So I wanted to take this opportunity to share my view on an issue about which both J.D. and Lodo have recently opined.
I know it's something that we are all very concerned about, especially in these trying times that we are going through. And with baseball in full swing and football kicking off just around the corner, it's important to talk about... sports.
Lodo made a pretty good point the other day:
Truth be told, the only sports I find even remotely as exciting as sex or live music are basketball and boxing. Especially boxing.But my response today is prompted more by J.D.'s rather rigid definition.
There is only one absolute rule of sport identification, and it is this: If among an event’s essential ingredients are animals, betting, or pavement, then the event in question is not a sport. All others are negotiable, and the physical conditions of the participants is irrelevant.While elegant at first glance, these criteria are problematic. For example, professional cycling takes place on pavement. Therefore, according to JD's model, it is not a sport. At the same time, professional mountain biking is a sport because it involves neither betting, animals nor pavement.
Hard court tennis is also played on pavement. Does that make the U.S. Open not a sport while Wimbledon and the Australian Open are? Of course not.
Another example: People bet on college football all the time, but pretty much anyone you ask -- even those who hate college football -- would categorize it as a sport.
In fact, you probably don't have to look too hard to find a bookie to take your action on pretty much any athletic endeavor you can think of. I would say that criteria should be eliminated solely on the basis of being over broad.
As you can see, this is a topic to which I've devoted considerable thought (at least 10 minutes worth if brain power).
Here's the model I've come up with, and it's a good reflection of my worldview in general.
I don't think you can divide athletic endeavor into "sport" and "not sport." It's not an either/or, it's not digital, it's more analog.
There's a continuum, a scale that indicates the degree to which a certain activity is sportish or non-sportish. There are certain criteria that can move the activity to the right (sportish) or left (non-sportish), and JD's rules fit nicely into this model (except for the betting one).
So to find an activity's position on the continuum, considers such factors as the filed of play (including whether it's on pavement), equipment (are animals included), the presence or lack of balls, the physical effort exerted by the participants, etc.
But one factor, perhaps the primary factor, is scoring.
In my view if judges or a panel of judges are the most significant factor in deciding the winner of any contest -- well, that's a major negative mark in the degree of sportishness.
It's such a big factor that I would say sports like gymnastics, dancing and figure skating have a lower degree of sportishness than, say golf or even auto racing.
And, when an activity scores high in all criteria, it's way to the right on the sportishness scale.
- Football: High degree of physical exertion by participants, played on grass (or reasonable facsimile thereof), uses a ball, objective scoring based on achievement of predefined goals, protective equipment only.
- Baseball: Played on field, low-tech equipment only, high-degree or physical coordination required, objective scoring system, uses a ball.
So you see, pretty much any activity can be graded according to this method. And it still supports my assertion that figure skating, though very athletic, is still quite lame.
tagged: sports, football, baseball, cycling, figure skating, culture