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Athleticism factor distinguishes sports

Feb. 27, 2001

It's time for a distinction to be made.

It has come to my attention that the label 'sport' is being used far too liberally. A 'sport,' in my opinion, is not simply a reference to a competitive, recreational activity. The activity has to include a strong degree of athleticism. If athleticism is not a determining factor in sports, then the term is almost all-inclusive. For example, is croquet a sport?

The degrees of complexity, skill and precision are inconsequential. Just because something is difficult, this doesn't make it a sport. Is chess a sport?

There is a fine line separating games of precision and sports. Here is the way I see it: In a sporting event, you go full speed ahead. There is generally no holding back.

If it's football, you run as fast as you can. If it's basketball, you jump as high as your legs will let you. If it's tennis, you knock the heck out of the ball.

Games of precision, however, force you to hold back. At that point, it becomes less your athletic ability and more touch and precision. A good example of this distinction is javelin vs. horseshoes.

Both activities involve throwing, but you throw a javelin as far as you can and it is therefore a sport -- in horseshoes, you throw only as far as the pole. This makes it a game.

The line between sports and non-sports is becoming so blurred that not even long-standing sports icons can tell the difference anymore. Recently, I flipped on ESPN hoping to catch the day's sports highlights. To my surprise, the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network was not broadcasting sports. It was, however, covering a card tournament! A card tournament, as in 'go fish!' Can you see how far the situation is degenerating?

For the sake of the fans, I believe it is time to clear out some of the gray area:

Bowling -- not a sport: The only athletic ability required is being able to take four steps while carrying 15 pounds. Inertia does the rest.

Billiards -- not a sport: Although I enjoy it, it is merely a game of precision. Do you think billiard-legend Minnesota Fats earned his name through athletic prowess?

Horseracing -- not a sport (unless you're a horse): The only physical standard for jockeys is smallness.

Auto racing -- not a sport: Granted, it requires concentration. But when you get right down to it, they are sitting down and turning a wheel.

Hunting and fishing -- not sports: Unless you tackle the beast and choke the life out of it with your bare hands, there is barely any movement required.

And last but not least, love me or hate me:

Golf -- not a sport: It necessitates a ton of skill but no athletic ability. They wear slacks and collared shirts, for goodness sake.