These five men were selected as the five auto racing nominees for ESPN's "Greatest Athlete of All Time." What is really just a time filler for ESPN instead of covering the world of sports has many flaws.
1. It is a topic that should never be brought up. No one will ever truly know who the "Greatest Athlete of All Time" is and it's an opinion filled debate.
2. Putting the "are race car drivers athletes?" aside, the accomplishments do not necessarily make a great "athlete."
Definition from Webster of "Athlete": a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility or stamina.
Nowhere in the definition does it say "must be a champion" or "dominated for years" or "won event X." You can be a great athlete and not necessarily been a champion. I know plenty or people who work ordinary jobs, are avid runners, compete in marathons, are in phenomenal shape and are phenomenal athletes. However they never win. Are they less of an athlete because they did not win? No. Is it safe to say the winner of any competition is clearly the best athlete? No it is not. When it comes to competing, many different factors come into play that can exceed however great of an athlete you are.
In racing this has been seen time and time again. Parnelli Jones said on Trackside with Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee last week he still attempts to do around 70 to 80 push ups and crunches every day and has been doing it his whole life. Parnelli's career by the numbers are not as spectacular as others, but the numbers don't always tell the story. Tony Kanaan is an avid cyclist and has competed in Iron Man competitions. James Hunt was an avid tennis and squash player. Ayrton Senna trained like a mad man. Sterling Marlin was an excellent high school football and basketball player. JR Hildebrand played varsity baseball in high school.
Are any of the driver's listed above greater or worst than the five ESPN selected? I don't know and it's a silly quesion to ask. What are we getting out of that? ESPN, instead of wasting time on a mythical competition to ruffle some feathers, why don't you cover the world of sports? There is plenty going on (NHL season started, Africa Cup of Nations, college basketball and hockey, hell cover some auto racing. Doesn't matter if it's sport cars, rally, IndyCar, Formula One, NASCAR in moderation, just cover something).
Who Owns The Rights?
I tweeted the PR man for ESPN's motorsports coverage, Andy Hall and I asked him about the possibility of ESPN3 broadcasting the Iowa heat races.
@4theloveofindy Same for all 6 of our IndyCar races: we only have rights for the races, no practice or qualifying
— Andy Hall (@AndyHallESPN) January 24, 2013
With that said, I ask IndyCar this: who owns the rights? If nobody owns the rights to practice or qualifying, then why isn't IndyCar getting out there and either selling the rights or showing the sessions by themselves online? Fans WANT to watch these sessions, especially the heat races but the fans are getting robbed. Why? Because nobody owns the rights and nothing is being done.
Online coverage of sports is growing. ESPN3 shows many things one cannot find on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU. NBC Sports Net has to get on the same page as ESPN's online coverage if they want to compete and seeing as how their new deal with the English Premier League starting this August says all EPL matches will be available between NBC, NBC Sports Net or streaming online, that could be around the corner. But NBC Sports has to include all of their other properties online as well. IndyCar, NHL, MLS, etc. Online coverage is a new extension of television and expanding TV packages to include online rights is the smartest thing for NBC and all their properties to do.
How about this: IndyCar, I will buy the rights, because as of now they are just being wasted.