I’m not much one for arguments, but I do like to obsessively pick apart things that don’t really deserve a lot of attention. It’s the problem I have with disproportionate response: the sillier something is, the more emotionally invested I get. Example: there was a stretch of time where neither my wife nor I could discuss the topic of “What is a Fruit and What is a Vegetable?” without it getting really ugly. I’ve also had to look long and hard at friendships I’ve spent years building due to slight disagreements about the necessity of an Oxford Comma (which you will pry from my cold, dead hand), or whether or not you’re still supposed to put two space marks after the period now that everyone uses the computer (which I just can’t break the habit of…some things are just too ingrained).
That being said, there’s something I’ve always wanted to address, but haven’t. I haven’t because I don’t even know how much I care, but on the other hand, I have a feeling that it’s really going to touch an ugly nerve in a lot of people.
In other words, it’s perfect. And it’s the question of whether or not something should be considered a “sport.”
It is interesting to me how some people get very upset when you point out that something they enjoy watching or something they enjoy partaking in isn’t really a sport. Not being a sport doesn’t make the thing they like to do stupid…it’s just that, well, it’s not a sport. So it’s time to get pedantic.
Here are some quantifiable points that should exist when we talk about such distinctions.
Sports: Have offensive and defensive components on each team, playing at the same time against each other.
Have some sort of difficult physical aspect usually attained by practice
Uses a point system to track the success of one team over another
Is when I say it’s a sport (can be used to overrule even if all 3 other categories are filled).
There. That wasn’t so hard. So let’s take a look at some real-time examples.
Football is a good place to start. Football is a sport. Each team plays offense and defense, the sport has physically demanding elements like tackling, blocking, throwing, and catching, and utilizes a point system. Most importantly, I call it a sport.
On the other hand, there are activities people keep trying to say are sports, but don’t hold up to the rigorous set of attributes set up. Golf, for example. Golf is not a sport. Sure, there are some physical attributes, but walking and swinging a stick doesn’t cut it. Also: no defense. Until you can start running like a banshee over the links and swat someone else’s ball away, Golf is ostensibly the same game whether you play it by yourself or against someone else. Golf is an activity, not a sport—an important distinction.
Falling along this same line of distinction is bowling. Sure it takes a tremendous amount of skill and practice to be good at bowling, but skill and practice at something does not make it a sport. If it did, then my ability to be able to control my “movements” until I get back to my own restroom, no matter how long that might be, would be considered a sport. Effort itself does not a sport make. (Or should that be, “Sport make effort, itself does not.” Now I don’t know if I’m Yoda or a caveman.)
Swimming, running, most of the track and field events aren’t sports. These too are athletic activities. The long jump? Please. Hurdles? Shotput? Discus? Pole vault? Honestly: these are more or less old-timey training plans for how to rob a bank while “Yakity Sax” plays in the background. Although I think I would grandfather some of them in at this point since they’ve been around so long. Also, I don’t like disparaging Ethiopians and the things they’re good at, because they’ve been though enough. I mean, that whole famine thing in the 80s sucked. I’m sure more has happened over there since then, but still. Famine. So we’ll let them have this one…it’s the least we can do.
Boxing, of course is up there with wrestling as one of the purest form of sport. Literally one man against another, using fists and legs as weapons. No fancy protective devises or things to enhance your game like football; just pure, brutal assault; facial bones splinting and abdomen muscles rended apart at the hands of what seems like primal and always hungry beast; rivulets of blood glistening in macabre beauty as it flows down a grotesquely disfigured ear, pooling in the depths of a broken collar bone that cannot contain the swelling and distorted mass that has become of your left shoulder. And who can’t feel good about that?
Gymnastics is another arena (no pun intended) where people have confused “physical activity” with “sport.” Gymnastics are not sports. Again, they don’t fit any of the criteria of what a sport is. There are teams and scores, but just like with golf, the game isn’t any different if there is an opponent there or not. It takes a tremendous and mind-boggling amount of physical control, but again: not really a sport. And, just like running, swimming, and skiing, you can place higher and lower in competition, but that just means it’s a “game,” not a “sport.”
I think what gets me most about people bandying the word “sport” around isn’t because I’m super bothered with things like bowling or running being called a sport, but all this new crap ESPN 26 has on, like “EXTREME PLATE-STACKING” or “PRO-SKATE SPORT SHOWDOWN” or “THE MASTERS OF THE SPORT OF PAINTBALLING!” Just leave our words alone. It’s ok that you’re not a sport. Please stop pretending you are. I’m looking right at you, Sport Fishing. Don’t make me come down there.
And no. I won’t be a sport about it.