Monday, May 5, 2008

What Makes a Sport a Sport?

This debate came about with a couple of friends on one very drunken night. We were flipping channels on the TV and came across a poker tournament being shown on ESPN. Us, being avid poker players and fans of the game, decided to watch some of the tournament. One of my friends said something to the extent of “Poker is always being shown on ESPN, but does anyone actually consider it a sport?” To this, I quickly replied “Hell no!” And that was the start of said debate.

So, how does one define a sport? What truly makes the games that we have come to love a sport? Everyone can easily classify “The Big 4” as sports, but what about other activities such as skateboarding and surfing? And what about golf and bowling?? Are those truly sports?

To help us identify which of the above really are sports, let’s go over a few main points that are absolutely necessary for a game or activity to be considered a sport:

1) Athletic/Physical Ability – A sport must require some sort of physical aspect. No ifs, ands, or buts. If you aren’t getting up off your ass and applying some sort of physical ability, then you simply are not involved in a sport.

2) A Level of Competition – This is another requirement, but the rules can get a little sticky here. A sport must have some sort of level of competition involved. Whether it be a 1 on 1 street basketball game, or a spring training MLB game, there must be competition. “But, what if I go out and play a round of golf on my own??” you say. Settle down, I’ll get to that.

3) The Human Factor – What I mean by this is that no humans are perfect. No athletes are perfect either. A major league baseball player who does his job 1/3rd of the time at the plate is considered an amazing hitter. A basketball player who nails 50% of his shots from the field is considered to be one of the best. So there must be some sort of element of error involved in a sport. When I sit down to play chess, I know that for every single move my opponent makes, there is a “best” move I can use to counter his move. Physical abilities aside, that right there would take away any chance chess may have of being considered a sport.

With that said, now let’s take a look at some activities/games up for debate:

Golf – Athletic/physical ability? Check. The Human Factor? Absolutely check. Competition? Well, when you are in a golf tournament, you are competing against other golfers. You may not be up in their face playing defense trying to distract them from sinking a birdie, but you are sure as hell competing against their score. When you are golfing on your own, you are definitely competing as well. You are competing against yourself, trying to beat a previous score, which is definitely still considered competition. Golf is a sport, no doubt.

Bowling – Like golf, everything that makes an activity a sport is there. You have the physical ability, even though it may not be as noticeable as other sports. You clearly have the human factor, unless you can show me a guy who bowls 300 every time he bowls. And the competition is the same type of competition that is involved with golf. Bowling is definitely a sport.

Poker – There is competition. There is even a human factor (or maybe more of a luck factor…). But unless someone proves to me that the harder you shove chips in the pot, or the faster you pick up your cards, helps you to win a tournament, I don’t think there is any athletic ability involved with the game. Sorry ESPN, poker is not a sport. You can now spend some more time covering actual sports, like hockey maybe?

The debate can go on forever, naming every game out there (can a video game be considered a sport??), so please, contribute to this debate. What other factors go into a game to make it be considered a sport?


Turd Burglar said...

What about pool? Mr. Pods, would you consider pool a sport?

Crump Man said...

You left out the most important one. Car racing!

Which is clearly not a sport.

Pods said...

NASCAR is definitely not a sport, as much as half the country would like to believe. The competition is there, and even my so called Human Factor is there. But there is NO athletic ability WHATSOEVER!

And pool would be very tricky. It would be debatable whether or not there is athletic ability involved, but I think I'll give it the benefit of the doubt.

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