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What is a Sport? - cellophane — LiveJournal
the story of an invisible girl
What is a Sport?
I was having dinner with some friends this evening, and the subject of watching sports came up. I don't especially watch sports myself, so I was only half-listening. The guy across from me was saying that his friends are always surprised to discover that he likes to watch a sport, but he really likes to watch Formula One car racing. (I think that's what it's called.)

It took a moment or two for this to sink into my distracted attention, but then I realized what he was saying. "You think that car racing is a sport? They're not athletes, they're driving a car!"

He tried to claim it was, but I just couldn't be convinced. He told me how he'd tried it once, and had been very tired afterward. He said he wore a flame-proof suit, racing over hot pavement, in a hot car... but I argued that just because you were uncomfortable didn't mean you were athletic. He said some races last 24 hours, and I agreed that sounded very unpleasant, but being inconvenienced didn't make it a sport either.

Then he said that if car racing wasn't a sport, then the luge isn't one either. (I'm not sure why he came up with that example.) I started to argue that it required strength and skill of some sort -- but we quickly realized that none of us knew enough about what the luge requires to argue that subject well.

Then we discussed figure skating of course, and he said that all depended on whether the French judge liked you, not skill. I acknowledged that it's a subjective sport, but it still requires more power than just sitting in a car moving the steering wheel. The other guy at the table pointed out that you had to press the gas pedal really hard too, which might require strong butt muscles. SG suggested that figure skating is perhaps more like boxing, what with all the knee-whacking going on.

Then the first guy argued that there are more car racing movies than figure skating movies. I agreed that to be true, but popularity alone does not make something sporty. If movies make it a sport, than psycho killing would be a sport as well -- and romantic comedies!

We gave up on the conversation by this point, but I thought I'd put it to LJ Land. I've listed a bunch of potential sports -- what do you think qualifies? What sports do you like to play and watch? Feel free to tell me why in the comments.

Poll #409368 Is it a sport?

How many of the following activities would you consider a "sport"?

Car racing
Figure skating

What's your favorite sport to watch?

What's your favorite sport to play?

read 29 comments | talk to me!
specialagentm From: specialagentm Date: December 28th, 2004 03:45 am (UTC) (Link)
There is a considerable physical element to car racing. It requires coordination, strategy, and a fair amount of stamina. It's not like driving to the store, you have to constantly adjust the steering, braking, and gas. As you pointed out, it's also very hot and cramped, those guys have to be able to tolerate really bad conditions.

Sure, it's different than other sports, but I'd still say it qualifies.

Now golf, that's not a sport. It's a nice walk, but not a sport.
hannunvaakuna From: hannunvaakuna Date: December 28th, 2004 05:11 am (UTC) (Link)
having actually golfed, i'd say it sure as heck is a sport. just like racing, it involves major coordination, strategy, MATH and even stamina. try golfing in the dark for an added twist (:
specialagentm From: specialagentm Date: December 28th, 2004 05:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
If you can drink beer while doing it, it's not a sport :-)
From: kim_8_18 Date: December 29th, 2004 12:06 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm all for that. I've seen a couple coworkers play volleyball while drinking beer.
encorecrazay From: encorecrazay Date: December 28th, 2004 04:02 am (UTC) (Link)
Just for fun, I googled 'chess as a sport', and it has been recognized as a sport in England!
nishar From: nishar Date: December 28th, 2004 04:31 am (UTC) (Link)
I dislike car racing but it is a sport. It requires considerable timing, reflexes and a steady nerve. A driver has to know his car perfectly and know what is wrong just by the way it sounds/handles.

NASCAR: Non Athletic Sport Centered Around Rednecks :P
elizilla From: elizilla Date: December 28th, 2004 04:39 am (UTC) (Link)
I would say that the two things that make something a sport, are a competition element, and a physical element that you train for.

Don't count motorsports out. I've never tried car racing, but I went motorcycle racing and I can tell you it is very physically draining. Sure the engine is what propels you forward, but there is so much body english, all these carefully timed movements. You have to balance your weight on your feet almost continuously, and shift your weight from side to side around the moving motorcycle using only your legs, because if you pull with your arms at all you will upset the steering. It's really hard work. By the end of the day I ached all over, and I fell asleep early.

My favorite sports all involve speed and danger. :-)
renniekins From: renniekins Date: December 28th, 2004 06:08 am (UTC) (Link)
I think motorcycle racing is probably more like horse-racing than like car-racing. Borderline, but I can definitely see its being sport-like.

Speed and danger... you should try synchro skating! *grin*
elizilla From: elizilla Date: December 28th, 2004 06:40 am (UTC) (Link)
When it comes to sports I am a very slow learner. It's OK to lose by myself in a solo sport, but letting the team down over and over again is just too unbearable. So I usually avoid team sports. But I would enjoy learning to skate a little better.
itsmika From: itsmika Date: December 28th, 2004 04:57 am (UTC) (Link)
I used to practice Tae Kwon Do in the early '90's, until my back went out. Most serious training I'd ever done, but I hated the competition/sparring aspect and only liked doing the forms. I don't suppose forms would be considered much of a sport.

