A recent post on Fanhouse regarding the old “what is a sport?” debate sparked the motivation to finally put my argument into words. Many other writers have made their case for what is and what isn’t a sport, but for my money, MJD’s analysis always struck me as the best case. It was objective and clearly dissected; it remains my favorite thing the prolific and now big-time writer has written.
We all have our own definition, and have probably argued about it ad nauseam with our friends. In a way, it’s a harmless mirror to the abortion debate: people have bickered for hours on end, and yet no one ever really wavers from their opinion. Knowing that, and realizing I’m likely adding little to the debate, below is my viewpoint.
A quick stipulation: try not to take offense if I chose to not include a certain “sport” you love. People not considering your favorite activity a sport isn’t a slight, and doesn’t make your preferred game any less important, respected or difficult to master. Settle down, please. Golfers, I’m looking not-so-subtly in your direction.
Criterion #1: the activity has to involve at least two of the following factors: speed, strength, agility & hand-eye coordination. This is an obvious one; tough to call something a sport if it doesn’t involve being active or what we define as athletic. And if features just one of the components, it shouldn’t count.
[Denied: Golf, NASCAR, Weightlifting, Curling, Archery, Table Tennis, Bocce Ball, Darts, all lawn games, dozens more.]
Criterion #2: the activity in question has to involve defense. This is a key component that MJD chose not to consider. Defense is half the art of sport, and also nods to the strategy and mental game. No defense, and it’s just a competition, a game, an activity, what have you. Not a sport.
[Denied: Track & Field, Running, Cheerleading, Figure skating, Gymnastics, actually most all Olympic categories, all “action sports.”]
So, the official worldofb.com definition of sport: “an active competition that requires a defensive effort as well as elements of speed, strength, agility and hand-eye coordination.” By taking this definition to a more specific, even geekier level, I’ll use a ten-point ranking system for each aforementioned factor (in the order listed above) to rank what should be considered sports.
Another stipulation: I compiled the rankings by considering the typical positional player in the sport. Any specialty positions would count as exceptions. In other words, the “hey, why the 6 in strength for baseball? Pitchers don’t need to be strong” or something similar using hockey/goalie/speed wasn’t considered during this ranking. Those positions are the exceptions, not the rules.
Football [10, 10, 10, 9] = 39
Basketball [9, 7, 10, 9] = 35
Hockey [8, 7, 7, 8] = 30
Soccer [8, 3, 10, 8] = 29
Baseball [7, 6, 6, 10] = 29
Tennis [6, 4, 10, 8] = 28
Boxing [1, 10, 6, 6] = 23
Rugby [6, 7, 5, 5] = 23
Lacrosse [6, 7, 5, 5] = 23
Badminton [5, 1, 8, 7] = 21
Racquetball [3, 1, 7, 7] = 18
Wrestling [1, 10, 5, 1] = 17
Volleyball [1, 4, 3, 5] = 13
This is in no way ordered to reflect my favorite sports (most of you know I’m baseball-obsessed), but rather an objective viewpoint as to what can most be considered a sport. Did I miss anything? Disagree with my criteria? Feel free to light up the comments.