That's a Sport?????

Matthew GilmartinSenior Analyst IJuly 10, 2008

We all agree that basketball, football, baseball, hockey, soccer, golf, and tennis among others are sports.  But what about those borderline sports - poker, cheerleading, pool, auto racing, competitive eating, or running?

To judge these games and contests we have to know what a sport is.

According to, a sport is defined as " an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature,". 

Let's start with cheerleading.  As I talked to an old female friend online a few weeks ago she brought to my attention just how underrated cheerleading is as a sport.

Have you ever thought about the level of physical exertion required to do certain cheerleading moves like building the pyramid?  The girls on the bottom of the pyramid - especially in the middle of the bottom row - have to be very strong to support the body weight of all the girls above her. 

I bet that a cheerleader at the bottom of a pyramid can hold as much weight up as some football players can bench. 

And they're holding up the weight with their hands above their head - they have little or no leverage holding their arms up that high.  A football player doing a bench press has much more leverage with his arms than a cheerleader does holding squadmates above her head. 

Cheerleading has to be considered a sport.

Poker, according to the definition above, is part a sport and part not a sport.  It doesn't require any physical fitness or strength.  However, it is very competitive (especially in Vegas) and it requires great strategizing and skill as well as anticipation.  So I will call it a sport because I admire those who are good at it. 

Pool takes skill and immense strategizing to be good - you have to anticipate multiple shots ahead to be the best.  It also takes precision to line shots up and execute them well.  However, I can't call pool a sport - it's merely a rec-room hobby.

Auto racing, as much as I hate to say this because I hate NASCAR but must live with it here in the south, is definitely a sport.  Driving a car at upwards of 200mph takes serious physical fitness.

A few years back for my birthday I went to drive go-karts.  It was 45 minutes of pure fun.  But at the end I was sweating and worn out even though it was December and very cold.  It took a lot of energy to drive it. 

If driving a go-kart at 30 mph was that tiring, I can only imagine how hard it must be to drive a full-size car at 200mph.  Auto racers are excellent athletes and auto racing is a sport.  Case closed.

I'm sorry, but I just can't consider competitive eating a sport.  I don't like watching it, it's just a bunch of crazy anorexics eating their guts out.  All you have to do to win a competitive eating contest is starve yourself for a week and at the end of it cram food into your mouth till you pass out.  Not a sport.  However, with all due respect, I really admire people who can scarf 50 hot dogs without hurling.  I could never do that.

Competitive running is, without a doubt, a sport.  I ran on my school's track team this past spring, and it was the hardest physical test of my life.  We trained everyday and the meets were still very challenging.  Granted, I joined part of the way into the season and I it was my first sports season in something but basketball, but it was still really hard.  Many people can't run very well, and those who say running isn't hard should try running a mile in 5:30 before they talk.

So cheerleading, poker, auto racing, and competitive running are sports.  However, pool is just a hobby.  And competitive eating is just disgusting.