What Counts As a Sport?

The Question No One Can Seem to Answer

Alex Cole (Sports Editor)

In the sports section this issue, I have included a story about the sport of equestrian show jumping. Equestrian is one of those sports that narrow-minded people can’t wrap their head around when explaining why it is indeed a sport. The mentality seems to be that the athletes aren’t actual athletes because they just sit around while the horse does all the work. Other sports such as race car driving and golf are also scrutinized for not being “real sports” for reasons that vary from “it doesn’t take any skill” to “you don’t even need to be in shape to play it”.

The problem here does not lie in the fact that these sports aren’t hard or aren’t physically demanding. It
all has to do with the fact that the people jumping to these conclusions are uninformed about what they are commenting on. In the grand scheme of things, people tend to look at soccer, baseball, hockey, basketball, and football as the real “manly” sports, and that no other sport matters. If it doesn’t engage with them, it isn’t considered to be a true form of competition. This is the problem with the question; what is a sport? This issue demands an objective answer that can only be answered subjectively. The professional sports landscape that sees the NFL and NHL dominate the airwaves has made us ignorant to so many great forms of sport that exist.

In the case of race car driving, the drivers really are athletes. Their cars weigh a ton and each turn they have to deal with incredible amounts of g-force weighing down on them. After a four hour race, your body becomes extremely tired and your muscles ache. Now this begs the question: How are they not athletes? Equestrian athletes need to have an extremely strong lower body to keep themselves upright on their horse. These animals weigh 1,500 pounds so the rider must also be strong in the arms to be able to steer. This is where the other problem lies. Looks can be deceiving, and to the untrained eye, certain sports look “easy”. The problem is that you can’t make assumptions about anything without having experienced it first. It’s easier to dismiss what we don’t understand than actually trying to comprehend it.

What I am getting at here is that something is a sport if it is a form of competition that possesses some form of a physical element. If we were to look at the Olympics, we would see a perfect example of this criterion in motion. Sports such as gymnastics and synchronized swimming may be qualified as “lame and simple” to the ignorant sports viewer but up close, they are extremely physically taxing. A sport should not be defined by how it looks on television but by the actual actions of the athletes that compete in that sport. The athletes themselves are the only ones who can truly appreciate what they do, and that is why so many amazing sports are discarded for no reason other than ignorance.

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