Tuesday, May 30, 2006

What is a Sport?

Something I've been meaning to discuss for awhile is how we as a society should define sports. Those of you with ESPN know that they frequently have non-sport-like sports, such as poker and cheerleading, on the air. In fact this is one of my dad's biggest complaints these days, even though ESPN carved out its niche in the early 80's showing "fringe" sports like the World's Strongest Man competitions and the USFL.

Recently while having this conversation with my pal Matt, he brought up that he had come up with a series of criteria which should define sports and set them apart from other athletic endeavors. Here are his criteria:

1. There must be defense in the sense that a competitor actually seeks to prevent you from reaching a goal in the contest.
2. It must require significant physical exertion. This criterion is sometimes phrased as: You cannot be able to masturbate while participating.
3. The prime source of energy must be human.

As I'm sure you can tell, these are quite discriminating criteria. Some classic Olympic events like track and field and rowing would fail to make the cut under the first criteria. Matt defines these as "Athletic Competitions." Something failing number 2 (like poker) would be classified as a "game." Finally horseracing and NASCAR would fail under the 3rd prong. Only by meeting all three requirements does an event become a "sport."

I'm not sure if I'm totally on board with this. I think the defense requirement is the most controversial and the most interesting. But I wanted to mention it here in the open forum we call a website. Discuss!