Sports fanatics have long debated the parameters of what makes up their livelihoods. What essential features does a recreational activity need to possess before it can be qualified as a “sport”? While opinions on the matter differ wildly (as opinions often do), there are a few basics that most everyone agrees upon, and a few that are highly disputed. This Top Ten includes a bit of both, with the more accepted elements tending to land near the top. These basics are used to answer such time-honored conundrums like “Is golf a sport?” and my personal favorite, “Should the World Series of Poker be televised on the great and prestigious ESPN?” While these questions may seem painstakingly obvious to some, others might legitimately be torn by their opinions on them, and thus on the fence when it comes to the matter. Well, I’m going to shed some light right here and right now regarding the concepts that make up one of the best things that God has ever allowed the human race to create: Sport.
[new page = Are spectators required?]
10. Are spectators required?
Significance Meter: 1
Let’s get this out of the way right away: We’ve all heard of spectator sports, whether it pertain to the events that took place way back in the Coliseum days, or the modern-day professional versions of sport. I firmly believe that this classification is a sub-category within sport, and not a necessity in and of itself for sport to exist. In short, sports can have spectators, but they don’t need them. I’ll illustrate it this way: If you and your past-prime buddies are engaging in an intense and passionate game of hoops out on the black top, is what you’re doing not a sport unless someone sits down on the sidelines to confirm the experience? Hardly; such a notion is completely preposterous. You and your compadres are working your butts off out there, partaking in a storied and honorable sport, and you deserve to be recognized as such.
[new page = Is Some Type of playing platform is required?]
9. Is some type of playing platform is required?
This question might need a little clarification for you folks, so I’ll begin with that: When I say platform, I mean it as in the context of some sort a field, of field, arena, court, etc. So is it necessary for the activity to possess one of these things, or can a sport be take place anywhere, whether it be in the heart of the jungle, the deepest depths of a wood, or the very peak of an extremely steep mountain? I say that it matters not where a sport occurs, but rather what the sport entails that is essential to it’s existence. Arenas and courts don’t make up a sport, it just so happens that the particular sport in question might be carried out more practically on said field or court. Logistical reasons rule here, rather than fundamental ones.
[new page = Must equipment be present?]
8. Must equipment be present?
Significance Meter: 4.5
Much like the question directly above, think this one is another that can, and often therefore is, easily misconstrued. The fact that equipment is an essential part of about 95 percent (a completely educated guestimation, I must note) of the sportage out there, does not make it essential. A essence of a sport, although rarely and in most cases harboring much difficulty, can exist without anything but one’s body participating in it. Wrestling, mixed martial arts, ect., could fit under this umbrella, regardless of whether you define athletic-wear as equipment or not (a matter, for the sake of everyone’s stomachs, that we will whole-heartedly refrain from addressing in this capacity). One does not need (although there are many enhancers involved in each) equipment to partake in these sports; one must simply compete against their opponent, physically beating them within the realm of the sport’s guidelines.
[new page = Is strategy essential?]
[new page = Does it need opponents?]
7. Does it need opponents?
Do multiple people need to be involved in the sport, or is competing against oneself enough? This brings into question activities such as golf, track and field, skateboarding, etc. where opponents are often included but not always, and therefore nonessential. And therein lies the answer; nonessential. Why should it matter whether who you are competing against, whether it be others, yourself, or a porcupine? If all of the crucial elements are still present, who you’re facing is inconsequential.
[new page = If the activity deems you wear your Sunday best (such as khaki pants and a polo shirt), is it really athletic enough to be a sport?]
6. If the activity deems you wear your Sunday best (such as khaki pants and a polo shirt), is it really athletic enough to be a sport?
Significance Meter: 7.5
Now we are getting pretty subjective. I’m of the opinion that if you can wear your “nice” attire during the activity, and not worry about ruining them, then it’s simply not strenuous and rigorous enough to be a real sport. If a sport’s formal look is just as important as the actual gameplay, then is it really demanding enough? Sports should be played in athletic wear, clothing that is meant to be roughed up and subjected to a day’s hard work. You wouldn’t wear a polo to a day’s work at a construction site, or when you’re going to help a friend move, so why would you do it when you’re playing a sport? Folks shouldn’t wonder whether you are attending a family reunion or a PTA meeting. They should know that you are going out there to engage in the exquisite art of sportage.
