Has any great athlete gotten as little respect as Jimmy Johnson?

[Not interested in the “race car drivers aren’t athletes” debate. Start your own thread on that if you like.]

Today, he became the first NASCAR driver to win 4 straight (top division) driver championships. But I get the sense that he still doesn’t have a huge following by NASCAR fans, the press doesn’t seem to worship him much, when they give him any attention at all, and his public persona is rather undistinguished & unspectacular (nothing against introverts mind, being one myself). For someone who has completely dominated his sport for four straight years, you’d think he’d be more famous and such. Even here, after a search I found more posts on an Eagles player with the same name than I did him, which means this board is as indifferent to his accomplishments as almost everybody else.

I think “sports figure” or “competitor” would have been a better choice than “athlete” but I will respect your OP.

I think you answered many of your own questions.

I dont think too many racing fans discount Jimmie Johnson as a fine race car driver, and a tip of the hat to his remarkable achievement, but here are a few things working against him:

  1. Like you said, he’s bland and colorless. He is too clean cut, and doesn’t draw the same following as Tony Stewart or Dale Junior.

  2. Chad Knaus cheating scandal from I think 3-4 years ago. Fair or not, in the back of many NASCAR fans, they wonder: did Jimmie cheat to win those titles?

  3. Building on #1, NASCAR has suffered from a remarkable decline of popularity in the past 4-5 years. Sadly, the Jimmie Johnson era might be mentioned in the same breath in years to come with that decline.

Jimmie Johnson to me is the San Antonio Spurs of NASCAR: 4 titles, but outside of his balliwick, no one cares.

I am not a JJ fan, but I will admit he is about as good of a driver as you are going to see. He does have a lot of factors working against him in popularity though.

1- he shows no personality on the track, with the exception of being happy to win and fairly gracious when he doesn’t. From all accounts he is a great guy with a good sense of humor… but I think people have a hard time relating to him because he does not have a dark side that he shows.

2- He is a California guy in a sport that thrives in the south and midwest. He was also an off-road and motocross guy before stock cars, a non-traditional upbringing for NASCAR.

3- NASCAR is in significant decline in popularity right now- partially due to its own management discouraging drivers from showing any personality. JJ is the poster child for this.

Another reason might be that he is part of a dominating team, so he might suffer from the “system quarterback” bias, i.e. the quarterback who doesn’t get respect because it is percieved he is more a product of the system he plays in. Not saying it is fair, but I think it is a factor.

I agree. After 4 years of dominance, people still can’t spell his name correctly!:smiley:

Isn’t he highly rated with fans of the sport? What else should he have ?

I don’t know why he doesn’t get noticed outside of racing, but I do know why I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to him. As a Ford driver and a fan of Ford products, I only really care about the Ford teams. Obviously, since I watch the races, I’m familiar with all of the makes and drivers that go along with them, but at the track you can focus on what you want. I like people like Mark Martin and Jeff Burton and if they have a good year, then good for them, but if not, oh well, they aren’t in a Ford. In the last few years, NASCAR has tried to make the drivers the focus of the sport and not the car manufacturers. Now that all of the cars look and run exactly the same, there’s no manufacturer rivalry between the fans. That ruined the fun for a lot of people like my dad. He probably only watches half of the races now and usually only part of those. In a lot of people’s eye Johnson is the poster child of NASCAR’s decline.

Having the same name as a well-known former football coach probably doesn’t help things.

Didn’t he use to be the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys?

Seriously, I had never heard of him until I heard some ESPN/ABC promos this weekend. NASCAR is not on my radar screen. I guess that confirms the OP’s hypothesis.

Nacar definately has some colorful characters. Unfortunately he’s not one of them along with Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch (other recent winners). Very vanilla guys with little emotion. Nobody likes em and nobody hates em.
Especially when you have the other characters out there making noise:
-Fence climbing Tony Stewart
-Backfilpping Carl Edwards
-Son of the legend Earnhardt Jr.
-Legend Mark Martin
-Ex-Indy foreigner Montoya
-Punk-ass Kyle Busch
-Golden boy Jeff Gordon

Johnson’s wins are very methodical and business like. Not a lot of thrills to go along with them.

