BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
There aren't too many light-hearted debates in sports that I like, but one of my favorites resurfaced when second-year Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate rekindled one that I encountered 10 years ago.
In 2001, former Detroit Lion Mark Carrier and I had a candid discussion at an Arizona Cardinals football game at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, AZ about whether Auto Racers are athletes. Carrier didn't think so and I agreed with him. As a 10-year safety in the NFL, Carrier handed out some hard hits to any receiver that ventured in his territory.
But for several weeks afterwards, I raised this question to My Co-Hosts, Mark Allen, Gary Miller and Mary Beth on our weekly Auto Racing Show "Weekly Wheels" in Phoenix, AZ. Miller understood my position while Allen and Beth leaned the other way, but respected my viewpoint.
Tate tweeted to NASCAR's Jimmy Johnson that he felt drivers weren't athletes. He made reference to ESPN's ESPY Awards that Johnson was nominated for Male Athlete Of The Year. This infuriated NASCAR Nation.
Tate by no means didn't appear to be taking any shots at Johnson and said it was no big deal to drive 90 MPH. He did backpedal and admitted that he couldn't drive a car at 150 MPH, Motor Sports are dangerous and would make him nervous.
Johnson handled the situation with class that drivers don't get the respect of the other major sports. The five-time NASCAR champion invited Tate to attend a race. Time will tell whether Tate accepts the invitation.
But if it isn't Tate, you can rest assure another athlete will make these comments.
Athletes in all major sports are taller, weigh more and figure to have a difficult time trying to climb into a race car. The same would hold true if they wanted to be jockey's and get involved in Horse Racing. Picture a seven foot, 270 pound NBA center riding a horse around the famous Churchill Downs, Home of the Kentucky Derby.
I'd like to see Shaquille O' Neill, 7-1, 325 pounds, drive at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at speeds of over 200 mph. It would be a great photo but Shaquille would be completely boxed in and it would be an event to see him get out of the car.
The bottom line is to this day, I still believe that drivers or jockeys aren't athletes!! The automobile and the horses do the work!!
Yet in Auto Racing, to be in a hot car that requires an insulated suit to cool the drivers and protect them from fires, have proper conditioning to steer a car at high speeds for a specific amount of hours and escape dangerous crashes, requires proper conditioning & training.
I know athletes in other sports realize the risks and dangers of Auto Racing. But all sports have their physical and mental demands.
I also respect the opinion of Football and Hockey Players because their sports are extremely physical. The average football career last 4-5 years while hockey's checking and fights result in serious injuries as both sports face serious concussion issues.
No matter how many athletes speak-up, the drivers always seem to take it in stride.
Furthermore, I've seen these athletes show-up at Motor Sports Events during their off-seasons, while others actually try to form their own race teams because the competitive nature yearns inside after their careers are over. So there is that mutual respect from all of the major sports.
But I'm looking forward to the next person that writes or talks to me about this subject and will for years to come. My position still won't change!!
Scott Morganroth can be reached at email@example.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.
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