithnyiu at 07:54 AM on December 22

Rethinking running your mouth now, irfc? I didn't realize Jimmie Johnson was held as the gold standard for video game competition.

posted by yerfatma at 09:12 AM on December 22

JJ may not be the gold standard for video game competition (unless you're playing Nascar 2010) but he sure brought it out in irfc. I'm all about good comp and am more than willing to play against anyone who just wants to play a good game. Maybe it'll even start a new locker room thread on SpoFi, who knows?

posted by BornIcon at 09:41 AM on December 22

I can certainly concede that it takes some stamina, strength, agility & endurance to drive a stock car for hours at a clip. However, I can't possibly see how you could garner Athlete of the Year off those attributes when any football, basketball, soccer or hockey player uses any and all of those same attributes but at a much higher level.

Not to say Jimmie Johnson isn't an athlete, but I think maybe he gets this because he has dominated his "sport" over the last few years more so than any other athlete (save possibly Tiger).

posted by Ricardo at 11:08 AM on December 22

This entire conversation about who is and is not an athlete is crazy. Yes, baseball players are athletes. They also get to sit on the bench every half inning. Football players are athletes. They also get to sit on the bench when there is a change of posession. Basketball has timeouts and halftime. The next hot summer day that comes along, roll your windows up, and turn the heat on as hot as it can go and drive for 3-4 hours. There are no timeouts, change of posession, halftimes, or anything else that gives a Nascar driver a break from sitting in a car that is upwards of 140 degrees inside. Nascar drivers are athletes.

posted by dbt302 at 12:13 PM on December 22

There are no timeouts, change of posession, halftimes, or anything else that gives a Nascar driver a break from sitting in a car that is upwards of 140 degrees inside. Nascar drivers are athletes.

What about a pit stop? Sure they're still sitting in the car but they do get a small break and some water.

posted by BornIcon at 12:27 PM on December 22

They have to go from 200-ish MPH down to 55 on pit row in seconds without blowing their trans or engine, make sure they stop right on the dot in their pit stalls, then prepare to fly out of that stall 15 seconds later...yeah, pit stops in NASCAR are a welcome break from the action....

posted by MeatSaber at 01:55 PM on December 22

Hey, how about if we just say that real athletes don't get pee breaks? That'll make sense...

posted by lil_brown_bat at 02:08 PM on December 22

yeah, pit stops in NASCAR are a welcome break from the action....

Any break is a welcomed break, don't you think?

Hey, how about if we just say that real athletes don't get pee breaks?

Well, that would put the AP's Woman Athlete of the Year 2nd place winner, Zenyatta out of the real athlete discussion, wouldn't it? Ever hear the expression, "Pissing like a race horse"...?

posted by BornIcon at 03:10 PM on December 22

Because something is a sport it does not qualify its participants as athletes.

Sports played by non athletes might include, Horse Racing, Billiards, Poker, Bowling, Drag Racing, Table Tennis, Polo, Eating, Skeet Shooting, Horseshoes, Tractor Pull, Monster Truck, Shuffle Board, ........

I think it is possible to participate in a sport without being considered an athlete.

I guess the main way I know what a sport or not is if I am watching it on TV and it upsets my wife - its a sport.

posted by Atheist at 06:04 PM on December 22

Because something is a sport it does not qualify its participants as athletes.

That depends on which definition of athlete you choose to use. Yours or the real one.

And really, I also question your definition of sport. And since we are in need:

Sport is an activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively.

Referring back to the actual definition of athlete: (as mentioned above)

Horse Racing requires strength, agility and endurance

Billiards - Agility

Poker - Endurance

Bowling - Strength, agility

Drag Racing - Strength, endurance

Table Tennis - Agility, Endurance

Polo - Strength, agility, endurance

Eating - Endurance

Skeet Shooting - Agility

Horseshoes - Strength, Agility

Tractor Pull - Endurance

Monster Truck - Endurance, strength

Shuffle Board - agility

So, if the terms athlete and/or sport were to be used correctly, all of those non-sports played by non-athletes would in fact be completely valid for this award.

posted by BoKnows at 08:10 PM on December 22

The car deserves the award more than the driver. At least with the horse they voted for the thing that provides all the power.

posted by aerotive at 09:27 PM on December 22

The horse will often continue the race without the jockey, I've never seen a race car continue on with the race without a driver.

posted by dviking at 09:33 PM on December 22

This is why I prefer the more specific British usage of "athlete" to refer strictly to track and field, hence the BBC's "Sports Personality of the Year". "Athlete" seems like it was intended to be a non-gender-specific version of "sportsman" and "sportswoman" in American parlance -- or as an excuse for somewhat silly threads like this one.

So, since Jimmy Johnson neither runs, power-walks, jumps or throws anything, he ain't an athlete.

posted by etagloh at 11:10 PM on December 22

Thread full of dumb.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 11:26 PM on December 22

A race car driver loses up to 20 lbs in sweat over the course of a race.* S/he has to hold on to the beast (like grabbing a stickly lawnmower) for hours at a time, avoiding other massive vehicles while travelling at extraordinary speeds, with the constant threat of having the equivalent of a wrecking ball impinging upon your progress at any given point. While they're at it, people are talking in your ear about various strategic and tactical moves that must be considered. Agility, endurance, hand-eye coordination, threat of imminent death, massive internal stresses... hell yeah it's a sport. And I'm not really a fan.

* I made that number up - but I'd bet it's close.

posted by bobfoot at 01:25 AM on December 23

A race car driver loses up to 20 lbs in sweat over the course of a race.*

* I made that number up - but I'd bet it's close.

Pretty close, they lose about 10-15 lbs.

posted by BornIcon at 07:20 AM on December 23

Also what "sports" include mind over matter, grueling periods of pain and the athlete continues, the marathon and the Tour De France among others? How about four hours with your feet burning up in some cases? That's NASCAR too.

posted by gfinsf at 07:51 AM on December 23

Thread full of dumb.

Yep. Jimmie Johnson shouldn't care that some people dismiss the athletic ability of race car drivers. Millions of people appreciate what he does, and he's in the middle of a historic run of championships. People who don't think something is a sport will never be convinced otherwise.

posted by rcade at 09:55 AM on December 23

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