I don’t know why people have such a fixation with those questions. Could it be that some are so emotionally attached to their athletic entertainment of choice that it causes them mental distress to question its place or could it be that they cannot go against what they have been told by popular culture?
I have never really had to wrestle with that question as I have always found the answer to be cut and dry.
A sport is a competition that requires both physical and mental skills where the victory achieved is decided by the competition itself and not judged. Depending on the sports it can be achieved in many ways whether its most points scored, first to the finish or longest distance covered. If a competition’s outcome is decided by the arbitrary judgment of an individual or individuals than it has become an artistic competition.
Some would argue that sports like football, baseball and basketball have referees that impart judgments that decided outcomes. These referees just decided if the rules are followed. A football referee does not award more points because a receiver made a spectacular catch nor does and umpire grant more runs because a homerun went over the center field fence at Fenway Park as opposed to the right field fence.
The physical ability argument doesn’t hold water either. Yes, gymnasts display incredible physical prowess and strength but the winner is decided by who looks best not by who vaulted the farthest or who jumped the highest on the balance beam.
Here is a partial list of activities that many question if they are sports with my designation applied.
Sport: Olympic Swimming. Not a sport: Olympic Diving, Synchronized Swimming.
Sport: Golf. Not a sport: Poker (No physical skill involved)
Sport: Autoracing. Not a sport: Drifting
Sport: Downhill Skiing. Not a sport: Ski Jumping (If it was just distance then it would be a sport) Olympic Halfpipe.
Sport: Olympic Wrestling. Not a sport: Boxing (Unless it is decided by knockout)
Sport: Motocross. Not a sport: Moto-X.
A quick acknowledgement for the famous often used quote. Mountain Climbing and Bull Fighting are both Sports. They both have clear cut winners. The man versus mountain or bull in each sport respectively.