Article - Everyone agrees that football, basketball, baseball, volleyball, field hockey and a few other team games are sports. Track and field and competitive swimming are sports. The Olympics says that weightlifting, ice dancing, mountain biking and biathlon -- skiing with a rifle -- are sports.
Because the words "sports" and "athletics" have such high standing in contemporary society, the sense of what's considered a sport or viewed as an athletic challenge, continually inflates. Most people would call golf a "sport," though golfers rarely break a sweat and have caddies to shoulder the load of their clubs. Bowling is viewed as a "sport" -- skill is involved but if it's a sport, then so is badminton. ESPN places the mantle of "Worldwide Leader in Sports" on poker and on spelling bees, which are mentally taxing but entail no physical effort. Table tennis requires great reflexes -- does that make pingpong a sport?
NASCAR, Formula One and other types of car racing are viewed as sports. They are dangerous and physically taxing, but it's the motors, not the drivers, that provide the muscle. (As part of a Super Bowl event, last weekend I drove a McLaren at 120 mph on a racetrack: it was mildly stressful but sure didn't turn me into an athlete.) ESPN The Magazine (Published on Earth the Planet) featured a nude pictorial of Funny Car driver Courtney Force, praising her for being able to handle "a 10,000-horsepower machine." That does sound difficult, but is handling a powerful machine a "sport"? If so, then pilots and excavator operators are athletes.
Robert Morris University of Illinois now offers "athletic" scholarships for video gaming -- how long until the first Xbox recruiting scandal? Some colleges consider fishing a sport -- how long till the first scandal about improper flies? Next summer, at least 10,000 spectators are expected for a video game tournament. Millionaire Chess is "committed to revolutionizing the chess tournament" by making it like poker plus the Benko Gambit. The New York Times covers the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in the sports section, perhaps because jumping over obstacles makes the dogs athletes? Competitive cheer tournaments have been viewed as a sport for a while; now the American Medical Association considers all cheerleading, including the traditional sideline variety, to be a sport.
Society admires athletics and is hooked on the word sports. But at the current rate there seems no reason anything that involves completing a timed task while moving one's body or even just speaking won't end up being viewed as sports.
Tuesday Morning Quarterback proposes this rule: a "sport" is an activity that produces a winning person or team and that leaves the participants exhausted. Everything else is either recreation or a test of skills.
I hope you enjoyed that and I look forward to your response!
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