When a Sport Isn’t a Sport (and no, Figure Skating isn’t a sport)

BaseballA few weeks ago, while we were visiting Detroit, one of my friends stated he didn’t think baseball was a sport. Obviously we were a little shocked to hear that — and it eventually led us to talk about what really defines “sport”. We went through a list of “border-line sports” — games we thought could be argued for and against.

It was a great discussion, we really got into it and came up with 5 necessary distinctions of a sport. However, upon further thought, I’ve added one of my own. In my view, all 6 of these rules must be met in order for that activity to be called a sport. The International Olympic Committee has a list of sports they recognize, but I’ll explain my 6 criteria for defining a sport:

1. Must have competing opposing forces.

This one is pretty obvious — you gotta be playing against someone.
What fails this test: Solitaire.

2. Players must exert a considerable amount of energy or force.

I believe that players of sports should be athletes. This doesn’t necessarily mean they all should be Terrell Owens ripped, but they shouldn’t be able to drink beer and eat pizza all off-season and dominate during the regular season.
What fails this test: Billiards.

3. Winning must be determined by clear and non-subjective scoring.

In other words, winning cannot be determined by judges giving scores. Real sports aren’t determined by human subjection — that’s too floozy. A win should be a win based on accruing clearly defined goals (baskets, touchdowns, runs, fastest time etc.). The idea is, it shouldn’t matter how you get there, just that you do. If the scoring is based on the how, it restricts the amount of creativity and flexibility a sport can have — we’ll just end up seeing the same things over and over again.
What fails this test: Figure Skating.

4. There must be rules of play that are enforced.

Again, pretty straight forward here — rules of play are necessary so that each side has an equal opportunity to use their skills to score or prevent the other team from scoring.
What fails this test: ??? Let me know if you have one.

5. Players must possess some recognizable skill (i.e. not just luck).

Skill is a very important part of sport. Of course, luck will always be a factor but for the most part, skill determines the bulk of sport event outcomes. It’s the combination of different skill levels that allow for great competition and a diverse field of players.
What fails this test: BlackJack

6. Must be organized beyond local/regional geographic areas.

Sport is something that transcends geographic boundaries. It communicates without language, though it may vary from location to location, on the whole it remains fairly unchanged (basketball in Canada is understood as basketball in Spain). I think this is a key definition of sport — it unifies across ethnicities, it doesn’t care what colour you are or where you live.

Other sports that don’t qualify under my rules:

  • Chess
  • Video Gaming
  • Synchronized Swimming

Sports that do qualify:

  • Weight Lifting
  • Car Racing
  • Golf

What do you think of my criteria, does it work? What games/activities do you think are/aren’t sports?

Oh and BTW, Football is the greatest sport on Earth!