About a week ago, a judge in Connecticut determined that competitive cheerleading is not an official sport that colleges can use to meet gender requirements. My reaction upon hearing this was bravo judge, job well done. But this got me thinking about sports in general. What criteria exactly determines what is and what isnít a sport. Now you will never find one right answer, but Iím going to do my best to help clarify that answer by laying out the criteria that I feel best defines what exactly a sport is.
The first and most obvious criterion for a sport is something that requires some sort of athletic or physical exertion while performing the sport in question. You canít call something a sport if you arenít moving around or doing anything involving some serious hand eye coordination. So I would like to apologize to the late Bobby Fischer, just because the International Olympic Committee considers chess a sport, doesnít make it so. Breaking a mental sweat in my book doesnít count as physical activity. My dad always used to crush me in chess but it wouldnít stop me from crossing him up in a pickup basketball game. This also eliminates NASCAR, Formula 1, or racing vehicles of any kind from being considered a sport. NASCAR may be one of the most popular ďsportsĒ in the US, but driving around in circles for five hours in a row doesnít qualify as physical activity in my book. The only physical stress they may experience is holding back a large dump in the middle of the race. That takes some serious talent.
Second, nothing that is choreographed can ever be considered a sport. Sorry cheerleaders of the world, the bus stops here. Athleticism and hard work is only one part of what determines a sport. Iím not taking away from anything that they do, because some of it is pretty impressive, but sports are not choreographed. The wrestlers for the WWE do some pretty amazing things themselves, but I donít see them making ESPN. This rule also goes for synchronizes swimming (which I canít believe I even have to justify) and gymnastics of any kind that are choreographed. This goes hand in hand with another criterion of mine that says the outcome of an event, game or match cannot be determined by a judge. A third party should not be the one to determine the outcome. The people competing in the event should be the ones who control the outcome. If someone is better than me, I donít need a judge to give me a score that lets me know this. Which leads me to my last and most controversial criterion.
For something to be considered a sport there has to be a clear winner and a clear loser. When I think of a sport, I think of two sides competing against one another until the game is over and you have a winner and a loser. When the Red Sox play the Yankees or the Saints play the Colts, there is always a winner and a looser. Something such as a Tennis tournament is acceptable because within the tournament, you have individuals squaring off where the winner advances and the loser goes home. Iím talking about winning and losing at the most basic level. This eliminates primarily all of the Olympic events such as running, swimming, diving, rowing etc. This list could go on for days. I classify these as athletic activities, because there is no question that the people who participate are tremendous athletes, however the events they are performing in donít have true losers. There is no 2nd or 3rd place in real sports. When the Phillies lost the World Series, they didnít stand on a podium and proudly accept a second place trophy. They accepted defeat and went home. You donít compete against times in sports, you compete against the person or team in front of you.