Tod’s Decrees From On High: Decree #1, Sports vs Games
A minor thread discussion over in Burt’s post on Olympic Medals made me realize that it is time for me to make a Decree On High regarding what is and is not a sport. I’ve kind of known this day was coming sooner or later, and it is obviously time for me to act.
So here we go…
As long as there have been sports, there has been some disagreement as to what activities should and should not qualify. There are dictionary definitions, of course, but they don’t really help. For example, here is Google’s:
“An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.”
At first blush that seems pretty good. But then you take a step back and realize that were we to use such a definition, we would also have to include the Bach-Archiv pianist competition, tiddley winks, the US Presidential election, and mimes. We clearly need a better definition, one that encapsulates the essence of what sports really are and separates them more clearly from the larger category of games.
Before I issue a degree on the definition, a quick clarification: A sport is a kind of game, but not all games are sports. This does not mean that sports are better than games, nor does it mean that we can’t enjoy playing or watching a game that is not a sport, even on television. And those that excel in popular games have every right to make as much or more money than those that excel at sports. That being said…
The New and Final Definition of “Sports”
A sport is an activity that meets the following criteria:
- It must be a wholly athletic competition against another person and/or team.
- It must have an established set of rules.
- It must have a quantifiable and objective measurement, which determines the winner of said competition.
Subsequent Judge’s Rulings
Because of this definition, many games that currently call themselves sports are no longer in semantic compliance. To wit:
Your game is not a sport if you can be out of shape by normal civilian standards (e.g.: paunchy, or even very overweight) and still compete at the highest levels of your game. This means that the following games are not sports:
Bowling, NASCAR, curling, golf, motocross, table tennis, hunting, gun/bow shooting, bass fishing, poker
Additionally, your game is not a sport if you have to rely on the aesthetic preferences of judges in order to beat your competition. This means that the following games are not sports:
Gymnastics, figure skating, most X-games, synchronized swimming
The following are some sample examples of approved sports:
Track & field events, tennis, basketball, all three footballs (soccer, American*, and Australian rules), swimming, the Tour de France, baseball*
So has it been degreed by your Tod from on high, and so shall it be forever and ever.
That is all.
*Baseball and American Rules Football did require a judges rulings, since each has one position where you can be paunchy and/or out of shape and still compete at the highest levels. (Offensive linesman, pitcher.) But because the rest of your team has to be athletic enough to cover for this in order for the team to compete at the highest lever, we are declaring each a sport.