I doubt Jimmie Johnson will ever be benched for "not being in shape."
I've noticed something in recent years. It seems as though, when it comes to the NFL, players can say some pretty stupid things.
I'm not just talking about the current Richie Incognito scandal. It just seems that a lot of these guys have a lapse in judgement or just open their mouths about things they don't know (names Darnell Dockett and Rashard Mendenhall come to mind).
NASCAR is one such topic where some of these guys tend to put their foot in their mouth. Remember the Golden Tate controversy and subsequent Twitter backlash a couple of years back regarding Jimmie Johnson's AP Male Athlete of the Year award?
Ah, yes...to paraphrase perennial jerk Tucker Max: Hilarity ensued. Drivers such as Carl Edwards came to the five-time champion's defense, while Johnson handled it with his usual class, offering Tate the chance to visit a race track and see what goes on for himself. Tate chose to backtrack on his Twitter instead, but should we be surprised?
I'm not going to go the route of saying all NFL players are prima donnas or ignorant of other sports. That would make me a hypocrite, for one. I am well aware that NFL players are as athletic as they come, and, of course, some of them—like former Pro Bowl WR and current VP of marketing for Leavine Family Racing, Terance Mathis—are NASCAR fans.
But the thing is, unless they have a hand in the sport, why should we even care what they say?
Enter retired quarterback Donovan McNabb.
I get that he's a household name. I get that he's a Fox Sports analyst. I get that he was one of the best NFL players in recent memory. What I don't get is why we are asking him for his take on the athleticism of Johnson.
Oh, in case you missed it, following the conclusion of Friday night's Ford 200, McNabb was part of a panel discussing where Johnson ranked in comparison to other athletes. McNabb ranked him behind Tiger Woods and Kobe Bryant, then followed it up by saying that he didn't think Johnson was an athlete because "he sat in a car and drove."
Really, McNabb? You just had to run your mouth, didn't you?
I can't figure out if this was just something designed to troll the fans or instigate some Internet fury, but before too long, #PeopleWhoAreMoreOfAnAthleteThanDonovanMcNabb popped up on Twitter with suggestions from disgraced Toronto mayor Rob Ford to Manti Te'o's "girlfriend." What makes it funny is the fact that McNabb was actually benched during a Redskins practice session in 2010 by coach Mike Shanahan for not "being in shape."
I've heard the argument all my life that NASCAR drivers aren't athletes because they drive cars. You have to take into consideration that this is an argument based in unintentional (or intentional, take your pick) ignorance due to our experiences in civilian cars (in McNabb's case, cars that are too expensive for any normal person to purchase).
But it isn't wise, especially in McNabb's position, to base an argument off assumption rather than personal experience.
NASCAR fans know that a race car is stripped of the creature comforts we as normal people are used to. Nothing to drown out loud noises and fumes, no CD player with Metallica, no soft leather seats sealed with children's tears or whatever they put in those horrendously expensive vehicles NFL personalities drive. It's uncomfortable by civilian standards, so it would take a lot to keep your focus. I commend our drivers on that.
Besides, Johnson is serious about his workouts. Anyone who would get up at 5:30 a.m. to begin extensive fitness training should be taken seriously. He's taken on various forms of strength training and cycling/spin training, and he's currently on a triathlon training regimen in which he averages five days of running, two days of swimming and two or three days of biking.
Yet, when I try to do the same thing, I get winded after one mile of jogging with my wife.
Are race car drivers athletes?
NFL players are as athletic as they come, as I said. No, I don't think all of them have diva attitudes or are bad people. Honestly, I don't think Donovan "Campbell's Chunky Soup Guy" McNabb is a bad guy. Ignorant? Maybe. But all I can say is that Fox Sports 1 (which has actually been a letdown in its NASCAR coverage) should have thought twice about what it asked or to whom it posed the question to if it wanted a relevant opinion on the question (or any question) about Johnson's athleticism.
Meanwhile, for McNabb's part, he should have thought before he spoke to avoid sounding like a fool. NFL players and NASCAR drivers are two different creatures, so unless he's piloted a Sprint Cup car, he should just play it safe and either keep quiet or give a generic answer.
For more opinionated whims, follow me on Twitter: @ThatSheltonGuy