Friday, June 20, 2008

What Is A Sport?

So this is a really big, and possibly unanswerable topic, but I've had this conversation with many people and I still don't know what the answer is. What is a sport and what is not a sport?

Here are sports I won't even debate: Football, basketball, baseball, soccer, hockey, lacrosse, wrestling (not WWE), volleyball, gymnastics, and rugby. Those are all sports. They all have competition, athleticism, and take a massive amount of training to be great at.

I'm assuming we can agree that all Olympic sports are also sports. Swimming, diving, track, boxing, etc. I suppose we also have to give the "sport" label to figure skating being that it takes quite a bit of athletic skill to pull off those routines.

I'd say the main games that come into question are: golf, bowling, pool, horse racing, auto racing, and poker. I'm sure there are more, but let's start with those.

Golf ends up being the most controversial one of the bunch because so many people who play the game understand that it takes physical endurance, practice, and extreme concentration. Unfortunately, those same people who say golf is a sport would argue that pool is not a sport. The two are more similar that one might think. Both use hand eye coordination to hit a stick to a ball making the ball go to a desirable spot. The biggest difference is that there is far more walking in golf. But what about if a golfer gets a golf cart? Does golf go from sport to game at that moment?

How about bowling? You are physically throwing a ball at inanimate pins. The game never changes. It's the equivalent of shooting free throws instead of playing basketball. However, it is a physical skill that takes a lot of practice to master. It is a scored game that can be extremely competitive. It can also take a lot of strength to heave the larger balls down the alley.

Horse racing? Is that a sport? It certainly shows up on ESPN enough to make the argument. But who is it a sport for? The jockeys? The horses? Are the horses consciously competitive with the other horses? Do they specifically know where the finish line is? If they did, would they even need jockeys?

Auto racing? I have no idea how strenuous it is to race a car, but I can imagine that it takes quite a bit of endurance. But does that make it a sport? I have no idea. I definitely don't enjoy NASCAR as much as regular sports, but it is quite popular these days, so I know there are some people out there who will argue that it is a sport.

And lastly, Poker. I love playing it, but I don't think I can truly say it is a sport. It takes A LOT of concentration and can be awfully tiring. But there is no physical skill- or is there? Is it a physical skill to maintain your body's actions as to not give away tells?

I guess I'm saying I don't really know the gold standard judge of what is or is not a sport. I know there's quite a bit of gray area in there. I will say this, it is entirely possible to be an athlete and play a game. If we assumed that golf wasn't a sport, I would still say that Tiger Woods is a great athlete. I think he could probably play many other sports and naturally excel.

So in the interest of not being lame, here's my guess if I had to say SPORT or NOT A SPORT.

Golf: SPORT
Pool: NOT A SPORT
Bowling: SPORT
Auto Racing: NOT A SPORT
Poker: NOT A SPORT
Horse Racing: NOT A SPORT
Darts: NOT A SPORT

Let me know if I'm right, wrong, or if I missed any.

1 comment:

GMoney said...

I agree with you on all of those.