Opinion

A brand-new ranking to classify sports

Wikipedia encyclopedia defines sport as “consist[ing] of a normal physical activity or skill carried out under a[n]… agreed set of rules…: for competition, for self-enjoyment, to attain excellence, for the development of skill, or some combination of these. A sport has physical activity, side-by-side competition and a scoring system. The difference of purpose is what characterizes sport, combined with the notion of individual (or team) skill or prowess.”

I classify a sport as an activity that uses a combination of talents, skills and rules. In a sport an athlete must use a combination of coordination, strength, endurance and speed, combined with skill. The sport itself should have a level playing field.

I would like to introduce a system that ranks sports from one to five, where the lower end is a completely subjective event and five would be almost completely objective. The rankings are in no way derogatory to the events but a way to differentiate between them for the sake of argument. At level one would be events such as diving, gymnastics, surfing and ice skating, mainly because their scoring systems are highly complex, and they are so much closer to art forms than other sports. Level two would include events similar to the art/sport of parkour (freerunning). At level three would be the combative sports: boxing, wrestling, tae kwon do and judo, because spectators understand the rules but the scoring depends on the agreement of officials. At level four would be basketball and soccer. Level five includes swimming and athletics. The first two are almost completely devoid of subjectivity because when the ball enters the goal it is understood that points have been scored. The latter two are completely objective because their outcomes are obvious. All other sports would fall in line similar to the examples I have provided.

Now for the non-sports: fishing, hunting, billiards, poker and vehicle racing. Fishing and hunting do not have level playing fields, billiards and poker require no athletic ability (though ESPN would have us believe that). Vehicle racing requires stamina and coordination but the “athlete” in this sense does not do the majority of the work. Manipulating a steering wheel, shifting and hand-eye coordination are its requirements. Granted, some drivers cross train, but this does not make them true athletes. Another sport that requires a machine is cycling. The difference between it and vehicle racing is the amount of true athletic ability used to complete a race. I do not include equestrian or horse racing as non-sports because the horse is the true athlete and should therefore be rewarded for its effort.

I will admit that this is a contentious topic for many. The definition will continue to change over time making this debate more enjoyable.

Vontilla Steven can be contacted at v.steven@umiami.edu.

March 11, 2005

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