Labeling auto racing as a 'sport' appropriate, correct
November 14, 2005 —
Yesterday's NASCAR race and the impending end of the racing season reminded me of an argument I had a few months back with a friend of mine. The question, "Is auto racing a sport?" was posed and he emphatically answered with a resounding "NO."
So I have decided to take it upon myself to argue that it is, all the while keeping this individual's name anonymous because I am about to make him look incredibly silly.
To begin, there is no world governing body that determines if an activity is or is not a sport. Rather, a sport is determined by societal views and is as much a part of pop culture as anything. Two centuries ago, football had not even been invented. Today, it's arguably this country's most popular sport. So to say there is some predetermined basin of sports that we have to work with is ridiculous. And while I admit auto racing does not share some of the characteristics that say, baseball, football, and hockey do, it is worth noting that each sport is unique in and of itself.
So what does the dictionary say? The word sport is defined as "Physical activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively." Does auto racing fit that description? It certainly does. Auto racing is indeed governed by a set of rules, is done competitively, and does contain elements of physical activity.
But alas, it is the physical activity that my number one critic beats to death that keeps him believing auto racing is not a sport. He says the car does the work and that even he could do it with proper training. But I have ridden in a car with this fellow doing 60 down Bay Road fearing for my life. Perhaps he needs more training than he thinks.
I will agree, sure, the car does most of the work in a race. But doesn't a pitching wedge do most of the work when attacking a green from 30 yards? Isn't the bowling ball pulling most of the load when it slams into the pins? In all cases, the car, club, and ball are merely tools that would be rendered useless without a skilled individual operating them. But my friend says golf and bowling are sports and auto racing is not. So what gives?
He will argue that the person using the club or ball determines what happens. But isn't the driver in the car determining where the car goes? Perhaps he believes the driver merely sits back in their seat reading a copy of Redbook and the car does all of the work. Yet we all know that the driver is the final factor, or else every race would feature cars lined up perfectly next to one another and countless ties. Instead, certain drivers have clearly proven themselves more apt than others and, therefore, more skilled.
And on the subject of skill, he doesn't think racers have it. Or maybe he does, but says it is not enough. I don't really remember. But if he wishes to argue that it doesn't take skill to fit a car into a tiny hole at 180 mph, he can be my guest.
He is also fond of saying that it's not a sport because they do nothing but go around in a circle. But many Olympic runners do too. Sprinters move in a straight line and hockey players move all over the place. Geometry has nothing to do with the argument, so I'll just file it under, "desperately reaching."
So in the end, when this friend of mine can intelligently argue how golf, bowling, ping-pong and marathon running are the same but racing is different, I may listen.
But then I'll point out that ESPN and Sports Illustrated both consider auto racing a sport and they know more about the subject than he or I combined. Then he will be the one left spinning his tires.