In the public consciousness, sport is normally associated with human-powered activities like football and basketball, whereas those, engaging with human-assisted activities like racing, are not viewed as true athletes as they allegedly do not need great physical effort to achieve success. This tradition derives from Ancient Rome, whereas the major emphasis was placed upon the activities, which demonstrate the perfection of human body, but in the modern world, due to the arrival of new technological novelties, it would be unwise to limit the list. The present paper presents the reasons for which NASCAR drivers can be categorized as athletes.
First of all, it is necessary to provide a definition of a true athlete: athlete is a person who possesses either natural or trained skills, needed to do a particular type of sports on the professional basis, participates in the competitions, observing the rules prescribed, and is able to use the skills they possess in a beneficial way. Thus, there are several key aspects, which characterize an athlete, so they can be used as categorization criteria.
First and foremost, an athlete should engage with a particular type of sports. Thus, it is important to prove that motor racing belongs to the realm of sports; for this purpose, it is necessary to define the term “sport”. “Sport is an activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively. Sports commonly refer to activities where the physical capabilities of the competitor are the sole or primary determined of the outcome (winning or losing), but the term is also used to include activities such as mind sports and motor sports where mental acuity or equipment are major factor” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sport, 2006).
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Furthermore, true athletes should be skilled enough to engage with a specific type of sports. In the present case, they should have dexterity, good at car driving and have sufficient intellectual abilities and the basic knowledge of the physical laws, which rule the process of driving.
Thirdly, the true athlete should be able to use their skills and proficiency in the particular type of sport in the beneficial way, because the utilization of such abilities determines the maintenance of qualification and expertise.
Fourthly, the true athlete participates in the contests in their narrow sports sphere, as competition is an opportunity to look critically at oneself and assess one’s own skills in the proper way. As it has been mentioned, the athlete engages with professional sports, which require certain development and adjustment of one’s skills to the requirements of the present day, which could be achieved only through observing peer performance.
Finally, the true athlete values competitive spirit and thus observes the major rules that regulate the competition, namely those which determine the fair contest.
It is possible to disagree with the aforementioned criteria. For instance, a number of extremely professional athletes, who participate in international competitions, tend to abuse the disciplinary rules and demonstrate aggressive behavior, but in the present case major rules that determine the equality and evenhandedness in the contest are discussed.
These rules normally prohibit artificial measures, taken to temporarily increase one’s strength or dexterity. In addition, it is also possible to criticize the criteria that relates to the beneficial use of one’s skills in sports. In fact, the term “beneficial” doesn’t actually points to making money on the basis of sport activity, in fact, it might include such minor issues as using strength to protect oneself or another person from violent hooligans or utilizing intellectual abilities, developed during the years of chess playing, in mathematics.
Finally one might claim that competition is not necessary for self-development as an athlete, as it is possible to hire a very qualified coach and train without engaging into the interactions with other sportspeople, but according to the aforementioned definition, positive and inspired rivalry is a core of all sports and victory is their purpose.
Applying the first criterion, it is necessary to state that beyond the traditional sports like tennis and gymnastics, there also exist activities, which need more mental capacities and can be also classified as sports. In addition, the NASCAR refers to the activity it promotes and develops (motor racing) as motor sports, and due to the fact that this association is national, it implies the conventional view on sports, approved by the experts in this sphere.
Secondly, NASCAR drivers really possess the necessary skills and abilities – otherwise they wouldn’t have been accepted by the association of the national level. Most of them have been training for many years and using professional race equipment in order to provide continuous growth of their skills.
Thirdly, the individuals, participating in NASCAR races, have managed to make the sport bring them money – this way of using the complex of sport skills can be considered beneficial. Nowadays, the NASCAR drivers are amongst the richest athletes in the country. Turning sports into one’s personal profitable work is a true art, so the NASCAR drivers have succeeded in utilizing their unique talent.
Fourthly, the NASCAR drivers participate in a variety of races amongst which the NEXTEL Cup, the Busch Series and the Truck Series. In order to have an idea about the level of these competitions, it would be useful to read about the NEXTEL, for instance: “The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series is the sport’s highest level of professional competition. It is consequently the most popular and most profitable NASCAR series.
The 2006 NEXTEL season consisted of 36 races over 10 months, with over $4 million in total prize money at stake at each race” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASCAR#NEXTEL_Cup, 2007). This mean, the NASCAR drivers belong to the so-called “high sports”, as they participate in the national competitions.
Finally, the NASCAR drivers observe the principles of fair competition. For instance, they “do not use performance-enhancing drugs” (McCormick, at http://nascar.about.com/od/drivers/a/nascarsteroids.htm, 2007) and tend to support the idea of the spirit of positive rivalry through following the rules of politeness and good tone in the relationships with other participants.
Criticizing this argument, one can state that NASCAR races are not actually a sport, but rather a show with minor elements of competition. In this case, the accents are placed inaptly , as these races are a true competition in all aspects, but the modern mass-media have turned into a show, broadcasted by numerous TV-channels. In reality, the NASCAR is interested in maintaining its reputation and thus deals merely with professional sport rather than amateur shows .
To sum up, the present paper successfully proves that NASCAR drivers are true athletes, as they meet the aforementioned criteria such as skillfulness, obedience to ethical codes, participation in racing and the corresponding competitions and use of their skills in the beneficial way The paper thus illustrates that a true athlete should possess not merely skills, but also high intelligence, ability to negotiate and make career in the field of sports as well as satisfactory inner moral culture.
McCormick, S. “NASCAR Drivers Don’t Use Performance Enhancing Drugs”. 31 July 2007, <http://nascar.about.com/od/drivers/a/nascarsteroids.htm>
Wikipedia. “NASCAR”. 17 July 2007, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASCAR#NEXTEL_Cup>
Wikipedia. “Sport”. 4 October 2006, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sport>
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