Open Mic: True Sport Can't Have a True Definition

James HulkaAnalyst IJuly 2, 2008

If you ask 20 different people how they would define a sport, you would get 20 different answers. Maybe not 20, but there would be some standard similarities and quite a few subtle differences.

I'm no expert—I've been an amateur athlete and an avid follower of many sports, and some other things that people consider sports. Unlike Jim Rome and many others in America, I realize that, although I'm no good at playing soccer, it is the world's sport, and as of today, the US men's team only ranks 30th in the world.

The amount of energy, determination, athleticism, speed, practice, durability, precision, and strength that goes into soccer rivals just about any sport out there.

I love baseball, but it falls behind soccer, football, and most track and field events in athletic ability needed to perform. Tiger's a great athlete, but a recent ranking of the greatest athletes in the world had him barely making the top 10 because his sport (yes, golf is a sport) doesn't require the athletic ability that is needed for soccer or the decathlon.

It should be no surprise that a loose derivation of the word of a person who participates in this event (decathlete) basically breaks down to "10 athletes".

Javelin throwers have great arms. Shot put is usually done by people with really strong upper and lower bodies. Jumping high and jumping far are two different things. Running a sprint and running a mile require two totally different approaches.

The decathlon (or in women's case, the heptathlon) requires probably every ability an athlete can possibly have.

On the other hand, while I like playing pool, darts, and poker, but I'm sorry, they don't qualify. They rank right with auto racing and competitive eating on the "yeah, you're never going to get me to believe that's a sport...ever" list.

Competition doesn't define sport. Neither does durability and practice. Ping-pong is about the only one where I'm sitting on the fence. Tennis, volleyball, and badminton are, but all of those require running around on a bigger court, despite a similar premise.

I have respect for sports, and athletes in sports, that I don't play. I played baseball and basketball from first grade up until the start of high school. I had three years of indoor soccer in college, along with picking up volleyball and karate. I've bowled consistently my whole life, netting a couple of trips to state finals, and a perfect 300 game to my resume.

I basically taught myself golf, to where I expect to shoot about a 90 on a par-72 course. I never played organized football, but I've had plenty of pickup games—tackle or flag—that have left me sore afterwards.

Add in tennis, track, and cross-country during my high-school years, and I've got a lot of 'em covered. Never played hockey, but then again, I didn't learn how to skate until I was in college. I'd look only slightly better than Happy Gilmore on the ice, but I wouldn't make a total ass of myself.

So there you have it. Basically, if you don't move during your participation, you aren't an athlete. My cousin would probably agree with me.

Why do I bring up my cousin in this? Well, during an interview 12 years ago, the author of the article wrote (not in these exact words) that my cousin "would much rather watch bowling or golf than auto racing because it's more interesting and requires some athletic ability".

This isn't coming from someone who's just my cousin. I won't give her name, but for the past 18 or so years, she's worked for the U.S. Olympic Committee, NBC, FOX, the NHL, USA Sports, and the Golf Channel. She's a producer who does golf and tennis (US Open) mostly these days, but has been to the Olympics at least six times for broadcasting, adding Beijing to her list this summer.

That interview was posted on the website during the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, because she was the site's producer.

With that background, she's earned the right to decide for herself what sport is and isn't. While I may not have that set of accomplishments under my belt, having played a dozen sports allows me to put in my two cents as well.