Is it Sport?

Published January 1, 2011 by tootingtrumpet

From July 2007

GU (remember them?) have chosen to cover the World Series of Poker on their Sports Blog, a editorial decision with which I concur. Other posters, predictably, have pooh-poohed poker, believing that the decision to raise, call or fold with an up and down straight draw against a likely top pair with big kicker, falls somewhat short of the Olympic ideal. That set me off on one of my favourite daydreams – what are the boundaries of this thing called “sport”?

My favourite online dictionary ( feebly offers:

“sport (GAME) noun
1 [C] a game, competition or activity needing physical effort and skill that is played or done according to rules, for enjoyment and/or as a job”

That won’t do at all – the “tapping your head with one hand whilst rubbing your tummy with the other” is inside that tent as is “drink ten pints then name all seven dwarves”.

Wikipedia, as usual, is good, if a little woolly:

“Sport is an activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively. Used by itself, sports commonly refer to activities where the physical capabilities of the competitor are the sole or primary determiner of the outcome (winning or losing), but the term is also used to include activities such as mind sports and motor sports where mental acuity or equipment quality are major factors. Sports are used as entertainment for the player and the viewer.”

Finally, the Olympic motto:

“Citius, Altius, Fortius – Faster, Higher, Stronger”.

I’m going to propose three criteria and look at what lands inside and outside my tent.

1. Competition.

Sport has clearly defined winners and losers: so that’s dance out and yoga too.

2. Rules.

Sport has widely shared and understood rules: so that’s business out.

3. Scoring.

Sport has clear scoring systems: faster (time); higher (tally of goals or points); stronger (knockouts). This criterion rules out a large number of quasi-sports where judging (often subjective judging) is the sole means of identifying winners and losers. Bye Bye (with no regrets) dressage; ice skating; freestyle skiing. Bye Bye (with regrets) gymnastics; diving; trampolining.

I’m pleased that poker gets in the tent as does chess, but I’m a bit ambivalent about angling and I’m very uneasy about competitive eating.


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