Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Listening to Barack Obama twist and contort around the straightforward questions put to him (parts one, two, three, four, five) at the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., last Saturday night by Pastor Rick Warren, I'm starting to think debate should be an Olympic sport.

It certainly can't be any dumber than some of them that have been included.

This is probably as good a time as any to define what is and isn't a sport. While this may sound like a deep intellectual exercise, I think I've developed a pretty good handle on it over the years, as someone who's covered a number of different sports and athletic endeavors.

First, there is the differentiation between "athlete" and "sport." Cheerleading; absolutely they're athletes, but don't call it a sport ... Bowling; absolutely a sport, not exactly athletes.
The two camps are not mutually inclusive; not all cheerleaders are athletes, not all bowlers aren't.
Simply put, anything that REQUIRES a judge, every time the event is held, to let us know who won is NOT a sport. A sport is an event in which two or more contestants (or teams) vie for a common prize which only one can win. Further, a sport is something for which training (or simply practicing) can enhance one's performance. And I suppose the real difference between a "sport" and a "pastime" like stone-skipping or rock-paper-scissors is the widespread base of fans or competitors. Unfortunately that can include silly sports that adults should be embarrassed to compete in, but they're sports nonetheless.

So, below is the list of this year's Olympic events being held in Beijing.

Aquatics - swimming events that require a judge are not sports, though these folks are outstanding athletes.
-Diving (8)
-Swimming (34)
-Synchronized swimming (2) - the Spanish ladies got in trouble for wanting to wear battery-powered flashing suits ... still want to argue that this is a sport?
-Water polo (2)

Archery (4)

Athletics (47) - track and field

Badminton (5)

Baseball (1) - sickens me to think this is going away in, I think, 2012

Basketball (2)

Boxing (11) - actually the trickiets one for me because it does involve judges, which has resulted in substantial screwing over the years (see Roy Jones Jr. in Seoul 1988), but the judging involves primarily the number of punches landed, which is virtually indisputable ... and the possibility of a knockout, as a normal course of the event, is always a very real possibility (if not a likelihood in amateur boxing)

Canoeing (16) - if this is anything like the kayaking, based on navigating gates; no style points involved here

Cycling (18)

Equestrian (6)

Fencing (10)

Field hockey (2) - just as an aside, this sport strikes me as the hockey equivalent to ice fishing; can't wait for the lakes to thaw to fish, can't wait for them to freeze to play hockey ... a silly sport that men shouldn't play, but a sport nonetheless

Football (2) - SOCCER!!!

Gymnastics (18) - perhaps the most sensitive bunch related to this topic, it's important to draw this distinction; easily the best all-around athletes in the world, but don't tell me that an event predicated on how the participants wear their hair and uniform is a sport

Handball (2)

Judo (14) - similar to boxing, but without the likelihood of knockouts ... to me, they should take the pads off and go MMA-style

Modern pentathlon (2) - running, equestrian, swimming, fencing, shooting

Rowing (14)

Sailing (11)

Shooting (15)

Softball (1)

Table tennis (4) - certainly a sport, but a makeover may not be a bad idea

Taekwondo (8) - see Judo and Boxing

Tennis (4)

Triathlon (2)

Volleyball (4)

Weightlifting (15) - similar to boxing, judges exist solely to determine WHETHER a lift has been made, not HOW WELL it's been done

Wrestling (18) - in pure athleticism, second only to gymnasts

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