Just What Is A “Real” Sport?

It’s a question, that while I find usually out of place, and absurd, that seems to come up all too often. In this time of year particularly, with NASCAR having just gotten its season rolling, and baseball getting into the swing of things, the question seems to be posed more and more frequently. Truth be told though, it is usually not as much a question asked as an insulting statement.

Those with a disdain for NASCAR, or baseball, seem to take great joy around this time of year insulting those two sports, and often their entire fan bases, as their years open up.

Perhaps it is the joy with which ardent fans eagerly await and enjoy the start of the season of these particular sports that rubs people the wrong way, or stirs feelings of envy within themselves.

NASCAR and baseball obviously aren’t the only sports subjected to this absurd questioning, soccer, for some ridiculous reason that I can never fathom, seems to be the most often questioned and insulted.

Perhaps it just comes back to that age-old adage that people are afraid, for a lack of a better word, of what they don’t know. After all, isn’t it much easier just to insult what you know nothing about than it is to educate yourself properly on a subject and form a more appropriate, intelligent, less ignorant opinion? It seems to be the case with a great many things in life, so surely this is no different.

This misconception runs rampant with NASCAR, sometimes to the point that it’s downright comical, if not a little frustrating, hearing the uneducated opinions spouted forth by people who simply don’t know any better (but have no qualms with speaking like they do) and would apparently prefer to stay in the dark.

It all generally starts with people simply saying NASCAR isn’t a sport, which, still blows my mind.

A sport can be defined as a “Physical activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively.”

Let me ask you this, have you ever tried driving a car 500 laps at Bristol at the speeds they do? Until you have, hold off on saying there is no physical exertion required. Try it, once.

I mean, clearly it doesn’t take any stamina whatsoever, or anything of the sort, to withstand 125 degree and higher temperatures for three and a half hours, losing upwards of ten pounds or more each race.

All the while participating in an event where one mistake could ultimately have the chance to be fatal.

One simple mistake could lead to this

Something else to ponder, go grab five or six of your friends, see if you can put 22 gallons of gas in a car and change four tires in about 15 seconds. I’m betting you can’t. You run around carrying two 5o pound tires, or an 80 pound gas can, see how well you hold up to that. Never mind the pressure to do this all as fast as you can with the difference in 1st place and 14th being the matter of just a second or two.

Yeah, nothing physically exerting about that at all.

And we all know there is nothing competitive about racing cars, right? I mean, it’s not like racing, in some form, isn’t one of, if not the, oldest forms of competition in the world.

Ever since people had objects that could move, they’ve been racing them. The idea of finishing something first is the penultimate form of competition.

Then of course you get the typical, “well all they do is turn left” retort. This one is the one that really makes me laugh.

Again, can you do it? No, you can’t.

Driving at 75 mph on 285 where everyone has turn signals and break lights and generally keeps themselves separated by feet at a time is nerve-racking enough for the normal human.

But you think it’s just a walk in the park to drive 200 mph where there are no turn signals, no break lights, and the distance between the car in front of you, behind, and to either side of you totals about two feet, if that? Yeah, sure, and there’s beach front property in Wyoming too, right?

And you think driving on the local interstate at 75 mph is harrowing?

People on the road get flustered when someone is within just a couple of feet behind them tailgating them on a country road. These guys literally push each other around the track at 200 mph, but I’m sure you could do that without any problems, right? Of course you can.

There’s also the matter of trying to make a 3500 pound racecar turn left at a high speed. Speed limits are what they are because that’s the determined safest speed with which to navigate the roadway. Try taking some of the typical turns you encounter in your daily drive at 150 mph. Actually, don’t. You won’t be able to, and you know it.

But again, all these guys do is turn left.

Actually, sometimes they do turn right

Of course, when all else fails, we get the last resort comment inferring that NASCAR is just a sport full of dumb rednecks, right?

Yeah, I don’t know about you, but simply put, you can’t be stupid and put these race cars together. Perhaps if people made themselves more aware of what actually went into building these cars, and engines, they would hesitate before making such asinine comments.

When you’re dealing with trying to find one extra horsepower, or gain one tenth of a second in a lap, even the most minuscule edge can make a drastic difference. Stupid people aren’t the ones working with the aerodynamics of the body of the car spending hour upon hour in the wind tunnel seeking out these slight advantages, and it sure isn’t a collection of stupid people engineering these chassis to find the slightest improvements possible.

Warning, dumb rednecks at work, just throwing some junk together, right?

Another thought, in regards to these “dumb rednecks”, has anyone tried calculating your fuel mileage without the aid of a gas gauge? And when I say calculate fuel mileage I don’t mean stop and fill up every time you think you might be halfway empty, I’m talking calculating it to the very last drop of fuel without the aid of any type of gauge. Yeah, just “some dumb rednecks” at work, clearly.

Beyond that, these “dumb rednecks” sure have managed to find their way into the white collar Fortune 500 companies of the world as well. Somehow these uneducated hillbillies managed to somehow turn their little sport into the largest spectator sport in the country while raking in one of the more lucrative television deals in sports. Stupid rednecks, clearly, no business sense whatsoever either.

That of course leads me to baseball, another favorite of others to ridicule and pick at.

You get it all with baseball too. You hear that these guys aren’t athletes.

Okay, granted, there are a few on the diamond who don’t appear to be overly athletic. However, if you think hitting a baseball 400 feet is simply the matter of luck thanks to good hand and eye coordination, you try taking some 150 pound string bean to the ballpark and see how many he hits out of the yard. I don’t care if his swing is the most perfect, beautiful, technically sound swing in the history of the game, the ball isn’t leaving the yard.

Many will contend that sprinting is a more difficult, and more physically taxing exercise than distance running. Yes, distance running requires more stamina, but when it comes to physical exertion, effort, and strain, short sprints are more demanding of the body.

