Sport or game?

Since Kirk mentioned it in the comments on the body-building post earlier today, the thread seems to have heated up again. So let’s take it out here, then, and ask the question that has bedeviled humanity for ages:

What’s the difference between a sport and a game?

Ask Google, and you’ll get a number of answers, all of which indicate there’s no clear answer. I agree with Kirk that bodybuilding isn’t a sport, but I’m not sure what it is, either. Some say it’s not a sport if judging is involved, which would toss out much of the Olympic competitions. (My friend Ted, watching ice dancing with me one year, said, “It’s not a sport if you do it in a bow tie.”) I recall many newspaper photos of this or that professional golfer lining up a putt with a cigarette in his mouth, so I’d add that if you can smoke when you’re doing it, it’s not a sport, either.

What’s the criteria? Where do you sort them out?

Posted at 10:52 am in News |
 

31 responses to “Sport or game?”

  1. brian stouder said on October 3, 2007 at 11:26 am

    If I were Tim G, I’d grab Bartlett’s quotations and flip to whatever Hemingway said; wasn’t it something like – the only sports are bull fighting, auto racing, and mountain climbing? Whatever his examples were, his criteria was – you have to have your ass on the line…..and I see his point, but disagree that ‘extreme sports’ are the ‘truest’.

    Maybe it’s like obscenity (“I know it when I see it”); one definition of a sport that I subscribe to is that it has a score or a finish line that theoretically doesn’t depend on a stream of reactions from a panel of judges. ‘Course, every sport has officials or umpires that affect things – but the players should have direct control of the ‘score’ (or the outcome)

    A sport should involve a defined test (hit the ball straight, or cross the line first, or whatever) and that test should theoretically be timeless – so that success at something like it at any other time would still look like success today (this would exclude those body builders, since it is all subjective)

    like that

  2. beb said on October 3, 2007 at 11:29 am

    I suppose body builders could go the route of professional wrestling and call it an exhibition.

  3. Kirk said on October 3, 2007 at 11:41 am

    The sport vs. game argument often descends into a pissing contest based on the biases of who’s arguing. It’s popular to diss bowling and golf, for example, as being less than sports. I have no problem with calling either a sport.

    Bodybuilding is no more a sport than ballet. That doesn’t mean that either is easy or doesn’t require dedicated preparation. But they’re both performances, ballet far more so than bodybuilding.

    And much as I loathe the idea of sports whose outcome are in the hands of judges, figure skating, for example, is a sport, too.

  4. MichaelG said on October 3, 2007 at 1:00 pm

    What about that Olympic thing where little girls twirl around with ribbons? Or that other Olympic one where they bob up and down in the pool?

  5. Howie said on October 3, 2007 at 1:08 pm

    In my book, a sport has always been a competition powered by human muscles and involving skill. Golf and Curling, in. NASCAR, out. (Auto racing to me is just a competition, not a sport). I’m ok with figure skating or gymnastics being called a sport, as long as I am not required to watch it. But look at the activities that might pass my test: competitive cheerleading and you could even make a case for body building or Miss America. Ugh. I am just looking for a way to exclude NASCAR!!

  6. Kirk said on October 3, 2007 at 1:29 pm

    If you think auto racing is just a matter of driving a car, think again. Muscles, skill and endurance are most definitely involved, especially in NASCAR. Now drag racing might be another matter.

    And, for the record, Olympic medals have been awarded in ballroom dancing.

    Rhythmic gymnastics and, particularly, synchronized swimming are real close to the edge.

  7. nancy said on October 3, 2007 at 1:34 pm

    Muscles, etc., may be part of driving race cars, but it’s not everything. Far more important is reflexes and reaction time.

    If they take synchro out of the summer Games I’d be bummed. It’s the daffiest medal in the pool. Rhythmic gymnastics is its dry-land equivalent. Not to mention great training for pole-dancing down the road.

  8. brian stouder said on October 3, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    Muscles, etc., may be part of driving race cars, but it’s not everything. Far more important is reflexes and reaction time.

    and courage.

  9. alex said on October 3, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    When is it a sport? When bookies are making money off it.

  10. Howie said on October 3, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    muscles, skills, endurance… sounds like pole sitting to me.

    Hey, I don’t doubt that auto racing is difficult or dangerous – it just seems like more of an engineering competition with reflexes mixed in.

  11. brian stouder said on October 3, 2007 at 2:14 pm

    it just seems like more of an engineering competition with reflexes mixed in.

    especially Formula One – which I dearly love!

    Still – the team is focused on the driver, and a great driver (such as Michael Schumacher) catalyzes the team to ever greater efforts, and vice-versa; a very 21st century human drama

  12. Joe K said on October 3, 2007 at 2:41 pm

    If you keep score, it’s a sport.
    If you don’t it’s a game
    Joe K

  13. Kirk said on October 3, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    You keep score in cribbage and euchre.

  14. ashley said on October 3, 2007 at 2:51 pm

    brian — you mean “such as Ayrton Senna” or “such as Niki Lauda”, right? ;^)

    all — So, if auto racing is not a sport, what about motorcycle racing? More physical demands are made on a motorcycle rider…would that put it into the realm of “sport”?

