A sport is an activity where players compete for a prize or to win for the sake of winning. There are many sports: hockey, football, baseball, soccer, water polo, basketball, curling, volleyball, fencing, etc. I do not consider competitions which depend on subjective judging to be _real_ sports (but that just makes me a purist). To me, a sport must involve something objective like scoring goals or points -- somehow physically prevailing over your opponent.

I think it was Hemmingway who said there were only four true sports:

They are sports because they involve the risk of life. Anything else is a game.

After listening to endless debates regarding the legitimacy of certain olympic events I have decided to redefine the word sport.

Competitive Sport: any athletic competition whose outcome can be determined solely by the skill of the participants and not as a result of opinions made by a neutral third party. Function follows form. Examples include basketball, baseball, boxing, curling, car racing.

Competitive Exhibition: any athletic competition whose outcome can only be determined through opinions of a neutral third party. Often times, exhibitions rely heavily on style or artistic merit. Examples include figure skating, marching band, gymnastics, hot dogging

Noder's Note: I fully acknowledge that you will not find a sport that, when played professionally, does not rely on referees, umpires, judges, etc. My point is to distinguish between competitions that "can" be played without those third parties and those that can't. The winner of a basketball game is the one who scores the most points. The winner of a baseball game is the team that scores the most runs. The winner of a boxing match is the one who doesn't get knocked out. The winner in figure skating cannot be determined without a judge deciding that competitor A was better then competitor B.

This new definition is not intended to rate baseball as better then freestyle ski jumping. It is merely meant establish a more clear method of discussing athletic events.

This definition does not include events which can be called sports but are now exhibitions after someone decided that judges needed jobs. For example: ski jumping. There are style points in ski jumping because, for some reason, being the one who jumped the farthest is not enough.

I feel sorry for people who don’t like sport. I really do. God, what a patronising way to begin: sorry. Let me start again, and if you remain unconvinced, as you doubtless will, I promise I’ll keep an open mind the next time I read something extolling the virtues of some hobby that I completely fail to understand in return.

Now. What is great art about? Giving us insights into the human condition, that’s what: the great artist, poet, musician, manages to make us empathise with others and gain a deeper understanding of our own lives by provoking certain emotions within us. Homer. Shakespeare. Proust. Glory. Sacrifice. Misery. Art provides us with a heightened version of life that illuminates our existence.

So does sport. I’m not talking here about the Sunday afternoon kick around, or French cricket, or the early morning run, although I’m a great fan of at least two of those three activities, but those great moments which encapsulate everything that makes it worthwhile to be human. Every now and then – not often, but often enough – someone will do something astonishing which makes us marvel at the human capacity for endurance, or panache, or bravery. Examples? Too many to mention, but, recently, David Beckham's performance against Greece for England, and Goran Ivanisevic’s stunning wild card victory at Wimbledon last year both stand out. Or if you still don’t believe me you could go and watch Pete Sampras or Tiger Woods doing what they do best and realise that you are truly in the presence of greatness. These two, perhaps alone in the past few years, are clearly worthy members of that select group who can be referred to as masters. I would compare them to Pinter or Kubrick but I know you’d only become irate. Still, I think of them as geniuses.

I have a personal soft spot, however, for the triumph of the underdog against the odds, the overcoming of adversity to achieve the remarkable. My personal favourite such moment (I’m biased, of course) was Southampton’s breathtaking 6-3 victory against ]Manchester United] a couple of years ago, but arguably the greatest, in this country, at least, was in 1981. If you don’t know about Botham’s Ashes then there may be no hope for you, but it’s a real example of the transcending power of sport: the whole country was entranced by that remarkable series, not just cricket buffs. It wasn’t about line and length or batting technique, it was about one man’s remarkable recovery from an absolute low, when all seemed lost, to rise like the proverbial phoenix from the you-know-whats and (almost) single-handedly give his side victory. The phrase ‘against the odds’ doesn’t do justice to the enormity of this upset – at one point you could have got £500 for a bet of £1 on England winning. Just a bit of fun? Try telling that to the Australian captain, Kim Hughes, who still hasn’t got over it.

