POINT: Sport is not necessarily athleticism

POINT/COUNTERPOINT: Should NASCAR racing be considered a sport?

On Valentine’s Day, I celebrated with chocolate and a good movie.

But for many red-blooded Americans, that day was sweeter than candy, as the holiday shared the limelight with the Daytona 500.

Termed the “Great American Race” by the Daytona International Speedway’s Web site, the Daytona 500 is akin to the Superbowl of NASCAR.

Jamie McMurray, a thirty-three-year-old from Missouri, won his first Daytona championship after narrowly defeating opponent Dale Earnhardt Jr. in a green-white-checker finish, which is NASCAR’s overtime according The Seattle Times.

Souring Jamie’s glorious victory, however, are the many naysayers who refuse to recognize NASCAR as a legitimate sport.

They claim that racing around in circles requires no ability.

And, when you say it like that, it sure doesn’t sound like it.

But let’s first consider the actual definition of a sport.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, sport is broadly defined as “physical contests pursued for the goals and challenges they entail … each culture has its own definition of sports [but] the most useful definitions are those that clarify sport’s relationship to play, games and contests.”

Just like any game, to excel at any sport requires the acquisition of skill, and to say that NASCAR doesn’t require any skill is simply ignorant.

As described by Rachel Matecki in her article “The checkered flag: is NASCAR really a sport?”, although drivers need not be in prime physical shape in a traditional sense, they must have a superb sense of sight and precise hand-eye coordination. It takes endurance to thrust around a track 500 times, avoiding fatal accidents in the process.

The skill involved in NASCAR isn’t just physical — a good driver has a well-rounded knowledge of physics and of cars and how to operate them. Techniques like drafting and positioning are also vital to good performance, as well as patience, focus and a good sense of timing.

It is important to underscore that an activity being a sport does not necessarily imply that it involves the highest level of athletic ability. As given in the definition, it is instead an activity that requires excellence and skill in a competitive format.

This is the same reason why competitive dance, for example, should be considered a sport while performance art, like ballet, is not. Both require the same level of athletic ability, but one is a skilled activity that also involves points, winners and losers while the other does not.

It is important here to distinguish between mental and physical sports. That is to say, while activities like NASCAR or football are physical sports, activities like card games or chess would be considered mental sports. Because these events require skill and practice and take place in an organized and competitive format, they are considered sports. In this way, their absence of an athleticism requirement does not strip them of the sport title, it just puts them into a different realm of sport.

Because of this, the athleticism requirement should not be the sole determinant of sport. For example, activities like running and rock climbing require an intense amount of endurance, agility and physical fitness. However, they cannot be considered sport unless they take place in a competitive arena, such as a marathon.

In the end, it’s all about semantics.

Let’s let Jamie McMurray have his day in the sun.

Kristen is practicing driving at speeds of more than 200 mph. Stay off the roads and e-mail her instead at kckelle2@asu.edu


Get the best of State Press delivered straight to your inbox.