Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sports Debate: What is and Isn't a Sport

Somebody get me those all-green baseball unis ASAP
These debates crop up from time to time. The term "sport" is a difficult one to define, and everyone has their own opinions on what does and does not count as a sport. For me, the definition of a sport is similar to the one that defines obscenity: It's hard to explain, but I know it when I see it.

Having said that, here's my attempt to define what constitutes a sport, in order of what I perceive will be least to most controversial. Using bullet points, of course.

At the bottom, you will also find a list of sports and non-sports as defined by me.

Right, let's get into it.

(Disclaimer: Just because I don't define something as a sport doesn't mean I'm degrading it. I just think the term "sport" needs to be more narrowly defined.)

What is required for a sport (according to me):

  • First off, video games are not sports. Despite things like the Madden Bowl and the Donkey Kong World Championships. 
  • A competition between two or more players needs to be occurring. So, like, playing solitaire is not a sport. 
  • You have to be doing something that is physically demanding or difficult. This doesn't mean that you should have to work up a sweat, but merely that physical attributes or skills need to be on display. This counts out things like board games. Sorry, chess. 
Here's where it gets tricky. In my mind, these things are true. You might take issue with them.
  • Sports have scores that are determined by the participants, not the judges. In my mind, this is a hard and fast rule, and defines all things like gymnastics, cheerleading, and figure skating as something other than sports. I'm not taking away anything from these activities, because they (and things like them) are clearly extremely demanding and take years of practice to master. I just don't think they're sports. 
  • Sports combine multiple elements of the physical spectrum. This excludes any form of race, where all you have to do is be better than someone at one thing (speed), or any strength competition, where you just have to be a stronger person than someone else. I know that the speed thing is a gross simplification, but I just don't think that something as simple as a race can be put into the same category as basketball or football.
OK, I think that's it. Hope you don't hate me. If you do, let me know in the comments and we can have a very civil discussion. Remember, I'm not very smart, and this was pretty much written in an hour. So feel free to disagree. 

My Big List of Sports and Non Sports, with Tiers Ranked from Most Sports to Least Sports

I don't love that look, Mario. Maybe skip over Tier 7.

Tier 1: Indisputably Sports

  • Basketball
  • Baseball/Softball
  • Hockey/Field Hockey
  • Football
  • Racket Sports (tennis, badminton, table tennis, etc)
  • Golf
  • Handball
  • Cricket
  • Rugby
  • Soccer
  • Lacrosse
  • Volleyball
  • Others I probably forgot/ don't know about - you get the general idea though

Tier 2: They Meet all the Qualifications, But For Some Reason I Still Don't Consider Them Sports

Tier 3: I Don't Think They're Sports, But if You Do, That's Not a Huge Issue for Me

  • Fighting (boxing, MMA, wrestling)
  • Swimming
  • Horse Racing
  • Running (For some reason I feel like relay races and long-distance races are more "sports" than sprints are, but I might be uneducated in the world of running)
  • Car racing that's not NASCAR (aka races where you have to do more than just turn left - street racing, F1, etc)
  • Any downhill race (bobsled, luge, skiing, snowboarding, etc
  • Shooting (archery, skeet, etc)
  • Speed skating
  • Cycling races
  • Darts

Tier 4: Hobbies That Are Judged by Hobby Enthusiasts. AKA: Not Sports

  • Gymnastics
  • Diving
  • Synchronized swimming/diving
  • Snowboard/ski/skateboard skills competition (vert, slopestyle, park, etc)
    • Full disclosure: I LOVE watching snowboard/skateboard competitions. I just think any judged activity is not a sport. Doesn't mean they're not awesome. 
  • Cheerleading
  • Figure skating
  • Horse jumping (Equestrian? I call it horse jumping)

Tier 5: How Far Can You Launch Yourself off a Ramp?

  • Ski jumping

Tier 6: If You're a NASCAR Fan, I'm Sorry, but NASCAR Just Isn't a Sport


Tier 7: Throwing Shit and Lifting Shit

  • Javelin
  • Shotput
  • Hammer throw
  • Strength competitions (weightlifting, strongman, etc)
And that's it! I think. Let me know if (when) you think I'm an idiot. 

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