No, baseball players do not run a 5k out there, and no, they don’t cover 80 yards at time. But they do run, well, if they’re good enough to get on base, several short sprints over the course of a game, short sprints where they are going absolutely as fast as they physically are capable of.

No, not every situation where a runner is running the bases are they at full speed, but it isn’t like these guys simply get to walk everywhere they go. Much like people will say starting a car and driving short distances is ultimately bad on an engine, so to is starting and stopping the human body in this fashion.

And I’ll be damned if people can call quarterbacks athletes, but try to pretend that pitchers aren’t. The overhand throwing of a baseball is not a natural act. It’s a series of unnatural movements with the shoulder and elbow that causes a great deal of strain on the joints and ligaments.

Again, it goes back to that question, can the typical layperson do this? No, absolutely not. I’d like to think most people are aware that they cannot accurately throw a baseball 90 mph into a small designated target area time and time again. Nor can they make a baseball move inches, if not feet at a time at a high rate of speed while still hitting the desired target.

Let alone can they do this 90 to 125 times in one afternoon (non maximum effort warm up pitches aside), and then do it again 5 days later.

But of course, we wouldn’t want something like that to obscure their belief that baseball players aren’t athletes.

Sure, baseball is indeed largely putting to use great hand/eye coordination, there is no disputing that. But ultimately, what more is shooting a basketball, or a hockey puck, or catching a football, or striking a tennis ball than hand/eye coordination?

In order for the hand/eye coordination part of the game to work, one must first put themselves in position to make use of these skills. Last I checked, not every ball hit is hit right at someone on the baseball field, generally speaking, there involves a quick reflex, and some sort of athletic ability to put one in position to catch a batted ball. They aren’t magnetically drawn to a fielder’s glove.

We're all capable of doing this, right?

Beyond the physical side of a sport, you hear it all the time, in every sport, even the ones that apparently are “more of a sport” than others, 90% of the game is mental. So if 90% of the game is mental, then how important really is the 10% of it that’s physical when it comes to determining what is and is not a sport?

Take baseball, it’s as pressure filled and mentally demanding as any sport there is (though I would argue when it comes to the mental aspect, golf and driving a racecar are atop the list). In basketball if you fail to block out, or don’t properly set a screen, it’s likely masked by the other action on the court. If you miss a jump shot, or a free throw, it’s just simply part of the game. In football, a missed assignment usually only gets noticed by those select few with keen eyes, and/or in the meeting room the following week.

In baseball, all eyes, at all times, are on the people involved in the play at hand, and nobody else. You can’t mask a mistake in baseball. It’s the ultimate one on one battle, and the ultimate version of self-competition.

The pitcher versus hitter duel is one of the greatest things about sports. You can’t get much more direct, one on one competition than that. A refusal to see, and understand this can only be due to one simply not wanting to accept it.

As mano a mano as it gets

When a ball is hit, at this point, it’s competition with one’s self. You have to make the play. If you don’t, the whole world sees it, they see your mistake (ask Brooks Conrad how that feels). It’s about being perfect in what you do. Each play in a baseball game is about an individual doing their job to the best of their abilities, each and every opportunity, with little room for error.

Each time the onus is placed upon one individual at a time, all of it. But I wouldn’t call that pressure, not at all. There’s nothing mentally draining or taxing involved there at all, right? Again, ask Brooks Conrad. Ask Mark Wohlers.

Obviously, baseball has no business claiming itself as a sport, none whatsoever.

And soccer, well I refuse to address soccer, because anyone who can sit with a straight face and argue that soccer isn’t a sport, or is simply a sport for sissies, is someone I really no longer have much desire to converse with.

Now one can absolutely argue that either of these sports is boring. While I would vehemently disagree with that statement, it comes down to a matter of preference. I could go on and on further about why each of these sports is indeed anything but boring, but that’s not really relevant.

Then again, the question itself of what is and isn’t a sport, ultimately is irrelevant, isn’t it? In the vast majority of cases a “sport” is played or watched for the entertainment value in it. It is watched in order to provide entertainment for the viewer.

Obviously this isn’t aimed at everyone who simply doesn’t like NASCAR or baseball. Just as foolish as it is to insult others, or insinuate a lack of intelligence, or lack of taste in their choice of entertainment for enjoying one of these sports, it’s equally as foolish to demean someone for not liking them as well.

However, there is a big difference in simply not enjoying something and acting as though those that do are somehow less intelligent, or inferior in any way because they do.

Just who the hell is anyone to tell anyone else what is appropriate, or acceptable, or “good enough” forms of entertainment? We don’t all like the same music and movies, do we ? (Granted, just as there are the “sports snobs” of the world, Lord knows there are “music snobs” and “movie snobs” too, so perhaps not the best way to illustrate my point). We don’t all like the same food, or read the same magazines, or like the same clothes?

As with most things, it ultimately does indeed come down to a matter of respect, and quite frankly, too many people simply refuse to accept and respect the opinions of others. When given a chance to feel superior to another individual, one will take it, in a hurry.

When it comes to liking baseball or NASCAR, apparently that’s the green light for others to jump on their pedestal and look down upon someone.

You know what I’ll gladly let you do that. I can’t really hear you over the roar of the engines, nor will I let your ignorant rants bother me while enjoying a beautiful day outside at the ballpark.

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3 Comments

Filed under Baseball, NASCAR, Personal, Sports

3 responses to “Just What Is A “Real” Sport?

  1. Great post. I have heard every single one of those insults towards baseball and NASCAR.

  2. Pingback: W3: Second Draft | Dueck UW1020 Fall 2013

  3. Pingback: W3: Final Draft | Dueck UW1020 Fall 2013

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