SPORF Leisure When is a Sport not a Sport?

When is a Sport not a Sport?

Here at SPORF, we love to promote little-known sports and other similar activities.  But how does an activity qualify as a sport and when is a sport not a sport?

Trying to understand what is a sport and what isn’t, feels like a very difficult puzzle to solve.  So how do you define whether a leisure activity is a sport or just a pastime?  That sentence alone is quite revealing, regards the term ‘just a pastime’.. but is typical of the kind of language I’ve read when researching this topic.  It implies pastimes are somehow inferior to sports.  I could not believe the amount of content there was online, on this debate.  There seems to be a lot of snobbery about, particularly from those who play or support traditional sports and don’t want to let other, perhaps more niche activities into their cosy club.

The OED has a number of definitions for ‘sport’, paragraph 4a states that sport is  ‘An activity involving physical exertion and skill, esp. (particularly in modern use) one regulated by set rules or customs in which an individual or team competes against another or others. Frequently in plural.’

The part that drew my focus is that it ‘requires physical exertion and skill’.  When you think about it that excludes a lot of activities that most people would consider a sport.

Darts, snooker, and bowls all require high degrees of skill… but physical exertion?  I do more physical exertion getting dressed in the morning!  What about running a marathon?  That involves an awful lot of physical exertion… but skill?

Perhaps the activity that has drawn the most debate, in recent years, is gaming.  Skill?.. definitely.  Physical exertion?.. well that depends, but it’s probably no less than in darts and snooker.  Gaming itself is a very broad term and you can’t really compare tackling an online word puzzle with competing in the FIFAe World Cup.  The bottom line is, this topic is a ‘rabbit hole’ you can disappear down and never emerge with a definitive answer.  I say,  just enjoy what you enjoy doing.  I do activities like cycling, which gives me physical exertion but with little skill and I do gaming which requires skill but with little exertion.  Actually, that’s not the whole story.  Gaming is also great for mental exertion, let me demonstrate how…

Now chess is a sport according to the IOC.  So why not computer chess?  I love chess.  This war game is the ultimate mental challenge, in my opinion.  I enjoy playing Chess Grandmaster online.  It has three difficulty levels, you can choose to play as white or black and use a timer if you wish.  In addition, there is a puzzle section where you can try and complete a checkmate in 2, 3 or 4 moves.  Great practice if you have trouble ending a game.  If you’ve never learned the game but are interested in giving it a go, then just learn how each piece moves and then try it.  However, you will need to be patient and resilient, to begin with.  It really tests your levels of concentration and can be both infuriating and satisfying.  It can also become addictive.  Even in easy mode, the computer doesn’t tend to make silly mistakes, unlike playing a novice human.  So don’t expect to win anytime soon.  I find the easy level to be about the right difficulty for me and I usually win about as many games as I lose.

Dominos… is that a sport.. erm… I don’t think so.. oh I don’t know!  If chess is… why not dominos?  I do know I like playing the Daily Domino Puzzle.  All you have to do is complete the grid by inserting dominos to cover all the spaces, but you can’t have any duplicates.  To do this just drag and drop over the square to place each piece.  If you duplicate a domino, it will show up in red and you have to try again.  It is not easy and will test you in all sorts of ways.  I have to admit I still normally play in one of the ‘easy’ levels.  There are six in all.  The picture at the top of the page shows the most difficult level, which I am yet to successfully complete.  Extra levels are added daily, so the game stays fresh.

So in conclusion, what have we learned as to what classifies as a sport?  The answer is probably very little.  The truth is, it’s a grey area with so many variables which ultimately comes down to personal opinion.  Frankly, I don’t care about the politics of whether I’m participating in sport or a pastime or anything else.  Whatever it is, I’m certain it’s benefitting me physically and/or mentally, in some way.  So just find an activity you enjoy and stick with it.

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