I become rather upset when people or animals are injured...
elizilla From: elizilla Date: December 28th, 2004 05:25 am (UTC) (Link)
You have a chance coming up, to see whether racing is physical enough to count as a sport. I'm setting up go-kart racing for Stilyagi, the weekend before ConFusion. You should join us and try it out!
renniekins From: renniekins Date: December 28th, 2004 06:05 am (UTC) (Link)
Go-kart racing...is that like bumper cars?

I'm not on the stilyagi list, but feel free to email me when you have details. I might try it if I'm around... could be fun!
From: ex_erikvolso370 Date: December 28th, 2004 12:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Another factor -- race cars have very little gearing in the steering -- F-1 cars turn "lock-to-lock" in less than one revolution of the wheel. Steering requires much more strength than a normal car.

Worse -- they turn much harder than your car does. They have to fight with the steering, while pulling well over 1G in the turns. F-1 cars are brutal, an recent Ferrari pulled 1.5G on the skidpad. You try driving a car that can turn so sharply that you feel a force 150% of your weight trying to push you out of the car.

Finally -- look at professional race drivers. Do you see any that aren't in very good shape anymore?

pi3832 From: pi3832 Date: December 28th, 2004 04:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
I seem to recall that open-wheel race cars don't have power brakes, either. The only thing slowing those things down is the force that the driver can apply with his/her leg. Some years ago a F-1 driver crashed because he managed to break off the brake pedal... which was made of titanium.

Also, I recall an interview with Lyn St. James (one of three women to race in the Indy 500)about how tough it was to drive an Indy car. Her response was something like, take two five pound weights and hold them out in front of you at arms length for four hours while someone beats you with a hammer; that's what driving an Indy car feels like.

And then there's Sarah Fisher... ooo, baby.
rmeidaking From: rmeidaking Date: December 28th, 2004 01:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Where does ballet fit into your definition of sport? That requires a whole lot of being-in-shape, and they're all over 'Who does it better?' but it's not a sport.

I have sort of felt that figure skating was dance-on-ice, rather than a sport.

A sport, IMO, is when two (or more) people do the same thing at the same time; there are rules of conduct; points are kept that everyone can agree on; and there is a winner based on the points.

Figure skating has gone to extraordinary lengths to get the points in there, to the extent that a casual observer cannot work out who deserves which points. You need the equivalent of a college degree in How To Award Points to become a 'Judge' (we should really call them Points Officials) in figure skating. And there still isn't a whole lot of objectivity involved.

Yes, I feel the same way about gymnastics.
jeffreyab From: jeffreyab Date: December 28th, 2004 05:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ballet lacks the competative aspect but yes they are in better shape than most of us inline with most athletes.
_goodintentions From: _goodintentions Date: December 28th, 2004 04:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Obviously I agree that figure skating is a sport!!! It requires a ton of athleticism (a lot of which I don't have =-() And there's a movie coming out about a girl who decides to become a figure skater and becomes super good cause she figures out some mathematical way to turn 20000000 times while jumping. I think it sounds pathetic, but interesting.
specialagentm From: specialagentm Date: December 28th, 2004 05:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, I don't know about racing or figure skating, but results in the poll seem to show most people list "sex" as their favorite sport.

We should form a team or something, I guess :-).
elizilla From: elizilla Date: December 28th, 2004 06:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm not keen on the notion of competitive sex. Scorekeeping ruins it.
specialagentm From: specialagentm Date: December 28th, 2004 06:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't mind a sport where everybody wins, though ;-)
pi3832 From: pi3832 Date: December 28th, 2004 07:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'd hate to see the arguments over what should and shouldn't be included in the Compulsory sections.
thatguychuck From: thatguychuck Date: December 29th, 2004 12:11 am (UTC) (Link)
True, but if anyone needs help with a tiebreaker let me know. < grin >
mrdisco99 From: mrdisco99 Date: December 28th, 2004 05:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
There are many different kinds of car racing.

Formula 1 or Le Mans racers drive very complex and expensive machines on complicated road courses. Some of these are endurance races which last 12 or 24 hours with several drivers taking turns. They have to because a typical driver doesn't have the stamina to handle the conditions of a race car cockpit for more than a few hours.

I have less respect for NASCAR racing as it's mostly just guys who think they're racecar drivers inside moving billboards going around in circles.

Race car drivers have to put up with extremes of heat and G-forces all while being precise and calculating enough to drive a vehicle not only well enough to avoid crashing, but better than the guy behind him.

