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.

Pizza
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).

Dice
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!

  • Personally I enjoy the NHL and NFL most. I think this is a good fun post Shey but I don’t know if your criteria works perfectly 😉 I think your key missing criteria is that there must be physical exertion of force or energy.

    Otherwise, I could say that I believe chess is a sport (despite the fact that I don’t play). It requires skill (i.e. use of strategic thinking) and using brain power requires energy. It has opposing teams and it incorporates non-subjective scoring with the enforcement of rules. Chess also goes beyond a nation’s borders.

    Same could be said of video games which also incorporates opposing forces, brain power, winning/losing sides, enforceable rules, acquired skills, and also that multiplayer games transcends borders. Many teams of video game players train a heck of a lot and plot out team strategies just as teams in the mainstream sports do (i.e. NFL!).

    Ehren Cheung’s last blog post..The Meaning of Life On Twitter

  • If Chess is a sport, then where do you draw the line? Are card games sports? Hearts, Bridge, Spades are all card games that require strategic thinking (of course nowhere near the level of Chess).

    I think a sport involves a combination of both intellectual and physical battles — the complete athlete must possess both the hard skills and the soft skills.

    Chess is a great game, but I don’t think it’s a sport. It’s completely intellectual. Which is great for a game, but not a sport in my opinion.

  • Personally I enjoy the NHL and NFL most. I think this is a good fun post Shey but I don’t know if your criteria works perfectly 😉 I think your key missing criteria is that there must be physical exertion of force or energy.

    Otherwise, I could say that I believe chess is a sport (despite the fact that I don’t play). It requires skill (i.e. use of strategic thinking) and using brain power requires energy. It has opposing teams and it incorporates non-subjective scoring with the enforcement of rules. Chess also goes beyond a nation’s borders.

    Same could be said of video games which also incorporates opposing forces, brain power, winning/losing sides, enforceable rules, acquired skills, and also that multiplayer games transcends borders. Many teams of video game players train a heck of a lot and plot out team strategies just as teams in the mainstream sports do (i.e. NFL!).

    Ehren Cheung’s last blog post..The Meaning of Life On Twitter

  • If Chess is a sport, then where do you draw the line? Are card games sports? Hearts, Bridge, Spades are all card games that require strategic thinking (of course nowhere near the level of Chess).

    I think a sport involves a combination of both intellectual and physical battles — the complete athlete must possess both the hard skills and the soft skills.

    Chess is a great game, but I don’t think it’s a sport. It’s completely intellectual. Which is great for a game, but not a sport in my opinion.

  • What defines an athlete? Is someone who plays a professional sport considered a professional athlete? It's difficult to make a comparison between, say John Daly (Golf) and Peyton manning (Football). Although I would consider all items on your list a sport, I would not consider all players within those sports athletes.

  • Yeah your list is awesome! I would add only one sport i.e. Cricket! you really have to look at the popularity of Cricket, i am sure you will find it appropriate in this list!

  • 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

    all this is true is anything now

  • Pingback: When a Sport Isn 39 t a Sport and no Figure Skating isn 39 t a sport | volleyball equipment()

  • kopter

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  • CristianStar

    Just visit a sports league website and you will probably know if that specific sport can actually be called a sport. I for one don't ask that many questions and I simply just love soccer and billiards. I don't care if billiards is considered a sport or not, but I do enjoy playing and watching others play.

  • luwinski

    Excellent site, useful information thanks... .

  • BreslowAaron

    I think a sport is a game that has some specific rules, it can be played solo or as a team, and of course there is a prize at the end or a reward:))
    __________________________________
    Aaron Breslow

  • thank you

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