[new page = If one can smoke and drink on a regular basis and still be successful at the activity, is it a sport?]
5. If one can smoke and drink on a regular basis and still be successful at the activity, is it a sport?
Significance Meter: 9
This is obviously more relevant to the pro adaptation of a sport, but golf is notorious for being guilty of this. If one can tear down their body with these substances, and still rise to the top of their respective “sport”, than how physically laborious can it really be? A chain-smoker would never make it in basketball, nor football. They’d be winded almost immediately. I can almost assuredly tell you that current golfer John Daily wouldn’t make it in any other sport, and I doubt that legends Ben Hogan and Arnold Palmer would either. Complex.com confirms my point (which ironically includes all three golfers); notice most of the current and former big-time athletes pictured are golfers and baseball players. Only one apiece is a tennis player, snowboarder, and MMA fighter, and football player (no surprises here from Randy Moss, as it was quite evident that he enjoyed delving in the stronger scent of marijuana as well). Three others are soccer players (it’s no secret that Europe is rather fond of their cigarettes and alcohol), but a whopping seven and nine play baseball and golf, respectively. And not only are they smoking, but they are engaging in the bad habit on the diamond and on the course as well.
[new page = Competition must be present, and score must be kept.]
4.>b> Competition must be present, and score must be kept.
I think this is the central difference between something that is classified as “recreational”, and something that is classified as a sport. If you’re not trying to win, if you’re not trying to better your opponent, or beat or achieve a certain goal, then you might as well place the activity in the same realm as painting, puzzling, and crafting. Competition is the essence of sport, as there is simply no having it in its absence. They don’t call them competitors for nothing. Sport can exist without a concrete scoring system, as it is possible to tell who outplayed who, or who “won” without it, but I believe that it greatly enhances the sport, as close games can be tracked more efficiently, and you can tell someone in concrete numbers how much you embarrassed (or were embarrassed by) your opponent.
3. Is strategy essential?
Significance Meter: 10
Here I think we’ve reached our first vital element of sport. Without strategy, the process of formulating a plan to gain an advantage, better position yourself, succeed, and in the end, win, would be nonexistent. And sport simply cannot survive without these activities. Think about it; without them, what would one do during a sport? If you take away these elements, any sport would be reduced to a mere work out, where one is simply moving just to move, whether it be to lose weight, tone muscle, or to feel better about oneself. It would not have the same goal as sporting should have.
[new page = The activity needs to adhere to a set of rules.]
2. The activity needs to adhere to a set of rules.
Significance Meter: 10
This one is fairly obvious. Without rules and laws that govern the sport, no one would know how to play it. Disputes and anarchy would be the only sort of ruling, in fact, and participants would spend most of their time either in a state of confusion, or arguing about the fair and right way to do things. Rules keep sports moving as well, if there is such a disagreement, officials look to the rules so play can progress and as little time as possible is wasted. Simply put, chaos and pandemonium are rarely a good thing. This holds true in the realm of sports.
[new page = A sweat must be broken, and not just due to the heat of the day.]
1 A sweat must be broken, and not just due to the heat of the day.
The number one sport essential should in turn be the most obvious as well, right? Sports need to be physically demanding, laborious, and challenge one’s body. If not, athletes would never have to retire, and could simply play as long as their minds allowed. Anything and everything that is considered a “game” would qualify. ESPN wouldn’t be disgracing their brand by televising golf, bowling, and, worst of all, poker. It’s utterly ridiculous that these things are considered sports in today’s world. Based on the ten aforementioned basics, it’s pretty clear that I’ve established the belief that activities such as golf, fishing, poker, and bowling definitely don’t make the cut, and baseball and NASCAR are sitting on the fence. We have high standards for our athletes; why not the credentials of the sports they play as well?