Something else to consider that most people don't is that car racing is a team sport. Workers in the pits have to be perfectly coordinated (kinda like synchro skating) getting tires changed and fuel pumped to get the car in and out on time. The car has suspension parameters that must be tuned for the track, sometimes in the middle of a pit stop, to make the car faster than the others. Some types of racing allow for different types of tires which can also be part of the strategy.

jeffreyab From: jeffreyab Date: December 28th, 2004 05:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
Auto Racing is a sport given that its competitive and requires serious physical effort.

Its not "just driving."
jagdoe From: jagdoe Date: December 28th, 2004 09:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
My definition? A sport is a physical competition with an objective goal and standardized equipment. To be a sport, superior equipment has to not be a factor, and subjective judgement needs to be minimal.

Baseball has an objective goal (scoring highest), has standarized equipment (cork bats are prohibited), and is a physical competition.

Car racing has an objective goal (reaching the finish line first), and may have a physical element, but realistically, it is not the driver with the greatest strength or endurance that wins. If rather than asking if racing was a sport, I asked if racing was primarily a contest of physical prowess, you'd really have to answer no. In addition, equipment isn't standardized (though there are limits), and many times it is the success or failure of your equipment that determines the outcome of the competition. Probably not a sport. On the other hand, bicycle racing largely IS a test of physical prowess, so this WOULD be a sport.

Gymnastics and ice skating (except for speed skating) has no objective goal, but rather a subjective goal. Equipment is standard, and the competition is largely based on prowess and physical skill. Are the competitors athletic? Yes. Is this a sport? I would say it is no more a sport than a dance competition. Ballet dancers train for years and have strength and agility. But when judges grade on purely subjective aspects, this makes it no longer a strict test of physical competition.

Boxing is a tough call. I would say that at its heart, when boxing comes down to a knockout, it's a sport. When it comes down to a point count, it gets fuzzy. Usually, this one is a sport.

What people should keep in mind is that just because something isn't a sport doesn't mean it doesn't require intense physical training and skill. Acrobats, dancers, and stuntmen all perform great physical feats, though due to lack of competition or lack of objective goals, they are not considered to be participating in sports.
thatguychuck From: thatguychuck Date: December 29th, 2004 12:24 am (UTC) (Link)
If rather than asking if racing was a sport, I asked if racing was primarily a contest of physical prowess, you'd really have to answer no.

Actually, I have to disagree. Having grown up in a racing family, I have a touch of knowledge about the subject. (My parents met racing Corvettes, and everyone in my family has been a race car driver but myself.)

If you have two similar, or even fairly similar cars, it all comes down to driver skill. It IS physical prowess, but it's not strength. It's reaction time, velocity judgment, the ability to "force" the car to do what you want, and I'm assuming I'm forgetting some of the other physical abilities that are involved. The mental aspects are great also, as they are in any other competitive sport.

At higher competitive levels of just about anything (even card games) it's not just put Tab-A into Slot-B, no matter how simple the game typically appears.

A lot of auto racing is solo racing, racing against a clock on a pre-set course. The SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) does quite a bit of this.

This is very similar to a sculling boat race (think Ivy League colleges with rowboat races). All competitors are trying to go faster than the other teams, and both use equipment to make it work. But it all comes down to the persons doing the work on the equipment. One has a motor, one does not. True, one requires more physical effort than the other. But I don't think physical effort alone makes or invalidates a sport.
elizilla From: elizilla Date: December 29th, 2004 01:08 am (UTC) (Link)
Auto racing has very specific and detailed standards for the equipment. There are strict rules, for instance: max displacement, max fuel capacity, engine configurations, required safety equipment, prohibited items (such as telemetry, NOS, computerized traction control devices), etc. In some types of racing the vehicles must be all stock, while others can be modified.

This is true of many other sports as well. Racing bicycles have been made progressively lighter; competitive riders are constantly buying titanium parts, the best possible bearings, lighter rims and tires, etc. Visit any sporting good store and you will find ever finer baseball gloves, the latest high tech golf clubs, carbon fiber tennis rackets, not to mention 5000 different types of athletic shoes. Even swimmers will shave their heads and their legs, and buy high tech swimsuits that promise less friction in the water. I'm sure Rennie's skating team is very picky about their skates.
From: kim_8_18 Date: December 29th, 2004 12:08 am (UTC) (Link)
I like volleyball & soccer, too, I just don't like the picking teams part. Yes, I'm usually picked pretty much last.
From: (Anonymous) Date: December 30th, 2004 07:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
There are sports - team or individually played with a finite objective and a unique quantifiable means of "winning". These would include baseball, football, hockey, motorsports, etc.

There are athletic performances - team or individually played with a subjective (judged) means of ranking performers and thus declaring a "winner". These would include gymnastics, almost all skating except speed skating, ballet, wrestling (pro and amateur unless decided by pinfall), boxing (unless decided by knockout).

That's just my opinion.

Ratz Ass
read 29 comments | talk to me!