Saturday, May 5, 2007

Is it a sport?

Before I speak my mind, a few technical notes:

My computer is an antique. It's an old iMac and therefore it doesn't keep up with today's online technology. I can blog at this site, but I can't always tell if my customizations are working, as these pages look different on my work computer, which is far more modern. I tried to hyperlink my favorite D Cup blog from a previous post, but I can't tell if it's working or not, at least here at home. I'll check the entry when I'm at the office on Monday. I should be updating my home computer soon, so perhaps I won't have these issues. But this website is Greek to me, and my computer doesn't speak Greek, so apologies for any flaws in my postings.

I'm tickled that thus far I've learned how to post links to my favorite blog and my favorite game show news site. Look for more links to come in the weeks ahead, but as I said, it has to be something special to earn a link from me.

I noticed earlier tonight that I had to approve comments before they were posted to my blogs. I think I have eliminated that. I'm not that old, I watched MTV in my formative years, I like instant gratification almost as much as my 20-something co-workers. Future replies to my blogs should offer that same gratification.

So I spent a few hours on Saturday afternoon at Canterbury Park, Minnesota's only horse racing track. The track's live racing season kicked off today, in part because of the 133rd running of the Kentucky Derby. My co-worker enjoys betting on this race for some reason, so I met him at Canterbury for a couple of hours. (I made random bets on three races, totalling $25, and won one bet, paying $11. I ended up $14 in the hole.)

A lot of chuckleheads go to the track for this race. I've been to the track several times over the years, but I've never seen a crowd like this. Post time for race 1 was 1:30 p.m., and those who showed up early were there for about four hours by the time the Derby was run, so it didn't surprise me to see a significant portion of the crowd depart after the Derby.

I enjoyed the people watching prior to the Derby. There were several women who showed up in their dresses and bonnets for race day. Did they realize they were in Minnesota and not Kentucky? They weren't drinking mint juleps, so that should have been a clue, but they were nice to look at, particularly those who didn't have lame tattoos around their ankle. So as silly as it seemed to me that they were dressed up to watch a simulcast race, I'm not complaining. I'm a fan of eye candy, to some extent anyway.

As I watched the local races and simulcast action from tracks around the country I started to think about one of my favorite questions: Is it a sport?

What is a sport and what isn't? To me, sport has become a generic term, a synonym for activity. I think most of us agree baseball, football and hockey are sports. Yet fishing, car racing, synchronized swimming and poker are sometimes referred to as sports, but are they? I can't say no to any of them.

The "sport" debate has come up around the office on occasion. The sports staff at my newspaper conglomorate doesn't consider cheerleading or danceline a sport, and neither does the Minnesota State High School League, although it holds competitions for both activities, to the best of my knowledge. (I know I've seen danceline competitions on cable access, and yes, I paused to watch a few minutes of them. No, I'm not a level 3 sex offender in training.)

Parents of cheerleading and danceline teams occasionally complain to the sports staff that their daughters deserve coverage on the sports page. I agree that their daughters perform physical activities that require dedication and practice, but their teams are not competing against each other like hockey or softball teams do, they're competing for judges who make an arbitary decision as to which team is the best.

But isn't that how Olympic figure skaters and synchronized swimmers are judged? Those activities are rarely called into question when it comes to determining what is a sport. As a sports collegue once explained, swimming and ice skating take more athletic skill than cheerleading. I don't disagree. You need to be in decent shape to do jumping jacks in a choreographed sequence, but that hardly makes your activity a sport.

Yet poker players like to think their game is a sport. It takes a degree of physical endurance to sit at a table and complete the mental gymnastics necessary to win a no-limit hold 'em tournament, but does it take specialized physical skill? No. Neither does chess, which some treat as a sport.

I have never raced a stock car 500 miles in one afternoon. It takes endurance and focus to race at a high rate of speed for that long, and being able to react to track conditions at 185 mph takes sharp motor skills. But is it a sport?

I'm way too hefty to be a jockey. Even if I was a midget, I'm sure I'd find it takes a degree of physical conditioning to ride a horse for 7-1/2 furlongs. But is it a sport? Would people watch horse racing if there wasn't parimutuel wagering?

I'm not a great athlete, but I can bicycle 2,000 miles in a year. I can play softball on a recreational league team. I can swim laps at the health club pool. Could I race a horse recreationally at a local track? Not that I'm aware of. Even if stock car racing isn't a sport I can own an old Chevy that I could race at a local track on Saturday nights.

Did I mention fishing and darts? Catching walleye on a regular basis at your local lake is definitely a skill. But how does entering a competition where you weigh your fish against those caught by other anglers make it a sport? Hitting a bullseye on a darboard is definitely a skill. When you play a game of cricket with your buddy, there's definitely a winner because one of you has to reach zero first. So is darts more or less of a sport than fishing?

So after deliberating this again all I can do is come to the same conclusion: anything that requires skill and/or physical exertion falls under the broad definition of sport, because sport is simply a synonym for activity. Or am I wrong?

After all that, I realize I'm already exhibiting D Cup tendencies. Shame on me. And like my good friend, I have a list of things I'm looking forward to writing about, such as my observations from watching classic episodes of The Price is Right and why my life is empty and meaningless. The latter topic is not as bleak as you think, so don't hit the panic button.

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