The great "sport" debate
I’ve played three games most of my life: baseball, golf and Ultimate Frisbee. At some point, people have accused all three of these as not being sports. According to most people, apparently, it’s only a sport if you’re wearing 20 pounds of pads and hitting someone really hard.
The true definition of sport is very ambiguous. In a sense, any athletic game where skill is required is a sport. So by that definition, pretty much every game is a sport – including skeet shooting, beer pong, billiards, darts, and women’s basketball (just kidding about the last one… kind of).
My own more narrow definition of sport requires a few key traits: rules, enforcement and scorekeeping. Don’t think golf is a sport because 60-year old Tom Watson almost won the British Open last year? Tough – it’s got an intricate set of rules, official scorekeeping, rules officials, and takes an insane amount of skill.
After a friend’s Facebook status teed off a debate as to whether curling was a sport in comparison to competitive cheerleading, I decided to take a look at some of the more controversial “sports.”
Ultimate Frisbee: There are no referees and no scoreboards. There’s no real way to enforce penalties, and the entire basis of the rules is founded on “Spirit of the Game” – an abstract idea that the game should be decided based on people being nice and honest.
In what world do you trust people based solely on their word? Do cops pull you over for speeding based on the honor system? Do baseball umpires ask the runner whether or not they were safe at home? The players enforce ultimate Frisbee rules, and the score is kept by a bunch of people fatigued after running around in the heat for hours a time. That’s totally not a recipe for disaster.
Decision: Not a sport. Get refs, get a scoreboard, get some real rules, then it’ll be a sport.
Curling: I spent most of my Tuesday watching curling and without really expecting much from the Olympics’ least heralded sport, I found that it’s still extremely entertaining. There is a clear and defined set of rules, there are rules officials, and there is a good amount of skill involved.
The teams consist of one “guy who pushes the stone,” two “guys who sweep in front of the stone,” and one “guy who acts like a janitor after the round is over.” I have no idea what any of their actual titles are, nor do I care. It’s a giant game of shuffleboard on ice and it’s way more interesting than I’d ever expect.
Decision: Sport. Like golf, just because you’re not running around or exerting yourself doesn’t mean it’s not a sport.
NASCAR: They drive cars for 4 hours at a time with no bathroom break. I do that when I drive to Miami.
Decision: Not a sport. This is not debatable.
Softball: I’ve debated back and forth whether or not softball is a sport. On one hand, it’s a bastardized version of baseball: the ball is twice as big, the field is half the size and the games are a third shorter. Judging a book by the cover, it seems too easy to be a sport.
But every time I start to close the book on this case, I realize that there’s no way I can go in there and get a hit off those pitches from that distance. I give a ton of credit to batters who are able to get a hit, let alone make contact, with the pitch coming in that fast from that close.