Most of us have been playing and watching sports in at least some capacity since we were too young to go to kindergarten. They take up a huge chunk of our lives for being just elaborate games. Hey, just look at the Campus Times about a quarter of it is dedicated to sports each week. But for all the time and energy our society pours into these games, we don’t really have an agreed-upon definition for what a sport even is.

The majority of us would probably agree that certain games can be considered sports. I doubt there would be much argument against the likes of soccer, football, basketball, etc. They are activities that require a good deal of physical exertion, strategy and skill.

However, there are other so-called sports that have questionable validity, including games like golf and bowling. What about activities like table tennis, curling, synchronized swimming, archery or fencing (all Olympic sports, by the way)? If those are acceptable, then what about things like video games, poker (hell, it’s covered by ESPN), beer pong or horseshoes?

At some level, there is a line that cuts off certain activities from being sports. But what is that line? I can’t tell you how many restless nights I’ve spent thinking about that question (no, not really).

Most people will probably agree that you must use your body physically to perform some skill, like kicking a ball or aiming at a target. A sport is generally considered to be competitive, with some definitive way to determine a winner.

Now, I would venture a guess that more people consider track to be a sport than duck duck goose. But what does the former have that the latter doesn’t? More organization perhaps, but that doesn’t stop pickup games of football and basketball or a race against your friends down the street from being considered sports. Both activities have structure, clear sets of rules determining who wins and loses, physicality and competitiveness. Why do we separate track from duck duck goose and label one a sport while the other a mere children’s game?

For that matter, what about video games? You may scoff at the thought of calling video game-playing a sport since all you’re doing is using your hands to manipulate a device and using your hand-eye coordination but isn’t that all you’re doing in archery or trap shooting? What’s the difference between them? If I roll up a piece of paper and try to shoot it in a trash can, how is that significantly different from basketball?

The definition of a sport might now seem a little hazier than it did at first glance. If you look to a dictionary for help, you’re likely to be disappointed, as our old friend Webster defines a sport as simply ‘a source of diversion.” That’s it. A source of diversion. Seriously? That’s not much help in trying to remove the vagueness from the meaning of the word ‘sport.”

So if you think this is an interesting question, then think about it talk it over with your friends. It’ll at least make some new conversation at the Pit, rather than another discussion about how much you hate your classes or how bad the food is.

As for me, I at least think I have a better idea of what actually classifies a game as a sport than I did before writing this. So now I’m gonna go to the gym and play some squash, then go back to my room and play a few video games, take a shower and go to bed. Or should I say that I’m just going to play sports all night?

Kaiman is a member of the class of 2010.



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