What makes a sport a sport?

Four rules to help you decide

What makes a sport a sport?

In my few months as a sports reporter at the Atascadero News and Paso Robles Press, I have been blessed to cover a variety of sports(?). Why is the question mark in parenthesis you ask? Well, I’m not sure everything I’ve covered can be considered a sport, and it made me start wondering, what exactly makes a sport… a sport?

Dictionary.com defines “sport” as an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature. A simple Google search of “sport definition” will provide you with a definition that says, “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment. So, for something to be a sport per dictionary definition it needs to be semi-physical or at least require some physical prowess or skill, it needs to be in the form of a competition, and my personal favorite requirement, it has to have entertainment value. You know what that means! NASCAR is out (at least in my own personal sports record book, I’m not entertained by 60,000 left turns and since this is my column, NASCAR isn’t a sport). Now we have three different criteria for something to be labeled a sport, for the sake of our sanity let’s label them. Rule №1, the activity must require some sort of physical prowess or skill. Rule №2, the activity must be in the form of a competition. Rule №3, the activity must have entertainment value (does that mean if it’s on TV it has entertainment value? I guess so, but if you read my column on the Ocho, you know they recently televised things like disc golf and cornhole. Are we ready to let those guys into the club?).


Is fishing a sport? Some of my friends would certainly say so, but it falls into one of those weird categories that could be both hobby and sport. Now, if you are cracking a couple cold ones with your buddies at the lake while dropping some lines in the water; then you are not participating in a sport per Rule №2. Sure you might be competing against each other, but that’s where Rule №3 also comes in, it’s not entertaining and no one cares what fish you caught except for those involved. There are fishing competitions though that people do enjoy watching, so that takes care of that. What about requiring physical prowess or skill? My petty soul wants to scream no because I’ve never caught a fish bigger than a Ritz cracker, but it undoubtedly takes skill and I’ve seen Jeremy Wade tear a tendon in his arm reeling in a fish for multiple hours on the show “River Monsters” (he actually caught a stingray), so it does require a physical aspect. Fishing is in. I know this is an abstract thought but isn’t Golf basically grass fishing? Golf is also in.


I just can’t. I’m enforcing a fourth rule, effective immediately: if you are playing in a bar an/or bar adjacent, it doesn’t count as a sport. That eliminates cornhole and to the chagrin of my editor Luke, also eliminates bowling.


All the major sports are sports.


Is it physical and require skill? Let’s put it this way, sometimes you can judge these things by how bad they make you feel about yourself while you are sitting on the couch, watching, while stuffing your face with pre-popped popcorn. Can you do a backflip? I can’t, or maybe I could, but i’m too scared to try. They are all sports.


See above paragraph. Earlier this year I saw a 13-year-old do a backflip on a scooter. Sport.


If you are unfamiliar with turkey races (which is completely rational, but they were at the Mid-State Fair this year) it’s exactly what it sounds like. Now we put the rules to the test, is it physical? Well, not for me, but it is for the athletes. Are they competing? They are chasing a mini monster truck filled with food, and to the victor go the spoils, so they certainly are. Rule №3 is a slam dunk, turkey races are certainly entertaining and I even streamed it on Facebook live. Wait, so is turkey racing now a sport? No, it can’t be, I don’t know what I’m talking about anymore. I feel as though I just lost all my credibility. All I know is this, this question generated a lot of fun discussions in our office this week and I hope it does the same for you and yours.


More In Columns