Thursday, January 14, 2010

SceneDaily: "Chad Knaus is no Mark McGwire"

From Scene Daily:
Mark McGwire’s less-than-stunning admission that he used steroids will surely reinvigorate the debate about the validity of his career statistics and records.
While there is no direct correlation to NASCAR when it comes to assigning an asterisk next to the accomplishments of drivers or teams, allegations of cheating will surely persist even with the new car and its reduction of gray areas.
Simply put: Enhancing one’s performance in NASCAR is best accomplished by mechanical means. After Jimmie Johnson won his third straight Cup title in 2008, and while sitting across from Chad Knaus in his office at Hendrick Motorsports, the topic of cheating was raised.
Knaus thumbed through a NASCAR tech bulletin and said he’d never done “X” when the sanctioning body decreed that “X” was illegal.
“I don’t have one regret whatsoever. Nothing,” Knaus said on that day late in 2008. “We’ve pushed the limits on a lot of things, and you have to. We’ve got I don’t know how many rules in the rulebook just because of things that we’ve done. Hell, I like that. That’s good. I think that that is what it’s supposed to be.”

The public perception of Knaus as a cheater may persist because of high-profile suspensions and fines he was hit with by NASCAR in 2006 and 2007. But he is not one to worry about that label outside of the garage area.
“No. Because ultimately the people that know what we do for a living know that I’ve really not done anything wrong,” he said.
Clearly, McGwire could never say the same.
Even though I agree with the author, I'm not sure why this needed to be stated again just because the McGwire thing came up (other than because we've hit rock bottom of the off-season and don't have anything else to write about, which I understand, hehe).

The only thing I really have to add to this is that to me, sports like baseball and football are supposed to be a celebration of the natural human physique - it's supposed to show off the height of our strength and abilities as given to us by nature. To take steroids and other performance enhancers is kind of missing the whole point; instead of being a celebration of who we are, it becomes a sort of arms race to see how far away we can get from being ourselves.

That is not to say that arms races don't have their place; what humans have been able to do over the centuries with our increasing level of technology is amazing. I mean, we've been to the moon, for Pete's sake - that's pretty rad! And that was 40 years ago! Therefore, it's only right to celebrate our technological advances, too, and that's where NASCAR comes in.

The whole point of technology over the span of history has been to one-up our previous achievements - from the wheel to the wagon to the train to the car to the rocket ship - so sports like NASCAR and Formula 1 are built on this foundation of wanting to take everything to the next level. Our imaginations (and the rules book, hehe) are our only limits, so it just seems natural to me to want to take something as far as it will absolutely go.

Of course there have to be rules governing races for practical reasons (unless they're destruction derbies), but the very nature of the sport makes us have to push the envelope out of necessity. If you're not testing the outer limits, you're not winning, and I think that's how it should be. Chad Knaus is the master of that. It's his job to make sure that car goes as fast as it can, and by God, he does. If that includes trying something in new territory that hasn't even been thought about before, and therefore isn't covered by the rule book, well, it'd be kind of dumb NOT to try it, don't you think? Anyway, the point is, Mark McGwire can only go so far before he just can't hit that ball any harder, but there's no end to what Chad Knaus can do with a car. Our bodies have finite limits, but our imaginations can take us anywhere with only self-imposed boundaries. That's how I see it, anyway, so the two are operating on completely different philosophies. (Did anybody actually read to the end of this? Well, I got it out of my system, anyway!)

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