On Sunday, Brad Keselowski won in Pocono with a fractured ankle. And, naturally, that brought up the tired old question of whether drivers are really athletes. They couldn't be, could they? Not if you can win on a broken ankle! Or so say our pals at Deadspin.
Now, we love Deadspin; I've written posts for them and some of their past and present writers are among the very best in our business. But every so often their cooler-than-thou approach backfires, as with today's "In Which Sport Can You Win Despite This Grotesquely Swollen Ankle?"
The first line of the story is "None. But you can win in NASCAR ... " (Ha! See what they did there?) And then writer Barry Petchesky draws exactly the wrong conclusion:
A Speed.com recap puts Keselowski's feat up there with Willis Reed and Kerri Strug, people who actually had to do athletic things on their gimpy limbs. Not to take anything away from Keselowki — teammate Kurt Busch nailed it when he called it "an ironman-type day" — but having to regularly press down with a sore body part isn't exactly the same thing.
True, it's not the same thing -- it's tougher. (It's also a lot more than just "pressing down with a sore body part.") Kerri Strug? One stuck landing and done. Willis Reed? His entrance, while injured, into the 1970 NBA finals was inspiring and all, but like pretty much every single sports story out of New York, mythology trumps reality: he played 27 minutes, pulled down just three rebounds and scored a mere four points on five shots ... all, lest we forget, as part of a five-man team. Make Strug do another thirty vaults, keep Reed on the floor for another couple hours (no timeouts), and then you're getting into Keselowski territory.
(Petchesky's right in pointing out that what Keselowski did doesn't exactly warrant a "profile in courage" headline. This is a regular-season race, after all. But had this happened in the Daytona 500, or to win a Sprint Cup? Hell yes, it'd be one of the great sports moments in history.)
Yes, yes, we know, what's so hard about driving in NASCAR? It's just driving! Everybody can do that! The car does all the work! But hey, if you're going to slag NASCAR because Keselowski can win while injured, why stop there? What's so tough about sports where guys can win while sick with the flu ...
... while suffering from broken ribs ...
... or barely able to walk?
See? Oversimplification to prove a point can be fun!
Join me at a race, Barry. Bring Daulerio and Drew, too. Guarantee I'll make a believer out of y'all. Or I'll take you to the infield and give you story material for a month, whichever.