The above definition is not enough. To what level must a participant physically exert themselves? Just how much skill is required to be considered a sport? Lifting a grand piano requires a lot of physical exertion and some skill, but nobody would consider that a sport. Likewise, playing piano requires a tremendous amount of skill and enough physical exertion that fingers are prone to hurting afterwards. Again, however, I don’t think many people would call Mozart or Beethoven great athletes. Must athletes compete against others or can something still be a sport if you compete against yourself? After I go skiing I’m totally exhausted. That just required a lot physical exertion and skill, but I didn’t exactly compete against anyone. Does that fact that you can compete against someone in skiing make it a sport? I can compete against my friend in basket weaving, but just because it is possible does not mean that it’s a sport. Obviously, labeling one activity a sport and another just that, an activity, is an arduous endeavor, and one that can trigger a few nerves in other people. “So, what you’re saying is that I’m not an athlete because curling isn’t a sport!?”
Do not fret sports fans, for I am going to attempt something that no one has ever had the balls to attempt before. I will do my best to outline the exact specifications an activity must meet in order to be considered a sport. To do this, I will analyze typical “sports” of question and explain why or why not these activities are sports. In doing so, I will compile a list of Sports Rules. We will be starting with the obvious and moving towards to more borderline. Let’s hope I can get a better definition by the end of this.
Defendant 1: Poker
“I’m a sport, seriously. Lots of people like to think that in order to win at me you need luck and only luck. Well, that’s just incorrect. If that were true, how is it that we see the same pros year after year performing well in major tournaments. Maybe the winner of the Main Event is usually a no name, but there are just far more amateurs in the field then professionals. That’s just simple probability. I require skill, and lots of it. Another reason why you should declare me a sport is the physical toll tournaments can have on the players. Yeah, maybe they’re all seated, but can you imagine trying to concentrate on something for 5, 6, or 7 hours at a time?! You’re gonna be totally exhausted afterwards. And you can’t forget about the bluffing! Unlike football or basketball players who can wear their emotions on their sleeves, poker players need to conceal their excitement. That takes a lot of discipline and practice. Last of all, I am seen on ESPN, the Entertainment Sports Programming Network. The word “sport” is in the channels name!”
Verdict: No Way. Not really even worth the time I need to take to justify my decision. However, I will nonetheless elaborate on my reasons.
Rule 1: Any activity whose highest level of play has professionals playing non-professionals is not a sport. A computer salesman cannot just decide to join a MLB team.
Rule 2: If all participants can spend the entire activity sitting, it is not a sport. This, of course, does not apply to handicapped sports, where there is no choice but to sit.
Rule 3: Some poker players, such as Doyle Brunson, are old enough to have grandchildren. If you have grandchildren and can still compete, it is not a sport. In fact, if most participants can still compete past age 52, or be in their prime past age 37, it is not a sport. There are obviously a few exceptions to this rule for various athletes in other sports.
Rule 4: I have seen numerous appearances by poker players, such as the aforementioned Brunson, participate with broken legs, necks, and arms. If you can still play with a broken leg, arm, or neck, then you are not playing a sport.
Rule 5: Appearances on ESPN do not declare something a sport.
Defendant 2: Curling
“Come on now, this cannot be serious. I’m an Olympic Sport. That means I’m a sport. It’s that simple. Look at the people playing me. They look like athletes!”
Verdict: Good points, but no. The most compelling argument is that curling is an Olympic sport. Who am I to second-guess the Olympic committee? If they say it’s a sport, then it’s a sport, right? Wrong again! On top of violating rules 1 and 3, there are two other reasons curling remains an activity.
Rule 6: At no point in my life, have I ever watched a curling match and said, “That was athletic.” The curlers may be big, but the sport seems to be all about form and skill. So, if you can watch an hour of a sport and do not observe anything you see as a representation of speed, strength, agility, hand-eye coordination, or flexibility, then you are not watching a sport. I recognize this is more subjective, but it’s my blog, thus everything is subjective to me, and you’re reading it.
Rule 7: Defendant 1 proved that ESPN covers nearly everything that could be misconstrued as a sport. Even still, I couldn’t find anything on curling. It doesn’t even have its own section on the Olympic sport page. So, if it takes more than 1 minute to find the activities homepage on ESPN.com, it is not a sport. Along those lines, if the website for the sport looks like this http://www.curlingrocks.net/ and has the word “rocks” in it, it is not a sport. Unless of course we are discussing mountain climbing.
Defendant 3: Fishing
“I have my own section on ESPN.com. I require a careful balance of both skill and physical exertion. Our athletes are at the prime of their careers and far better than casual anglers.”
