a. Physical activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively.
b. A particular form of this activity.
2. An activity involving physical exertion and skill that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often undertaken competitively.
3. An active pastime; recreation.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Thank You, Basketball

Well, it's been a while since we've explored the all-important topic of what constitutes a sport. I'm not going to pretend that anyone reads this outside my family, so you know that I've returned from Ireland to America. I've been here through about 2.5 sports seasons: baseball, football and basketball.

I've missed basketball. I didn't even know how much until I got to see it again. I don't even have a decent team to follow, but follow I will. I'm an IU alum, and they're...uh, well, still re-building. But I'm still a fan. And the Pacers? Even with a losing record, I still really like that team and am hopeful of their potential. Maybe I would be more jaded without my perspective-checking absence for the last 5 years. Make no mistake, basketball is a sport.

I know this is master of the obvious. But, since we explore sports, or um, activities and explore why they may or may not be classified as sports, I want to take this time to celebrate one that we will not question. Basketball, where 5 per team run, stop, pass throw and aim for 20-30 minute halves to score. Non-stop action, fierce athleticism, skill, speed, has it all. Basketball is one of those sports where the players make it look easy; they spin, pass and shoot with fluid motion that most couldn't hope to replicate.

Thank you, basketball. I've missed you. My brief, fleeting moments of basketball viewing overseas involved an attempt to watch Olympic basketball during the 2008 Beijing games. The host country were playing the US in a much-touted Yao Ming vs. the newly reinvigorated Dream Team on his home turf. I was watching via the BBC. I was delighted just to be catching some of the action, despite the lopsided results so far. And then came half-time..... "And now to our documentary on otters..." Seriously. The BBC preempted the remainder of the game for documentary on otters. I'm still seething.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Cheerleading - Is it a Sport? Is it Necessary?

I am not going to argue against the athelticism and competitiveness of cheerleading. Girls and guys alike have strength, stamina, gymnastic ability and smile all at the same time. There are competitions for all ages and all categories of cheerleading in all areas where people take part. Squads practice for hours and hours and the risk of injury is great (I wouldn't want to be tossed in the air and caught by any teenage girls, personally!).

Is it a sport in the traditional sense? No, because cheerleading competitions are subjective. But then again, so is gymnastics. So, on most levels, I could say it's a sport, right? I just can't get over that it wasn't ever intended to be. Cheerleading was supposed to be exactly what the name suggests - people leading cheers, as in for the athletes on the court/field. Did anyone ever intend for there to be two sports happening simultaneously? Doubtful.

Now, I have no problem with cheerleading squads pushing themselves to make their stunts better, bigger and more interesting. I think the dedication is admirable and definitely respectable. It's really hard, though, to separate what's admirable about cheerleading from what's not. You know what I'm talking about - there are enough Bravo shows and Lifetime movies about the extremes of cheerleading (if you didn't already know them firsthand): the moms that never made it and push their daughters to crazy extremes to make the squads, the hair bows that could knock someone over if they got too close (and the freakishly curled and hairsprayed hair to go with them), the slutty middriff-bearing tops and too short skirts (I don't care WHAT they're wearing under them, they're hardly technically skirts anymore!), and of course the over-the-top bitchy, I mean cheery attitudes to go with it all.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Eating Contests...PLEASE STOP!

I can only imagine the physical endurance it must take to wolf down 53 hot dogs as fast as the laws of physics will allow.  Similarly, I once watched a man hammer a nail up his nose in a side-show act.  Both of these feats are amazing carnival acts, except speed eating makes considerably more people nauseous.
So unless your kind of sports entertainment is watching a program that makes you vomit, then it's safe to say that speed eating is not a sport.
 Let me make this clear, rigorous overeating is a disorder, not a sport. 
Takeru Kobayashi, 6 time winner of Nathan's Hot Dog eating contest is an unfair example of this disgusting activity.  Kobayashi is a somehow slender person with an amazing ability to pack away truckloads of hot dogs in the time of a sneeze.  That's because Takeru Kobayashi is a product of cold war era research.  Japanese engineers in the 1980's replaced his internal organs with a fusion reactor.  The experiment was an attempt to sustain human life without food.  The result was quite the opposite.
 Some of these reports have been rumored to be false, regardless, the remarkable abilities of one individual does not warrant the broadcast of this disgusting racket.  Although Kobayashi could be considered the 'Steve Austin of Hot Dogs', this achievement will never earn him an Olympic gold medal.  Eating contests might even make Curling seem tolerable if not a popular sleep aid.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Rest in peace Merlin Olsen


Merlin Olsen, a Hall of Fame defensive lineman and member of the Los Angeles Rams' "Fearsome Foursome" who followed up football with a successful television career in "Little House on the Prairie," NFL broadcasts and commercials, has died. He was 69.
The 'Is it a sport?' team expresses it's remorse in regards to the passing of this legend.  Going forward, we will honor certain individuals from time to time who demonstrate similar dynamics to the late Merlin Olsen with a 'Merlin' award.  This will serve as a positive function to our otherwise often cynical blog.
Our condolences to the family and friends of Merlin Olsen.

