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Top Five ‘Sports’ That Aren’t

Everyone’s had that argument: Is golf a sport?  Stock car racing?  Cheerleading?  Well here’s my list of the top five activities that while impressive, aren’t sports.

First let me point out that while each addition to this list has been carefully thought out, my criteria for what is a sport and what isn’t, isn’t exactly…standardized.  I looked for activities that were impressive, yet lacked a certain something.  Before we go too far, Golf and NASCAR are both sports in my book.  The repetitive twisting motion involved in a golf swing is both impossible to perfect and punishing on the body.  And NASCAR is just as intense as it gets.  200 miles an hour about three inches from 42 other cars and a concrete wall? Insane.  And with that caveat explained, I present to you my list of the Top Five ‘Sports’ That Aren’t:

Photo by Andreas Rentz, Getty Images

5. Poker – Look, I love me some poker.  You’re talking about a guy who had a weekly game going with friends during the summer and has been known to visit a casino or two.  But hey, anyone can sit at a table for a few hours.  Heck, that’s what I call a relaxing weekend.  Plus, how much of poker comes down to skill?  Yes, there’s a ton of skill involved, but nobody wins the Main Event pulling 7-2 off suit each hand.  Bottom line, if you can play your ‘sport’ for six hours and move slightly more than you do during a nap, you don’t make the cut.

Photo by Richard Heathcote, Getty Images

4. Billiards – Raise your hand if you’ve got a pool table in your basement?  Exactly, if the field of play exists indoors, between the Christmas decorations and a television that still has rabbit ears, it’s out!  I’d love to be good at pool and I’m impressed with those that are, but they’re not playing a sport – I mean you only move slightly more than you do in poker.

Photo by Oli Scarff, Getty Images

3. Darts – Who doesn’t enjoy a good game of Cricket?  Local bar, plastic tipped darts that only actually stick to the board two out of every three throws? Fun times all around, right?  Absolutely, but is it a sport?  Certainly not.  Even when played at its highest level and with proper equipment – metal tipped darts that stick into the board, not bounce back at your dome – the most physically taxing part of the game is the walk to the board to collect your darts.  Now, if you had to throw, then dodge the darts coming back at you, you’d have a sport.  But, if it’s only proper form to play with a beer in hand, it makes for a good Friday night, but not a sport.

Photo by Chris McGrath, Getty Images

2.  Diving – or as I call it, fancy gravity.  I expect people to take the most issue with this one.  But hey, I can walk off a ledge.  I can even do some twists and flips as long as I don’t have to stick the landing.  I mean come on; Newton’s three laws of motion and gravity are doing most of the work.  And I’m not sure about anyone else, but to me, what’s with this tiny splash?  I’m looking for a show.  What I want to see is Andy Reid and Rex Ryan belly flopping it from ten meters.  The winner is whomever makes more of the audience feel like they’re front row at a Gallagher show, or a Shamu show – if you’ll pardon the less obscure metaphor.  There’s no doubt that diving is incredibly impressive but that small splash is just so unsatisfying.

Photo by Marty Melville, Getty Images

1. Bowling – I know every time I walk into a bowling alley I take notice of the banners celebrating those who’ve bowled a three hundred.  Each time I’m impressed.  Heck, a good friend of mine has his name up there and I was proud of him when he bowled it.  It’s a terrific accomplishment. But you know what else I take notice of when I walk into a bowling alley?  That lingering smell of concession stand food and whatever they spray into shoes to disinfect them.  No disrespect to Pete Weber – who’s better at bowling than I’ll be at pretty much anything, ever – but if I can eat cheese fries while I do it, I’m not sure it qualifies.

Let me throw out a disclaimer.  I don’t want it to seem that I think that any of the above mentioned are easy.  I’m not good at one of them – especially diving, I’m afraid of heights and wouldn’t go anywhere near a ten meter board.  So maybe a more appropriate title for this blog would be ‘Sports I’m Not Interested in Watching.’

How do you truly define a sport?  It’s a completely open ended question that I’m not sure has an answer.  I don’t think that I have an answer and I think any answer would depend completely on that definition.

For what it’s worth, Ryan Paulsen, coach of the Hudson Valley Men’s Bowling Team and owner of the 29th ranked team in the nation (and climbing after a second place finish at this weekend’s NJAA National Championships in Buffalo) has this to say:

“My definition of a sport is any competition that requires a player/athlete to have the ability, both mentally and physically to execute said ability.  Bowling in particular, it’s just as much physical as it is mental…Many things can impact any given shot.  The player’s consistency in terms of timing from the beginning of their “approach” (starting the ball in motion) and the “release” (physically throwing the ball onto the lane) is crucial from one shot to the next.  Not only can a player effect his or her shot if they are fast or slow to the line, but the amount of revolutions, speed and where the ball is initially set onto the lane can either lead to a perfect strike or a 5-count split.  In relation to my definition, I absolutely consider bowling a sport…There are so many aspects of a bowler’s arm swing, release, timing and accuracy that are all physical aspects of the game that can impact each shot a player bowls.”

That’s a pretty swaying argument.  I mean I’m sure Coach Paulsen’s Viking team wasn’t eating cheese fries in Buffalo this weekend.  So maybe they’re all sports, who am I to say?  Truthfully though, I’d absolutely watch Rex Ryan and Andy Reid belly flop off the ten meter board. Your thoughts?

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