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Debate II: What do you consider a sport?


lopernv
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As a prelude: please keep these to actual reasoned opinions that are though out and read well, rather than statements or back-and-forth arguments, because I think this topic has that ability.

 

What is your rationale for something being a sport and not being a sport? @pianoknight's debate thread got me thinking about this, and I thought it would be interesting to see other views on it.

 

Personally, I would define it as competing to the best, in a team or as an individual, in a field against opponents, a team of opponents, or an achievable (like a time, a number, a score, etc).

 

Under this definition, it would include things like golf, auto racing, e-sports, the spelling bee, poker, some World Record attempts, which might be quite controversial to some. But maybe I'm just an inclusive kind of guy. I also think that's the way to do it - by a definition - rather than picking and choosing which I want.

 

What do you guys think? 

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To me, a sport is where a participant - whether a team or an individual - partakes in BOTH physical and mental training/conditioning in order to prepare or compete for points, times, scores, etc. 

 

By that definition, things like golf, NASCAR, and maybe even Competitive Eating would qualify (watch the SportScience episode on Joey Chestnut).

 

Things like a spelling bee or Poker? No.

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11 hours ago, lopernv said:

As a prelude: please keep these to actual reasoned opinions that are though out and read well, rather than statements or back-and-forth arguments, because I think this topic has that ability.

 

What is your rationale for something being a sport and not being a sport? @pianoknight's debate thread got me thinking about this, and I thought it would be interesting to see other views on it.

 

Personally, I would define it as competing to the best, in a team or as an individual, in a field against opponents, a team of opponents, or an achievable (like a time, a number, a score, etc).

 

Under this definition, it would include things like golf, auto racing, e-sports, the spelling bee, poker, some World Record attempts, which might be quite controversial to some. But maybe I'm just an inclusive kind of guy. I also think that's the way to do it - by a definition - rather than picking and choosing which I want.

 

What do you guys think? 

The primary definition of a sport has three criteria:

 

1. Physical exertion or skill

2. Involving individuals or teams competing with one another

3. For entertainment

 

That casts a pretty wide net. While spelling bees and poker might get the same treatment or following, they are not, technically, sports. Does that mean ESPN should stop showing them? No, as long as the viewership is there, party on, Garth.

 

NASCAR comes up for debate, I would include it, but do not consider it on par with golf, hockey, baseball, etc. That is not to diminish it as entertainment or a competition. I just see the actual performance being mostly the car. The skill and discipline exhibited by the driver has very little to do with actual physical prowess, but a slight degree of physicality comes into play, so it technically qualifies, IMO.

 

Now, the merits of a sport for a certain platform are a different matter. Two come to mind:

 

The first is whether or not the NCAA should add cheerleading. I personally feel that they should not. While there are aspects of it that require a great degree of athleticism, and they do have competitions that fully qualify them as a sport, their primary function is entertaining/raising school spirit and serving to "pump up" the crowd at select sporting events. The competitive aspect is secondary, in nature.

 

The other argument that comes to mind is Equestrian Events at the Olympics. I feel that they should be removed. I, personally, enjoy them, but refuse to watch them, as I feel they don't belong. There is a great deal of skill required on the rider's part, but most (if not all) of the actual athletic ability exhibited is that of the mount. It absolutely is a valid sport, just not one for the Olympics. How the IOC justifies cutting wrestling and baseball, but leaving in the equestrian events, baffles me.

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Sports:  Anything that ends in ball, and/or is a competition that crowds gather for which requires physical skill, exceptional dexterity, hardy endurance, and unique talent.  

 

There are limits.  Golf and auto-racing are basically where I draw the line.  Golf takes a hell of a lot of practice and skill to master, but the problem is the image of the sport as an elitist, snobbish, refined game for rich douchebags in overpriced polos and khakis.  If you can look past that, it's definitely a unique, if not silly, sport that requires a degree of athleticism and a very unique skill set to exceed at the highest levels.  Auto racing is the same thing but replace rich douchebags with auto-enthusiasts generally from the midwest and the south.

 

There are sports and there are games.  Games like pool and croquet I will mix in the same broth as bowling and bocce.  I feel as though these aren't sports but leisure games that have international competitive scenes.  They dance along the fringe of sport but I feel live more comfortably in the realm of games.  Similar things could be said about e-sports and tabletop/card games. 

