Jimmie Johnson Is “AP – Athlete Of The Year”

December 22, 2009 |

A week ago, I sat in the WNST studios with Glenn Clark and discussed the public appeal of NASCAR Champion, Jimmie Johnson.

As most sports fans know, Johnson secured an unprecedented 4th consecutive NASCAR Championship, in November. In summation of the achievement, Glenn ranked it #25 – in his “Top 25 Sports Moments Of The Year.”

At first, I wholeheartedly dissented with Glenn’s decision. However, as we talked, on-air, about his rationale and criteria, I began to see his point. Glenn wasn’t citing his personal impression of Jimmie Johnson’s resume’. Instead, he was merely looking at the relevance of a 4th Championship in the current climate of our sports culture.

I get THAT – and I think he’s right ….. to a point.

Jimmie Johnson’s 4th consecutive title wasn’t a big splash on the map of “Compelling Sports Drama,” for 2009. And, I probably would’ve ranked the 25 events a little differently. But, in spirit, Glenn hit the nail.

NASCAR must find a way to stop pitting it’s “Race For The Chase” events against the NFL, on Sunday afternoons. The good ‘ole boys are getting their asses handed back to them and it’s making achievements like Johnson’s far less valid.

That said, I do think Jimmie Johnson is deserving of personal recognition for an accomplishment we’re never likely to see, again. While I would not vote for him, as “Athlete Of The Year,” I absolutely believe he’s deserving.

Before I go any further, this will not be 2,331 words dedicated to proving “NASCAR Drivers Are Athletes.” It’s a futile argument – everyone has their own personal opinion on the composition of an athlete and nobody is wrong.

That’s the magic of sports …..

If you don’t think auto racing is a sport, good for you. Conversely, if you think it is a sport, I respect your opinion equally as much. But, you’ve gotta merit some background and insight into NASCAR (or IRL, Formula One, etc.) to really have an informed conclusion about it.

Glenn Clark has been to NASCAR races. His opinions are informed …..

Whereas, the Ken Weinman’s of the world don’t really have the credibility to make a qualified, educated assessment – especially when it’s disparaging.

How many NASCAR events has Ken attended? Has he ever looked inside Jeff Gordon’s machine? Has he chatted with Tony Stewart, immediately after the controversial star has climbed from a seat and 500 miles of jockeying his life in the balance? Has he observed, in person, 40-some cars threatening 200 miles per hour, while inches apart?

Or when things go horribly wrong – once again, by inches …..

Not exactly “695 in a lawn chair,” huh, Ken?

Personalities, such as Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will never have the physical characteristics or bodies of a guy like Ray Lewis. But, they absolutely have as much GUTS and DETERMINATION as the Ravens linebacker.

And, with a distinct few exceptions, NASCAR’s competitors are beyond physically fit, while displaying the physical characteristics demanded of a modern day, pro athlete.

Why do they maintain such prime fitness? For the hell of it? NO !!!! The typical NASCAR driver has evolved into an impressive physical specimen, with the discipline and fortitude demanded of the world’s greatest athletes.

In reality, the definition of SPORT and ATHLETE are very subjective. It’s really up to the respective fan. So long as NASCAR continues in a “stable and profitable” arena, the opinions of critics won’t really matter.

NASCAR also continues to enjoy mainstream success, which adds to the sport’s credibility with the American audience. It’s competitors rub elbows with celebrity types, at and away from racetracks …..

Personally, I would’nt vote for Jimmie Johnson as the “Athlete Of The Year.” However, my difference isn’t based on his prowess as an athlete. I simply feel better choices existed, and I would’ve selected these guys ahead of him …..

Nevertheless, Jimmie Johnson is a fine ambassador for NASCAR. He promotes the good image demanded by the sport and it’s endorsers. He’s humble – while never forgetting to include his TEAM in any formal recognition.

I think Jimmie Johnson is a benefactor of numerous good situations. But, he makes the most of opportunities, while displaying the relentless ambitions of a champion. He’s a freakin’ winner and that’s undeniable.

Athlete? You bet …..