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Monday, July 07, 2008
More on Defining Sport

A while back, I wrote about defining sport as a concept, focusing on objectivity in scoring as the key limiting characteristic. At the Sports Economist, Rodney Fort (a sports economist at Michigan) offers a four-part definition in the Comments that I think can almost fully endorse (with some caveats and questions):

1. Large motor skill. Thus, even though it is covered in Sports Illustrated, chess is not a sport. But then, neither is golf since there is not really any large-motor decisiveness.

Professor Fort works in kinesiology, so he knows better than I do what qualifies as "large motor skills" and why that excludes golf, since swinging a golf club does not seem much different than swinging a baseball bat or tennis racket. Does it require running?

2. Only simple machines. Baseball is OK because the bat is a simple lever and that is good because baseball is the only sport that really matters That let's out all car racing and (sorry Skip) horse racing may be a sport for the horses, but not for me.

There is some question about how simple certain machines are. As another commenter pointed out, modern tennis rackets and golf clubs are far from simple.

3. Objective scoring. Be careful with this one when it is evaluated by referees--the scoring is objective but imperfectly observed. This is different than "judging" and, properly, both gymnastics AND figure skating are right out.

This is the best defense of my objectivity-in-scoring requirement; it answers the objection that an umpire might blow a call as to whether the runner scored or the basket should have counted. The only problem is that "judged" sports such as diving, figure skating, and gymnastics at least purport to have objective grounds that judges are looking for in evaluating a triple salchow or a half-gainer. So one could argue that even these sports simply involve objective scoring, imperfectly observed.

4. Of course, competition among contestants. The 10,000 meters is a sport, but not jogging.

I like it.


I'm sorry--why is it necessary to come up with a definition of "sport" in the first place? What's the goal or usefulness of this exercise?

Anonymous dance -- 7/09/2008 6:23 PM  

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