    Shooting? Archery?

    No matter how much I want, I can’t call bowling a sport. It’s poor man’s curling, and we all know that curling is simply an excuse to drink. Golf, otoh, is a reason to drink.

    And thanks for that image of Martin Short and Harry Shearer doing synchronized swimming.

  15. nancy said on October 3, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    If you’d ever been to the International Palace of Sports in North Webster, Ind., you’d have seen a wax figure of Ely Culbertson, bridge master and advocate for world peace. He was honored as a King of Sports one year. As was O.J. Simpson.

  16. MichaelG said on October 3, 2007 at 2:55 pm

    I can’t get too fired up about what is a sport vs what is a game. We’re getting into distinction without a difference territory. Also what does it matter? I DO think that there are way too many events (crafty dodge) in the Olympics. They could drop half and nobody but parents would notice.

  17. brian stouder said on October 3, 2007 at 3:19 pm

    I think an interesting corollary question is – if people will pay money to watch, does THAT make it a ‘sport’ (worthy of the sports pages)?

    People will pay to attend an Olympic event, for a top-down example; the organizers can put any damned thing in the arena and it will draw a crowd.

    But baseball is a bottom-up (so to speak) sport; almost from the time it was invented, it drew a crowd.

    Auto racing seems to be almost a top-down sport… it was news to me that Ford Racing existed before Ford sold numbers of cars; car companies quickly learned that racing sold the cars. Still – fast cars racing one another turns heads – the ‘spectacle’ of it and all.

    By way of saying, in an arbitrary discussion of what the newspaper sports page should cover, one constant might be whether or not it is a ‘sport’ that people would go out of their way to attend, if they could

  18. nancy said on October 3, 2007 at 3:25 pm

    If only I could have had your thoughts to comfort me, Brian, when I was editing the News-Sentinel’s running column. Did you know most shin splits can be avoided by proper stretching?

  19. brian stouder said on October 3, 2007 at 3:35 pm

    Hah! Pammy had a grandma who would politely smile and nod as you yapped about whatever, and then she’d say “Oh, uhuh. Did I tell you that I have shingles?”

  20. basset said on October 3, 2007 at 11:19 pm

    >>if people will pay money to watch, does THAT make it a ’sport’ (worthy of the sports pages)?

    well, that would mean sex is a sport… at least until people quit buying porn movies…

  21. Carmella said on October 4, 2007 at 6:39 am

    Hey…this has nothing to do with the post, but last night I was on the road for a bit and listening to Pat White (rolling my eyes…in fact my eyes are tired from rolling them so much while listening to PW!!); anyway, does anyone know what happened to Queen Diane? I know someone (Brian??) mentioned her mysteriously disappearing in August, but I’ve never heard any more. Curious…

  22. brian stouder said on October 4, 2007 at 7:51 am

    My theory is, she finally got tired of his daily tirades against…well, pretty much everything! (he sounds very like those old folks one always finds on neighborhood association boards)

  23. nancy said on October 4, 2007 at 7:58 am

    I don’t know why, having put up with daily tirades for years already, that one day she would say, “OK, that’s enough.”

    My theory: Budget cuts.

    I used to listen to them every so often. It was like being stuck in an elevator with the stupidest people in your office. Although I got the inspiration for a short story from PW: A woman conducts a long-running affair, meeting her lover while her husband yammers on the radio for two or three hours every afternoon. She’s found out when he slips in a rerun and she fails to notice. (Needless to say, they keep the volume turned low.) Maybe I should write it someday.

  24. Carmella said on October 4, 2007 at 8:05 am

    What a wonderful story!!! Who could blame Mrs. W??? I always got the impression that the Queen was devoted to PW. BFF’s. She seemed to thrive on feeding off of him…I’m thinking budget cuts, too.

  25. brian stouder said on October 4, 2007 at 8:24 am

    suggested title:

    The Lip Flapper

  26. Cathy D. said on October 4, 2007 at 8:43 am

    Can something be part of sport, but not A sport?

  27. MichaelG said on October 4, 2007 at 9:12 am

    Terrell Owens comes to mind, Cathy.

  28. brian stouder said on October 4, 2007 at 11:21 am

    Can something be part of sport, but not A sport?

    I think so; hitting baseballs off a pitching machine is not a sport, despite being a part of baseball, for example…

    I forgot to pull Madame Telling Tales’ chain, and assert that if racing autombiles ain’t a sport, then hanging onto a horse that charges around barrels certainly isn’t either!

  29. del said on October 4, 2007 at 7:02 pm

    “Wrestling’s the only true sport — the rest is metaphor . . .”

    John Irving

    (just kidding . . . but I bet he would say that if asked)

  30. basset said on October 4, 2007 at 10:39 pm

    >>inspiration for a short story from PW: A woman conducts a long-running affair, meeting her lover while her husband yammers on the radio for two or three hours every afternoon. She’s found out when he slips in a rerun and she fails to notice.

    it’s been done… country song back in the Sixties, I forget the title.

  31. Bruce Fields said on October 5, 2007 at 10:35 am

    Yeah, I always figured a sport was just a game that you pay other people to play.

    I never quite saw the attraction.