The Great Debate: Is Nascar a Sport?
March 18, 2008
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Charlie Avis: Why not?
Matt Tracy: There are many reasons: the essence of NASCAR driving is taking a car, where everyone has the same type of car, and manipulating that machine to the best of its ability. Is it testing your physical strength, endurance, or physical aptitude at anything? No.
Charlie Avis: I disagree strongly. First of all, as you said, every car is basically the same. Therefore the car has a minimal difference in who wins the race so then it strictly involves the skill of the driver. Secondly-
Matt Tracy: Strictly involving skill doesn’t make it a sport…
Charlie Avis: Just because skill is the only aspect of the driver involved doesn’t make it a sport?
Matt Tracy: It does not make it a sport.
Charlie Avis: Ok, fine, to make you happy, there is an endurance aspect of it. It is a couple hour race. Have you ever tried driving for a couple hours? At high speeds it can be a test of endurance.
Matt Tracy: I’ve done it. I drove across the country for 18 hours. Does that make it a sport? What I just did?
Charlie Avis: Were you racing somebody?
Matt Tracy: Yes, I was going almost 90 mph.
Charlie Avis: The definition of a sport is a competition, which uses-
Matt Tracy: Which definition?
Charlie Avis: I’m just laying down my definition – a competition which uses skill, either mentally or physically, of the participant-
Matt Tracy: Which definition?
Charlie Avis: I’m just laying down my definition – a competition which uses skill, either mentally or physically, of the participant.
Matt Tracy: So is chess a sport?
Charlie Avis: …Yes?
Matt Tracy: You cannot look me in the face and tell me chess is a sport! You cannot do it! Chess is not a sport. I just don’t think that by sitting there in a car you can call them athletes. Do I have respect for them? Yes. Would they kick my a** driving? Yes. But they are just simply moving their leg up and down. So how do the physical abilities of the driver affect the outcome?
Charlie Avis: These guys have developed a knack for driving. It’s not like they just drive around, drive their kids to school, and then show up at the track and destroy everybody. No, they train as much as any other athlete would.
Matt Tracy: …Well, I train for my math test.
Charlie Avis: Do you now? But anyway, why do you think that just because it uses skill, and not your VO2 Max or your arm strength does it make NASCAR driving not a sport?
Matt Tracy: The deciding factor is that if you put a fat guy who has never worked out before in his life in a car, but he’s a good driver, he could beat a NASCAR driver who has been training his whole life to drive. Training, by the way, is a loose word. I mean, I drive around Palo Alto and get better everyday. If I went out for 45 minutes and worked my arms everyday for the next month, and I came back to the track would my time improve because I worked out?
Charlie Avis: Probably.
Matt Tracy: How would I have improved if I had worked out.
Charlie Avis: Ok maybe, but I mean if was an endurance race [meaning an hour+ of driving] I would say yes. But no doubt that if you had taken that 45 minutes and put it into driving, everyday-
Matt Tracy: You could apply that to anything! If I applied this to my math homework and studied 45 minutes more everyday, when it comes to that test, I’m gonna do better on that test than if I hadn’t studied before. And that doesn’t make math a sport.
Charlie Avis: …But math’s not a competition.
Matt Tracy: It is. I’m trying to beat the person next to me… always. Especially Noah.
Charlie Avis: Funny, but the same thing works for baseball [which we have agreed is a sport] if you put 45 minutes everyday into baseball –
Matt Tracy: I’m then able to sprint faster, hit the ball farther, throw harder-
Charlie Avis: So then if you spent 45 minutes a day driving, you could hit the apex of the turn harder, brake more efficiently, accelerate at the right time out of the turns, Basically you would develop a feel for the car.
Matt Tracy: But stuff like the “slingshot” in Talladega Nights. The “shake n’ bake”. That doesn’t happen.
Charlie Avis: Dude, it does happen. See this gets us into the next aspect of a sport: there is a lot of strategy in NASCAR.
Matt Tracy: Just like Risk, which I kick you’re a** at. That doesn’t make it a sport.
Charlie Avis: Let it be known that I beat Matt 3x in a row in Risk.
Matt Tracy: As I remember, it was Lord of the Rings Risk.
Charlie Avis: But hey there’s more strategy in NASCAR than in…baseball?
Matt Tracy: I’ll give you one chance to retract that.
Charlie Avis: …Retracted. But I promise you if you put Dale Earnhardt Jr. who’s been training to drive all his life and you put him up against me after I’ve been practicing for a year…He would kill me.
Matt Tracy: Uh-huh.
Charlie Avis: He would destroy me.
Matt Tracy: Because he knows how to manipulate his machine better than you do.
Charlie Avis: Yea, ok, but why is that any different than you being able to manipulate your muscles better.
Matt Tracy: Because your muscles are your body, that’s the definition of a sport.
Charlie Avis: It’s not the definition of a sport.
Matt Tracy: It’s my definition of a sport! A sport has to be something where one’s physical exertion affects the outcome. And NASCAR is not physical. You wouldn’t have a bigger six pack from driving around.
Charlie Avis: But why does the physical feature matter? Look at CC Sabathia. Do you think he has a six pack? Maybe hidden somewhere in his 300 pound frame. The point is it doesn’t matter.
Matt Tracy: But for him, it’s his arm. His arm is a special thing.
Charlie Avis: The mind of a NASCAR driver is a special thing!
Matt Tracy: You can’t even compare those two.