Thursday, February 16, 2006

"It's Not a Sport", Olympic Edition

Annie and I are having our biennial argument, prompted by the Olympics, about what is and what is not a sport.

For me and for most men, it's simple -- if there's a chance of someone dying while doing it, the odds are good that we're looking at a sport.

To be more technical about it, I would definite a sport as an athletic competition in which a winner is decided primarily by being the best at achieving an objective set of criteria.

So it has to be athletic, meaning there's at least a chance someone will a) sweat, b) get injured, or even better c) die doing it. It has to be a competition, which means someone has to win and someone has to lose, at least most of the time (hockey ties, I'm lookin' at you). And the most important part is that there's an objective set of criteria. If the winner is decided in large part by subjective judging, it ain't a sport.

With that in mind, let's look at some popular events and I'll tell you if they're a sport or not. You can even print this out if you like to help guide you in your television viewing. I'm helpful that way.

Figure Skating - The definitive Non-Sport. Flinging waifs across the ice like a drunken Russian catapult is fun to watch and definitely athletic, but artistic merit is the deciding factor on who wins, and that means it's not a sport. Imagine if they decided touchdowns in the NFL by how pretty the spiral is. Blasphemy!

Luge - First one to the bottom of the mountain wins. Risk of bloody dismemberment in the event of a sled failure. Sharp objects bolted to a cart hurtling down a frozen tube. Definitely a sport.

Snowboarding - Anything that has been part of the X-Games is automatically not a sport. Anything you do better at if you smoke weed is not a sport. Anything that has "tricks" as an integral part of the event is not a sport. Three strikes and this one's out.

Biathlon - First one across the finish line who also hits the most targets with a gun wins. Not just a sport, but a manly sport, because there are guns involved. Now if they armed figure skaters with firearms we might have a sport on our hands.

Curling - In contrast to the guns of the biathlon, the fact that there are brooms in this event bring it perilously close to the "Not a Sport" category. However, people do sweat and there's always the chance that one of those giant blocks of granite will crash through the ice, dooming the entire team to a frigid and watery death. Definitely a sport. Getting to smash into something owned by the other team counts for a lot.

Speed Skating - First one around the track wins. Blades fastened to the bottoms of the competitors' feet hints at the possibility of a deadly ninja-style karate-kicking deathmatch. Definitely a sport.

Ski Jumping - This is a tough one. On the one hand, there's a high degree of possible death resulting from hurtling through the air. That's cool. And the guy who jumps the farthest usually wins, so that's good. On the other hand, if you break form you get disqualified, which seems lame given that you're flinging your body down a mountain without a parachute. That should count for something. I say if you want to fly down that hill in the fetal position, more power to you. The dealbreaker for me is that some contestants -- Olympic level contestants mind you -- have anorexia. Any event that an anorexic has a chance of winning shouldn't be considered a sport.

Feel free to post your own analysis of what is and what is not a sport, I look forward to hearing it!


annie'sbuddie said...

Figure skating: the US Olympic Committee's opportunity for gold medal corruption. Don't go to the tryouts due to injury - get put on the team anyway & bump someone who did - then go to the olympics & decline to compete because of an injury - now the bumpee has to scramble to get there & be ready. I'd say that qualifies the USOC for major fools' gold! Too much judging too.

Luge: only out done by land luging because there's no little canal to ride in, just twisty turny mountain roads waiting to eat your hide! Major sport.
The Doubles competition gives the sport of luge a completely different look.

Skeleton: the name says it all. Luging head first & what you could become by doing it. Sport!

Maybe there should be a tic-tac-toe competition between the athletes of the X-games and the athletes of the O-games. Not a sport! The X-game kids leave me with my mouth hanging open.

Biathalon: any combination of two (or more) "first one to finish wins" sports qualifies in my book - unless you're talking drinking games.

Curling: and I'm sure there's a copious amount of whiskey or vodka drinking that goes along with this one - probably has its origins in a bunch of old hockey players that were too drunk to stand on their skates.

Speed skating: ROCKS! Go Spring Boy! The in-line speed skaters like to draft behind a line of USCF bicyclists training in a local park - great fun until someone goes tharn.

Jeff Hebert said...

Annie's Buddie said:

Maybe there should be a tic-tac-toe competition between the athletes of the X-games and the athletes of the O-games. Not a sport! The X-game kids leave me with my mouth hanging open.

lol, that's too funny!

Very funny post!

Denise said...

Jeff, I think you told me once it's a sport if somebody wins and somebody loses. I think it's the loser part that really qualifies it as a sport.

Do they sell tickets for it? Sport or the Chippendale Dancers on parade.

Is there the possibility somebody will get beat up and bleed? Sport or shopping at Maison Blanche the day after Christmas.

Do you get a trophy? Sport.
Do you get your name in the paper? Sport.
Do you get an award for sportsmanship? Wimpy sport.
Shake hands at the end? Pee-wee sport. Shake hands and grip so hard you break bones in a hand -- Olympic sport.

Getting to spit at the end -- sport. Spitting blood -- definitely a sport.

Get to wear purple and gold, have a tailgate party outside the gates of the holy city shrine (Tiger Stadium), paint your house's shutters yellow with purple trim? Then it's the ultimate sport.

Jeff Hebert said...

Denise said:
Jeff, I think you told me once it's a sport if somebody wins and somebody loses.

That's only part of it though. It has to be athletic, a competition (winners and losers), and have an objective criteria for winning; all three are necessary. If it's a competition with objective criteria for winning, but is not athletic, it's a game and not a sport, like Poker, checkers, chess, etc.

Now if chess players got to tackle the other guy, or if they had to battle it out in hand to hand combat for each piece taken, THEN we'd have a sport!