Open Mic: Defininiton of Sport—Not Eating Food

An'dre TriplettCorrespondent IJuly 2, 2008

What exactly is sport?  What defines a sport?  Are some athletic endeavors a skill, or might they truly be a sport?  Steve Healey, a graduate student in Stanford University's Physics Department, wrote what he considered to be a "Rigorous Definition of a Sport" and it goes as follows:  "A sport is any activity in which all of the following take place: 

1. An individual playing session is held between exactly two opposing players or teams.  2. The successful completion of a playing session results in a win for one player or team and a loss for the other or a tie between the two players or teams.  3. An integer score is assigned to each team corresponding directly to the number of times certain predetermined actions are performed by that team. The only judgment by any official regarding the score is whether these actions were performed. The winner of the playing session is determined by the final score.     4. The players regularly engage in rapid, self-propelled locomotion. Examples include, but are not limited to, running, skating, and swimming.    5. The duration of the game is limited either by time or by the completion of a preselected number of play units, the scope of which is determined by the completion of certain events during play.     6. The objective of the activity does not at any time directly involve physically harming an opponent.     7. The status of a solid inanimate object, movable by the force of one player, is of central importance when play is active. Furthermore, when play is active, the object is not physically attached to any player; and it is not rendered motionless, held, or contained by any player for an extended period of time.  8. No live animals, other than humans, are used. 

Using this framework of what sport, the following would not be considered sports:  Boxing, martial arts, swimming, or track and field events.

Football, baseball, lacrosse, hockey, basketball, and tennis would be considered sports under this definition.  The Fourth of July is this weekend and Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs will host its annual hot dog eating contest.  You will hear the announcer(s) call the competitors "athletes", but I would disagree with that label.   Even though the "athletes" have tranined countless hours, given their blood, sweat, and tears, and have forsaken their family life to compete on the competitive eating circuit, I would still argue that these men and women are not athletes, but rather skilled competitors.  To call these people athletes would be a cruel joke to athletes worldwide. 

While I can appreciate the ability to eat 45 hot dogs in 10 minutes or drink four gallons of Kool-Aid in one sitting, I don't believe what these people do is to be considered a major accomplishment—such as throwing 50 plus touchdown passes in one season like Tom Brady did.  What competitive eaters do is similar to what my uncles used to do at BBQ's every summer, and that is display a skill (excessive beer drinking, in their case) that is serious only to themselves and a select few others.  Having said my piece regarding what a sport is, I will still watch the slow motion train wreck that is competitive eating this July 4th weekend, along with millions of other Americans.   When does football training camp begin?