Matt Kenseth has a very dry sense of humor and is funny to listen to. Kurt Busch has a mouth on him that would result in a black eye if I was his crew chief. There’s videos on YouTube to listen to KB, NSFW obviously.

When I had only read to this point, I was fully prepared to call this one of the dumbest posts I’d ever read in the SDMB, and that’s saying something. But then I see that you’re aware of the fact that the cars are 100% the same from make to make and that the Ford Fusion CoT is no more a Ford than your average Deuce Coupe replica. So may I ask you (to satisfy my own genuine curiosity and maybe others’ as well), why is the “manufacturer” still so important to you and others? Is it just something to make it more interesting for yourself, or just a vestige of the days when you watched noticeably different cars, or what?
If it helps, I should mention that I also like NASCAR (Tony Stewart fan) and hate the fact that they aren’t stock cars in any sense of the word anymore. It’s a big reason why I don’t watch as much as I used to. The focus on drivers is great, but I don’t see why that should be exclusive from the rivalry between car manufacturers.

It was the cheating scandal that did it for me…not just exploiting a grey area or bending the rules a little, but a deliberate, hidden all-out cheat.
I always wonder if there’s something they haven’t been caught at yet.

OK, but please don’t use argumentative terms such as referring to race car drivers as athletes unless you want an argument about that. :smiley:

Semantics shemantics.

I can’t asnwer for him, but to me, the big draw of any race (and any sport at all) are the tactical and strategic chocies each team or competitor makes. WHile I’m not a big Nascar fan and never was, racing is as much about what modifications and techniques you use to put your vehicle as it is about the driver. Having identical cars just makes things bland. In theory, it should make the races all about driver skill, but in fact it cuts out a lot of the skill factor. Much of the advantage and strategy comes from having just the right balance of car and driver attributes working together in the right racetrack.

And I dunno why Nascar is pushing down. Compared to some of the more physical sports out there, the drivers in Nascar are saints.

The manufacturer part is important to me because I started watching when the cars actually had to fit the template of the production car and even use the stock hood, roof, and decklid. The change was so gradual that I can’t even pinpoint when they stopped doing that. I guess the common templates era would be a good place to start, but the “bubble window” Monte Carlos, rear wheel drive Luminas, two-door Tauruses slowly led to where it is today.

I would love to see a return to stock dimension bodies, but I don’t think it will ever happen. Another series could try to race NASCAR-style frames with real bodies, but since NASCAR owns most of the tracks, it probably wouldn’t work out very well. The new Nationwide cars look pretty good, even though they are mostly common template cars too.

The current Ford engine is about the only thing you could call stock anymore and it’s on its way out as more teams use the new engine next year.

Don’t know about him not getting respect from writers. The ones on espn.com: McGee, Hinton, Blount… slobber all over him. But one them them (Blount, I think) pointed out he ranked about 11th in public “!Q” factor (awareness of him), below Dale Jarrett (Retired) AND Kyle Petty who is both retired (from NASCAR) and never got close to winning anything (finished eigth one year and amazingly enough would have been champion if they were using the idiotic playoff “Chase” they have now). But the espn model nowadays is the loud, brassy,vulgar “attitude” guy and JJ ain’t it.

It’s not a respect thing - admittedly I am not a NASCAR person, but most people I know respect JJ. But the Spurs analogy earlier is very apt - JJ reminds me a lot of Tim Duncan. Everyone who knows Duncan personally describes him as a fun, likable guy with a dry wit, and enjoys hanging out with him. And he is the greatest PF in the history of the NBA(much like JJ is the best driver). But somehow that doesn’t translate to off-court charisma.