Recently, an ESPN.com countdown, of sorts, was brought to my attention. On April 1, the site celebrated its 20th anniversary with a selection of the top-20 athletes of the last 20 years. I understand that these kinds of lists are completely subjective, but after checking out this list for myself, I kind of had to wonder, what kind of April Fools Day kind of joke was this?
Okay, so maybe that’s an exaggeration. And before I go on, I don’t mean to slight or diminish the accomplishments of any of the athletes on the list. And I admit, I’m way more familiar with some of these athletes than others, but one thing I’m sure of — shouldn’t Jimmie Johnson have been on this list somewhere? Just saying.
I have several theories regarding the possibilities for the slight.
1.) I’m guessing that this list was compiled by “stick-and-ball” guys, and nothing against “stick-and-ball” guys, but do you ever get the impression that a lot of them don’t take auto racing seriously? I do whenever I watch some of the “talking heads” on various sports talk shows on ESPN and other sports channels.
2.) Sour grapes over losing NASCAR to FOX and NBC? Or maybe the big wigs and ESPN didn’t want NASCAR anymore. I don’t know.
3.) This one is sort of an extension of my first theory, I think, but I decided to list it separately — that whole idea that NASCAR drivers aren’t athletes. Of course, I don’t agree with that, but a lot of people do, including some of those “stick-and-ball” guys.
Now that we have those aforementioned excuses out of the way — and there are probably others, but I’ll stop stop at three — here are the stats that prove Johnson should have been on this top-20 list:
The guy’s a six-time champion, and that’s not because he’s been around forever. We won’t count 2015, because we’re only seven races into the 36-race season. Here’s the math — Johnson’s won six championships in 13 full-time seasons. For those who may have failed basic math classes, that’s a championship in almost half his seasons of competition. Oh, and did I forget to mention that he won five-straight between 2006 and 2010? By the way, these stats come out of what is considered the top form of motorsports in the US.
Food for thought for comparison purposes: The only other two drivers with more Cup championships are NASCAR Hall of Famers and NASCAR legends Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty, each with seven, just one more than Johnson.
Here’s another stat for ya — Johnson’s won 72 races in 478-career stats. That’s not too shabby, either.
I think NASCAR has come a long way the last couple of decades or so in terms of being respected as a “real sport,” but in my opinion, this glaring omission proves that there’s still a ways to go. That’s just my “two cents.”
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