Here's a headline that gave me a good guffaw, perhaps you read this too, and it also caused you to raise an eyebrow. Jimmie Johnson was just named the Associated Press male athlete of the year for 2009. Really? ... Really? For those of you who might not recognize the name, Jimmie drives the #48 Lowe's-Chicken Hut-Cow Flop-STP Chevrolet stock car in the NASCAR driving circuit. My friends, as I see things, sitting in a car driving in circles for several hours qualifies nobody, and I mean nobody, as an athlete. Now I can hear the full force outcry of the NASCAR redneck army out there, screaming in unison: "It takes a lot of stamina and training and skill to drive for 500 miles and go nowhere." I do not dispute that for a moment.
Let's take this a step further. I have even heard of folks who partake in those ridiculous and gluttonous and wasteful eating competitions refer to themselves as athletes. Just because you can choke down 20 frankfurters in 68 seconds before you begin projectile barfing, means only that you are an idiot. How far will people take things? Under these liberal applications of the notion of "athlete", we should just throw this term at the pasty white geeks who play their video game systems for hours on end without stopping even to pee, or at folks who sit at their desks all day in a boring job without falling asleep (that too takes training), or at the poor saps who sit in their living rooms actually watching those NASCAR events or food eating contents (that too takes a heck of a lot of effort).
So, let me make this perfectly clear (I'm now channeling Richard Milhous Nixon), unless you are involved in a recognized sport (baseball, football, track and field, basketball, and I'm even willing to include competitive badminton), you are not an athlete. If your recreation time involved exclusively making left-hand turns in a car, or sitting above a hole in a frozen pond drinking beer, or belching the alphabet with your buddies, whether or not there are people paying to see your efforts, you do not fit into any sensible definition of a jock.