By Anthony Bosco
There has been a long-standing public debate centered around the legitimacy or validity of what or what does not constitute a sport. I will do my best over the next few hundred words or so to put my stamp on what I think the difference is between the noble pursuit of sport and some guy who just likes to run.
Webster’s New World Dictionary, circa 1995 — which just happens to be the one resting on my desk here at the TimesLedger Newspapers — defines sport as “any recreational activity; specif., a game, competition etc. requiring bodily exertion.” That’s the first definition for the word and the one on which I want to focus. The second and third definitions, “fun or play” and “a thing joked about,” don’t apply here unless we start talking about the state of the New York Mets bullpen.
According to Bosco’s New World Order Dictionary, the word “sport” is defined as “any physical activity or game requiring physical exertion done in competition,” which is a fancy way of saying that just because you jog doesn’t mean you are actively participating in a sport.
Activities such as jogging, walking, canoeing, white-water rafting and base-jumping (not a lot of that here in Queens) are just that, activities. Sure they are physical activities, but they are not sports.
But if you put a jogger in a pack of say 40 other joggers, all of whom are being timed over a set course, well, then you have a race and a race qualifies as sport.
It’s quite a simple little thing, really. Handball is a sport, but only when done in competition. Otherwise you are just exercising or taking the really long road toward knocking down a wall.
I mean, some sports are no-brainers. Football, baseball, basketball and hockey are sports usually played by trained athletes on teams competing against other athletes and teams. Simple, all the requirements for my definition of sport are met by the big four.
One of my favorite sports, boxing, qualifies in a walk. It is perhaps the oldest of all sports and probably the most basic, pitting man against man in a test of physical might and tactical execution. Boxing was not always a sport, though. Just like two guys getting into a fight outside of a bar over a beautiful buxom blonde isn’t sport, neither was two individuals from the Homo Erectus family battling it out over a mastodon’s thigh bone a sport.
Some of the most basic physical activities a human can participate in lie in that gray area between simple physical activity and exercise and the wide world of sports.
Running, jogging, jumping and swimming can all be sports, and without them the Olympics would be really boring. But other basic human activities such as fishing and hunting are not sports.
I realize that there are actually contests and competitions to see which mountain man can kill the largest elk deer or who can reel in the biggest bass, but I view these things as nothing but extensions of man’s need to eat. I am not saying these things are easy or require no skill or athletic ability, but that doesn’t make them sports.
I have had this argument with a bunch of people over the years, including TimesLedger Managing Editor Roz Liston, who is of the opinion that white-water canoeing is a sport. Roz went white-water canoeing once and came in to the office afterward exclaiming in a very excited voice just how rigorous it was, physically.
And while I am sure it was taxing, just as is bringing in the groceries, it is not a sport. It is a way for people who really want to push their fear of drowning to the limit and possibly get a little wet. Like a water ride at Great Adventure, it’s fun and exciting and afterward you may be out of breath, but no one is giving out medals for best paddler.
Every time I hear someone say that golf isn’t a sport, it makes my skin curdle. Golf is most definitely a sport, and golfers are most definitely athletes. Just because they don’t have the physical attributes of, say, Lawrence Taylor or Carl Lewis — I know I am going back a few years with those examples — doesn’t mean they are not athletes.
Golf, when played by Tiger Woods and his brethren on the PGA Tour, is most definitely a sport. My tearing up the Clearview Golf Course with my 7-iron, however, is not a sport. It is just sad.
Lifting weights in your basement is not a sport, but weightlifting in competition is. See the difference? I thought you would.
The advent of extreme sports has brought a whole new list of sports into the fray. Skateboarding, which my friends and I used to do when there was nothing good on television, turned from a way of getting around into a sport, because someone realized you can do all these fancy things with a plank of plastic and some wheels. As much as it may not be a cup of tea, skateboarding is a sport and Tony Hawk is an athlete.
And for the wise-guys out there, you and your friends banging your heads against the wall to see who will pass out first is not a sport. Though, please let me know when you will be doing this, I might want a picture for the archives.
Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.