 

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Anyone who says golf isn't a sport hasn't played golf. Walk 18 holes, and come back to me. Not everything needs to be as physically exerting as football to be a sport, but there's a physical and athletic aspect to it that is underrated by people who haven't played the game. I played 9 yesterday in the morning heat and was wiped out for the rest of the day. The mental side of the game is really evident as well. Telling your body to do one thing, and then executing it is perhaps harder in golf than it is any other sport. 

 

All of the best golfers I know are or were good athletes in other sports. Very few are only good at golf. Jack Nicklaus as an example could've played football for Ohio State, but Woody Hayes didn't want him to risk his hands. 

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Golf is a sport, for sure. As McCarthy, there is definitely an athletic aspect to it. I struggle with auto racing as a sport but i do realize there is a great deal of reaction and reflexes, so I can't argue against it being a sport. Bowling, like horseshoes or bocce, is an activity.

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I see it as anything that involves physical exertion, competition between individuals or teams, and features a quantitative and objective scoring system (i.e. points, goals, time, pins, runs, etc.).

 

So this includes things like track and field, bowling, golf, any of the stick-and-ball sports, swimming, wrestling, and even NASCAR (since that's pretty demanding).

 

It wouldn't include things like figure skating, gymnastics, the "extreme sports" (BMX, half-pipe, skateboarding, etc.), diving, synchronized swimming, spelling bee, poker, or things like that.

 

Where I'm torn is on boxing and MMA. On the one hand, knockouts and submissions are objective and definite. However, absent that, it comes down to somewhat subjective judging. I don't know enough about the judging systems to know how objective vs. subjective they actually are.

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I think culture plays a big part in this as well.  Go ask China if ping pong is a sport.  Plus, the Olympics feature things like curling, which I equate to an icy version of shuffleboard.  Which seems like an old timer activity on a cruise ship.

 

On a personal note, one thing that always irked me was the debate over cheerleading being a sport.  There is quite a fervant fan base that claims cheerleading has its own competitions and events, so it's not just a sideshow to football or basketball.  The part that really rubbed me the wrong way about that is having been a musician virtually all my life, I've been to hundreds of marching band competitions.  It's sweaty, intense and does require a level of precision and dare I say - athletic - ability to be able to not only maintain form but play an instrument at the same time.  Let's see a football player cross 10 yards in a few seconds - without breaking form or gasping for air, and using whatever tiny bit of air you can muster to fill up an entire sousaphone in order to produce music.  

 

Anyway, this isn't a pro-marching band rant, but a comment rather to say that I've never considered marching band a "sport," although it certainly has physical exertion, requires a team and is definitely for entertainment.  So when I see all the cheerbots ripping out their hair over cheerleading "not" being a sport, it makes me cringe a bit.

 

I was fortunate to have many opportunities from music, but my most treasured was being named to an elite national honor band that got the chance to tour Europe and play concerts in a half-dozen countries.  I really reached quite a high plateau within my craft.  Am I as famous as Tiger Woods?  Nope.  As rich as Michael Jordan?  Hell no.  But like any athlete, I rose to a pretty awesome status within my own little world.  And that is the reward in itself for the individual.  Who cares if it's a sport?

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1 hour ago, pianoknight said:

I think culture plays a big part in this as well.  Go ask China if ping pong is a sport.  Plus, the Olympics feature things like curling, which I equate to an icy version of shuffleboard.  Which seems like an old timer activity on a cruise ship.

 

On a personal note, one thing that always irked me was the debate over cheerleading being a sport.  There is quite a fervant fan base that claims cheerleading has its own competitions and events, so it's not just a sideshow to football or basketball.  The part that really rubbed me the wrong way about that is having been a musician virtually all my life, I've been to hundreds of marching band competitions.  It's sweaty, intense and does require a level of precision and dare I say - athletic - ability to be able to not only maintain form but play an instrument at the same time.  Let's see a football player cross 10 yards in a few seconds - without breaking form or gasping for air, and using whatever tiny bit of air you can muster to fill up an entire sousaphone in order to produce music.  

 

Anyway, this isn't a pro-marching band rant, but a comment rather to say that I've never considered marching band a "sport," although it certainly has physical exertion, requires a team and is definitely for entertainment.  So when I see all the cheerbots ripping out their hair over cheerleading "not" being a sport, it makes me cringe a bit.