Verdict: Sorry, you are not a sport. Why? Fishing is in clear contradiction of several previously stated rules as well as a few new ones. The activity violates rules 3, 6, and others to be named later.
Rule 5b: According to rule 5, appearances on ESPN do not mean the activity is a sport. At least poker is seen during prime time. I understand that you need daylight when fishing, but they can at least show reruns during primetime, or after 10AM for that matter. Thus, if your only television coverage is before 11AM Eastern time, you are not a sport.
Defendant 4: World’s Strongest Man
(In an Eastern European Accent) “It easy to see we am sport. By winning championship you become strongest man of the world. That means you are big athlete. Competition is very difficult and people from all over planet attend. Besides, why would someone like you want to defy me? I break you!”
Verdict: You should be in contempt of court for that threat, but I will overlook your offense, mainly because you are correct. The World’s Strongest Man and similar competitions go to the very heart of sport. Has anyone seen the guys who compete in the event? They are mean, angry, big, and totally fueled by testosterone. If that is not the definition of an athlete then I don’t know what is.
Defendant 5: Bowling
“There is a lot of skill required to play me. I mean a lot! You may think it’s as simple as rolling a boll, but the professionals will tell you that there is a lot more to it then that. You have to take into account the oiling of the lane, the weight of the ball, and so many other things that I don’t want to go into it (this is absolutely not because these are all the things I can think of).”
Verdict: Nope. Bowling is a lot of fun and requires apparently far more skill then I have to offer. I am nothing short of awful at the activity. However, it meets its demise because it has violated rules 1, 3, and 7, in addition to the new one.
Rules 8: If someone 40 pounds overweight has the same chance at victory, and goes about reaching it in the same way, as someone 40 pounds underweight, these people are not playing a sport. Basically, weight does not matter, obviously within reason. This rule generally applies only to individual sports.
I will now take a brief pause in the trials, a lunch break if you will (you will). So far I have laid out some solid rules that can determine an activity’s qualifications. However, it was easy. I will now move my attention to the last 2 defendants. These guys are far more controversial. Before we go any further, I will introduce the final, and most important, rule.
Rule 9: Any activity in violation of at least 3 of rules 1-8 is not a sport.
Defendant 6: Golf
“Are you trying to tell me Tiger Woods is not an athlete?! He has to be one of the 20 best athletes on the planet! Come on now, this is turning into a witch-hunt! I am golf! People claim me as their favorite sport all the time. I am as much a sport as football, basketball, or baseball. Honestly, Adam, you should be ashamed of yourself. You've got a long way to go to be as good as your dad!!!”
Verdict: Well, this is a tough one. The biggest reason why I find it difficult to label golf an activity is, in fact, Tiger Woods. Golf is right, Tiger is an amazing athlete. In fact, I wouldn’t have said top 20 athlete, but rather, top 10. However, you will notice that, unlike many of the other sports on trial, golf never made reference to any of my previously stated qualifications. Golf is often too arrogant, believing they should be granted sportshood on history alone. The way I see it, they have blatantly violated rules 3 and 8. Moreover, they are in “partial” violations of the first rule. In fact, when Tiger is not playing, I find myself supporting the crippling rule 6. Yet, maybe because I have been brainwashed by golf for all of my life or maybe because I just really like Tiger Woods, I have decided to grant golf conditional sportshood. However, it can be taken away at any moment, since the “sport” is dangerously close to break rules 1 and 8, and thus, the only rule that matters, rule 9.
Defendant 7: NASCAR
“Do you know the only sport Americans watch more than me? Football; that’s it! How could I possibly not be a sport? Can you even imagine the physical toll that driving one of the cars for hours on end can have on your body? It’s absolutely brutal. I am a sport and if you say otherwise you are wrong!”
Verdict: Sorry NASCAR, but I believe you have violated rules 2, 3, and 8. According to rule 9, you are, therefore, not a sport. This is obviously the most controversial of my claims, but I do believe I am correct. Once again, NASCAR drivers may be the most talented people shown on ESPN, but they are not athletes. They must go through some grueling conditions throughout the course of a race and encounter often colossal and dangerous collisions and explosions, but these are the risks that come with the activity.
So, there you have it; a “Complete Idiot’s Guide to Sports Qualification.” In one article, and basically one paragraph, I have managed to offend probably 100 million people. Not bad for one day. Feel free to reference this list when discussing any type of sport in question. I also welcome any banter, dissatisfaction, rule amendments, or agreements (doubtful) with anything I have said in this article, or any article for that matter.