The Pro Bowl, WHY?!!

This is a new twist compared to our past research into the world of mundane sports.  First, let me explain that we the 'Is it a sport?' team recognize American football as a true spectator sport.  It delivers dynamic, bone-crushing athleticism with a hint of courtroom drama (coach's challenge etc...).  However, even very impressive spectator sports have shortcomings.  In this case, let's discuss the NFL's Pro Bowl.
The Pro Bowl is an event where both conferences invite their elite players from various teams to play each other in Hawaii.  The game's outcome has no bearing on anything relevant (aside from injuring more players right before the Superbowl).  Essentially, the Pro Bowl is a big NFL picnic in Hawaii that is broadcast to the general public who doesn't really care.
Let's face it, there's little incentive for the players to 'give it there all' in this event aside from a Pro Bowl MVP award (I equate this to my perfect attendance award in high school.  No, I didn't receive any kind of scholarship, but I did get a free sundae at the local ice cream parlor.  Still makes me angry, but that's for another blog).
I'm sure the NFL enjoys itself on this big televised vacation in Hawaii.  Amy Winehouse enjoys boozing until she has to go to rehab (or prison), but that doesn't mean I have to watch it, especially when I've heard enough about it in the form of song.
Could there possibly be a better replacement for the broadcast of the Pro Bowl?  Undisclosed sources* suggest a breakthrough solution: Have the worst AFC team play against the worst NFC team for the glory of a first round draft pick.  Now there's an event that people can believe in, not to mention it could potentially boost the Vegas economic index.  Imagine, two teams scrapping for the chance to recruit a hero who'll save them next season!  This could also help promote smaller market teams while benefiting the franchise as a whole.
Would it be called the 'Stupor Bowl'?   Perhaps the 'Empty Bowl'?  Would it also be held in Hawaii? I don't know, the point is, many people enjoy watching NFL events so why spoil it with something as trivial as the Pro Bowl?  Oh yeah, don't get comfy over there NBA, you and other organizations with your All-Star games and the like are just as guilty.

*Undisclosed sources: a term used by FOX News to explain that their information is complete bullshit

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Curling, A 2010 Olympic Retrospective

I hate Curling. I think it's the dumbest thing on ice. Maybe it's fun to play, I sure don't know. All I know is that because I live east of the Atlantic and speak English, I'm confined to the Olympics coverage of the BBC which means, you guessed it: CURLING. Who won figure skating? I don't know, all they played was curling. Skiing? Beats me, there was too much curling on.

Curling resembles shuffleboard on ice, with a life-size board and big stones that are sent sailing across the ice to try and hit the target as many times as possible and stay there. The team is made up of the main shuffler person (I don't know the official name of the position and quite frankly I don't care enough about this game to go doing research about it) and minions that have to chase the stone down with brooms to sweep the ice and make the stone go more exactly where they want it. I wonder every time I see this if the sweeping actually even makes a difference or just provides enough physical exertion for people to contend that it's actually a sport. Curling seems to go on for hours, or maybe that's just the coverage. I think the game was started in Scotland because they all seem to have Scottish accents. Well no offense to the Scots, but the game sucks to watch.

And every time a skiier tumbles down a hill, or a skater falls on the ice, or those poor cross-country skiiers have to jog UP a hill with skis attached to their feet to try and cross the finish line first for the coveted gold medal, I wonder if they think: "Damn, and to think I could get the same medal for hanging out on the ice in a track suit and tacky shoes watching a stone."

Curling=NOT A SPORT.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A closer look at Cornhole

It's a growing popular pastime in North America.  No, not passing out at baseball games, I'm talking about Cornhole!  (or 'bean toss' for the more family oriented enthusiast)
Cornhole is a game where opponents, standing side by side, try to toss a bag full of corn kernels (or just a bean bag) onto the inclined plank opposite of them, or preferably, through the hole. The other team members are opposite of them trying to do the same.(see visual aid)  Here's a link explaining the full rules:

Not a whole lot of athleticism here; and as far as it's appeal to spectators, it's considerably more entertaining when the opponents are wasted.  This might explain it's popularity at various social gatherings such as frat parties, family barbecues, hippie festivals, and dive bars.
If the game of horse shoes could be considered a sport, then Cornhole definitely has a chance.  The option of knocking an opponents bag off the plank gives the game a 'shuffleboardesque' quality, a feature that horse shoes lacks despite the two games' similarities. 
Realistically, let's face it, Cornhole will never make it into the Olympics.  At best, a cornhole tournament might one day get televised at 3 AM on one of the more obscure ESPN channels with sponsorship from Lunesta. I highly doubt that at anytime soon people will be discussing the 'Michael Jordan era' of Cornhole; most of the world is still trying to wrap it's head around curling, and has little time for anything more trivial.