Tate doesn't know winning like Jimmie

July, 15, 2011

LOUDON, N.H. -- I have one quick message for Seattle Seahawks receiver Golden Tate:

If you want a doughnut so much that you sneak into a doughnut shop in the middle of the night after it's closed, you might want to skip questioning Jimmie Johnson's athleticism.

Back to that later, but Tate stirred up a firestorm Thursday when he tweeted comments saying race car drivers are not athletes.

He felt Johnson didn't belong as a nominee in the ESPY category for Best Male Athlete of the Year, which was won by Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki.

"Jimmy Johnson up for best athlete????," Tate tweeted under his Twitter name, Showtime Tate "Um nooo .. Driving a car does not show athleticism."

First, Golden, be glad they don't have an ESPY for spelling. It's Jimmie, not Jimmy.

Johnson handled the situation with his usual class when asked about Tate on Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, saying he didn't know who Tate was until Thursday.

"But I'd like to show him around and see if we can show him what our sport is about and change his mind," Johnson said. "There might be other athletes out there who think the same and they're all welcome to come out. We'd all love to host them and show them around.

"I have no hard feelings. Everybody has an opinion. I don't like it when people express their opinion without knowing. So if he comes out and has a different opinion if he attends a race, that's fine"

NASCAR's Twitter nation was outraged and lit into Tate on Thursday, but he kept going.

"I've driven a car on unknown roads at night at 90 mph,'' he tweeted. "No big deal. No sign of athleticism. Guarantee [Johnson] couldn't in million year play any SPORT."

But Tate, a former Notre Dame star and a second-round pick by the Seahawks last year, is convinced he could drive a race car.

"Give me 6 months of training and I bet I could compete," he tweeted.

I'll take that bet Golden. And by the way, as someone who lives in the Seattle area, you didn't exactly set the world on fire as a Seahawks rookie last year -- 21 catches and no touchdowns.

Hey, doughnuts come first, right Golden?

Last summer, police were called to Top Pot Doughnuts shop in Bellevue, Wash., at 3 a.m. after two men were found entering the store after hours.

It seems Tate and a friend couldn't resist the aroma of freshly baked maple bars. Waiting four hours for the store to open apparently didn't cross their minds.

No word on whether Johnson likes doughnuts, but the man is in pretty good shape.

"I would challenge anyone to compete with Jimmie," said NASCAR driver Carl Edwards, whose washboard stomach was shown on the cover of ESPN The Magazine two years ago. "There are people in this garage who are very good athletes.

Edwards said he found Tate's tweets "hilarious" and added, "Until you've tried [racing], I think it's extremely arrogant to knock it."

But it's the age-old question. Are race car drivers athletes?

"I guess I was impersonating an athlete at the ESPYs," Johnson said, chuckling. "As race car drivers, this is something we have fought all along. It wasn't anything new. I didn't take great offense to it."

Who knows? Maybe one day soon Tate will ask Johnson to share a maple bar. Just be sure the "Open" sign is lit in the window.

We'll see which "athlete" does his job better this year. I'll bet a box of doughnuts on Johnson.

Terry Blount

ESPN Staff Writer



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