I have a much more restrictive definition of "sport" than Travis Johnson (The Tech, May 11, 2007). So restrictive, in fact, that Johnson's four favorite sports and most summer Olympic events don't qualify.
Basketball, baseball, football, and hockey should not be labeled as sports, and here's why:
1) The outcome must be determined by the skill of the participants, not by a panel of judges or by chance. Johnson provides an excellent example: "So You Think You Can Dance" is not a sport.
Basketball fails here as well. The referees just love to make themselves a part of that game. We even know their names: Joe Crawford, Bob Delaney….
Take one look at Bruce Bowen and his dirty Spurs kicking and flopping their way across Texas and you'll know what I mean. Don't share air with LeBron James, that's a foul — Commissioner David Stern thinks he's a dandy.
2) A sport must require physical and cardiovascular exertion. That does seem to be a generally accepted principle. Still, I must say that I diverge with Johnson's assertion that this rule eliminates the game of poker. I guess he's never held enough chips for the aerobic element to come into play.
This is, of course, where baseball drops out.
3) A sport must be competitive, and the outcome must rank the participants. Johnson tells us, "Competition is the essence of sport." Yet only a few sports outside of the triathlon can claim to stay true to this ideal.
NFL football is a business, and decidedly non-competitive. Revenue sharing between teams guarantees that the playoffs are a toss-up every year. Don't kid yourself, Brady fans, the Patriots are a complete fluke.
4) A sport must not require participants to use an internal combustion engine. Johnson lists this criterion but fails to expose that hockey should not be called a sport. Or have we all forgotten the Zamboni?
My personal soft spot for hockey that makes this exclusion difficult, although necessary. The Chicago Blackhawks are winning the Stanley Cup next year. Book it. They're a finesse team.
I do have a point here…
Johnson hopes to draw a few lines on paper that unconditionally separate sports from games. If there is any geometry to this distinction, it clearly goes beyond the limits of protractor and compass. His futile choice is between a definition that nobody can agree with and one that nobody can understand.
Falconry is a sport. So are rifle, running, swimming, shotput, javelin throwing, elephant hunting, gladiator battling, and bowling. These have far more history as sporting events than any silly American invention of the past two centuries.
To be fair, Johnson's argument may be more practical than semantic. This interpretation has relevance in the content we see on ESPN, or in the Olympics.
Sorry Travis, but when it comes to the Olympics, I'd rather stick to its tradition as a celebration of the athleticism of man. Archery and gymnastics deserve their trip to Beijing this year more than any of the "sports" your personal tastes allow you to stomach.