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Opinion

For the sake of argument, what constitutes a sport?

(Credit: The Malones/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
StuMac new author
Roar Rookie
21st August, 2021
20

Over many years now, myself, and a number of work friends, acquaintances and colleagues, have taken part in robust debate on the subject of just what constitutes a sport.

These ‘discussions’ have normally resulted in all participants agreeing to disagree on the exact definitions, and almost always conclude with all involved turning on yours truly. How did it come to this?

Well, the advent of pay-TV, and subsequent free-to-air dedicated sports channels has seen an exponential rise in the number of events broadcast under the umbrella of ‘sports’.

Whereas these ‘events’ would generally once be classified as nothing more than glorified recreation, this explosion in television coverage has allowed them to be broadcast to the general public under the guise of sporting competition, when really they are simply a way of filling the gaps between when the real sports commence.

I say enough is enough. As a way of drawing a line in the sand (and also to save me having to repeat myself), I have decided to outline, once and for all, the key criteria for why some activities should be correctly labeled sports, and others should be labeled anything but.

This criteria should provide the proverbial ‘final nail in the coffin’ for any further discussion on the matter.

While I would not be so brazen as to suggest that this list of criteria is absolute, I do believe that it provides a clear set of measures, against which all physical activities can be judged accordingly.

wo hands compete for a basketball at tip off

(Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)

So, without further ado, here it is:

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1. A sport is not something that can be subjectively judged, i.e points awarded from a particular range, based on a group of people’s opinion who have been deemed eligible to judge.

2. A sport is not something that has the sole intention of maiming the other participants, i.e boxing, martial arts, UFC or any other event where people attempt to inflict intentional damage on each other.

3. A sport needs to involve a range of actions which require not only specific hand-eye coordination but also multiple skills used at the same time, i.e running, throwing, kicking, catching, hitting etc.

4. A sport is not something that exists for the sole purpose of gambling, i.e horse racing.

5. A sport does not rely on external factors beyond the participants control to determine the result, i.e motor-racing of any kind, whereby mechanical failure, as opposed to individual skill level, generally influence the outcome.

6. A sport is not something which determines the fastest over a distance, who can lift the most, who can jump the highest, or who can throw the furthest. These are simply activities.

7. A sport does require some level of physical fitness, is generally played outdoors and does contain the risk of injury through over training or over exertion during its participation. Yes, darts and billiards: I am looking in your direction…

8. A sport is not something you can do while consuming alcohol or smoking cigarettes. Oh, darts and billiards, are you still here?

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9. A sport generally does not end in the letters ‘ing’. For example, swimming, running, cycling, skiing, etc.

These are simply recreational activities. And no, putting them altogether does not create some kind of loophole in the rules. Yes, triathlon, decathlon, pentathlon and anything essentially ending in ‘thlon’, you’re not fooling anybody.

10. A sport needs to involve the scoring of points through either placing a ball or similar shaped object into a net, over a net, in a hole, towards a boundary, over a line, through a goal, over a fence, or into a specified playing area as set down by the rules.

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Depending on the sport, this can be via the use of equipment (sticks, bats, racquets etc.), or through the specified appropriate parts of human anatomy.

11. A sport is something that can be used in the context of, “Let’s go have a game of x”, or “Do you want to play x?”.

Now, some of the more antagonistic among you, may suggest that any number of board games could be added in to complete these sentences. If so, then please let me direct you to points 7 and 8.

So, there you have it. The final drizzle of chocolate sauce, on top of the cherry, on top of the cream, sitting on top of the cookies and cream cheesecake that is my argument. A clear and indisputable list that essentially provides the final word on what has been one of the longest-running and most passionate discussion topics known to man.

And before you all start typing feverishly, or pushing your chairs back ready to pay me a little visit, I ask that you just take a couple of minutes to let my points wash over you. If you do this, I believe you will finally see things the way they are meant to be seen.

I now leave you to ponder how these revelations will forever change the way you watch sport both now, and into the future.

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