 

I was fortunate to have many opportunities from music, but my most treasured was being named to an elite national honor band that got the chance to tour Europe and play concerts in a half-dozen countries.  I really reached quite a high plateau within my craft.  Am I as famous as Tiger Woods?  Nope.  As rich as Michael Jordan?  Hell no.  But like any athlete, I rose to a pretty awesome status within my own little world.  And that is the reward in itself for the individual.  Who cares if it's a sport?

First off, good for you! That's pretty damn cool!

 

As far as cheerleading or marching band competitions, I agree that they aren't sports in the same way that gymnastics and figure skating aren't sports. They're highly athletic endeavors. I'm not denying that. I couldn't do any of those. That said, they have no quantitative and objective scoring system. They're rated by judges in a subjective fashion. That's why they're not "sports", per se, in my book.

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None of what I'm saying is meant to undermine any event, but it sounds like the general consensus is kind of energing as 4 categories.

 

1. Competitive Sports (consistent, definitive, quantifiable scoring and relient on the physical skill, exertion and prowess): Football, Soccer, Baseball, Track & Field, Hockey, Timed Swimming/Skiing/Skating/Bike Races, Tennis, Rugby, etc.

 

2. Other Athletics competitions (still relying on a degree of physicality equal to category 1, but with a scoring system that is reliant, at least in great part, on a subjective score handed down by a judge/panel): MMA/Boxing/Wrestling (due to the matches that do not end in KO/submission), Figure Skating, Gymnastics, Cheerleading, Diving, Skiing/Skating/Biking Stunt Competitions, etc.

 

3. Skills Showcases (events with a following and usually having a quantifiable, consistent and definitive scoring system, but requiring a great deal less physically demanding PROLONGED performance from the competitor. These games may require a great deal of training for elite levels, equal to that of the first two categories, but the training is more about reflexes, timing, precision, or learning to interact with an object. Those that do require physical exertion are usually for a few seconds at a time and are just as mental as they are physical.): Marksmanship, Racing, Curling, Golf, Bowling, etc.

 

4. Non-athletic competitions (these require a great deal of skill, but essentially no physical acumen): Poker, spelling bees, etc.

 

Now, that is not to say that the athleticism required in Bowling is on par with that of Golf, but more about categorizing based on the structure/scoring/play system of each respective "sport".

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14 hours ago, HedleyLamarr said:

Driving a car is not a sport.

I don't really have a problem with calling it a sport. There is very little actual physical exertion, but with the following it has...sure, go ahead. I do, however, take issue with people who call NASCAR drivers athletes.

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I used to be down on racing, and while I still don't watch it, I think it's definitely a sport and an athletic endeavor.  Not only because you're risking your life far more than in most sports, but also because maintaining that level of focus and dexterity for hours on end is an incredible skill.  The turns are hard, drifting is hard, knowing when to go into pit stops is hard, knowing when to pass is hard, and so on. Yes, the car is doing the "work," but so is the baseball bat, the golf club, the hockey stick and so on.

 

Again, racing isn't my deal, but I respect the work it takes to be great at it. I didn't always.

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Sports which are actual sports

Football

Baseball

Soccer

Basketball

Ice Hockey

Cycling

MMA

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Sports in which the human does none of the work

Horse Racing

NASCAR

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Sports which you can drink/smoke while doing

Golf

Darts

Bowling

Billiards

Curling

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Sports which are sports because ESPN

World Series of Poker

Competitive Hot Dog Eating

Spelling Bee

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Not a sport

WWE

 

 

Feel free to add to this list if you feel a category or quasi-sport was left out.

 

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The thing about racing is that, at least in some forms, the field of drivers are undeniably athletic: Jenson Button regularly races the Half Ironman (2.1k swim, 90k bike, 21.1k run), Alonso trains on the BATAK (he has scored 138 in 60 seconds, here's a 138) and can crack nuts with his neck (!). All three are purposeful for a grand prix: endurance, reflex/reaction time, and resistance against G-forces, respectively. I'm sure there are similar cases in NASCAR, but I am not familiar with the series. This leads to an interesting conundrum, at least for me, whether things like F1 are genuine sports or if they are competitions that happen to showcase athletes.

 

Again, this is why I prefer definitions over lists and picking and choosing which sports/events/competitions fit into whatever idea I have in my head of what a sport is.

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I firmly believe that any frisbee-based activity is not a sport.

 

I don't have a sound rational for this, but the truthiness of that statement feels right to me.

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