Just a bit of fun? No one with any understanding of sport could ever utter such a childish aphorism, because, at its best, it palpably isn’t. Look at the footage on TV of fans of clubs demoted on the last day of the season: go to a match at a big ground and feel the joyous release in those around you when the ball makes the net billow and try not to feel caught up in it. I bet you won’t be able to. Every match is like an unscripted play, and the best can leave you breathless. Great sport is all about moments, moments that transcend ordinary life and lift those who see them to a higher emotional level. However, three is something tragic about those whose whole life revolves around the team. Sport – especially football – is too often associated with violence. In fact, it’s arguable that the popularity of premier league football amongst working class men between 18 and 24 is partly to do with the absence of war. Sport as death replacement for those who need a tribe and something to hate, who feel redundant because of their pent-up aggression and apparent lack of value to modern society. It’s a sobering thought.

So, yes, if you still hate bats and balls and rackets and hoops then OK. I see where you’re coming from. All I ask is that you try and understand those of us who take final score on Saturday a little too seriously. We don’t say that it’s as important as real life, or art (or at least, not all of us do). We simply find some kind of joy in the greatness of others, a joy in witnessing remarkable moments of grace or courage or passion that achieve a kind of beauty rare in mundane reality, just as you must. A matter of life and death? No, it’s not much more important than that. Of course it’s not. But, please, never tell me it’s only a game.

Sport (?), n. [Abbreviated frm disport.]


That which diverts, and makes mirth; pastime; amusement.

It is as sport a fool do mischief. prov. x. 23.

Her sports were such as carried riches of knowledge upon the stream of delight. Sir P. Sidney.

Think it but a minute spent in sport. Shak.


Mock; mockery; contemptuous mirth; derision.

Then make sport at me; then let me be your jest.Shak.


That with which one plays, or which is driven about in play; a toy; a plaything; an object of mockery.

Flitting leaves, the sport of every wind. Dryden.

Never does man appear to greater disadvantage than when he is the sport of his own ungoverned pasions. John Clarke.


Play; idle jingle.

An author who should introduce such a sport of words upon our stage would meet with small applause. Broome.


Diversion of the field, as fowling, hunting, fishing, racing, games, and the like, esp. when money is staked.

6. Bot. & Zool.

A plant or an animal, or part of a plant or animal, which has some peculiarity not usually seen in the species; an abnormal variety or growth. See Sporting plant, under Sporting.


A sportsman; a gambler.


In sport, in jest; for play or diversion. "So is the man that deceiveth his neighbor, and saith, Am not I in sport?"

Prov. xxvi. 19.

Syn. -- Play; game; diversion; frolic; mirth; mock; mockery; jeer.


© Webster 1913.

Sport, v. i. [imp. & p. p. Sported; p. pr. & vb. n. Sporting.]


To play; to frolic; to wanton.

[Fish], sporting with quick glance, Show to the sun their waved coats dropt with gold. Milton.


To practice the diversions of the field or the turf; to be given to betting, as upon races.


To trifle.

"He sports with his own life."


4. Bot. & Zool.

To assume suddenly a new and different character from the rest of the plant or from the type of the species; -- said of a bud, shoot, plant, or animal. See Sport, n., 6.


Syn. -- To play; frolic; game; wanton.


© Webster 1913.

Sport, v. t.


To divert; to amuse; to make merry; -- used with the reciprocal pronoun.

Against whom do ye sport yourselves? Isa. lvii. 4.


To represent by any knd of play.

Now sporting on thy lyre the loves of youth. Dryden.


To exhibit, or bring out, in public; to use or wear; as, to sport a new equipage.




To give utterance to in a sportive manner; to throw out in an easy and copious manner; -- with off; as, to sport off epigrams.


To sport one's oak. See under Oak, n.


© Webster 1913.

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